Good fences may make good neighbors, but piers and boat lifts are an entirely different story.
At least that's the case in Lordship, where a couple's proposal to build a 68-foot pier extending into Long Island Sound has been met with strong opposition from neighbors.
"Where does one man get permission to do this there?" Lordship resident Walter Rimkunas said at a public hearing last week at . "There's about 80 people here tonight and 90 percent are against it."
The owners of 295 Bayview Blvd., Charles King and Cathleen Woods-King, need state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) approval to move forward with their plans to build a steel pier and boat lift for recreational boating access, in addition to restoring their seawall.
After the DEEP made a tentative determination to approve the couple's application in December, more than 25 residents signed a petition against it, which induced last week's public hearing.
Though all beaches in town are designated as public, waterfront property residents own to the Sound, according to Karen Daden, who serves on the town's Short Beach Commission.
The proposed pier would be significantly elevated for people to pass under it, there are no threatened or endangered species in the area that it would harm, and water quality issues would be minimal, according to Kristen Bellantuono, an environmental analyst with the DEEP who spoke before the public portion of the hearing.
Many residents rebutted the research of the DEEP, as well as biologist Michael Ludwig who said that the area is already "unfit for shellfish habitation" so the environmental impacts as they relate to shellfish would be negligible.
"This pier, directly into the open Sound, would be the first in Milford, Stratford, Bridgeport or Fairfield, and there is good reason for that," said Susan Hendrick-Wilson, a close neighbor of the Kings. "David Carey [head of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Aquaculture] has said a proposed pier at this site is alarming and I concur."
Hendrick-Wilson said the pier would create unwanted noise and air pollution, as well as pose a threat to the safety of local kids who attempt to climb on it. She argued harsh weather is common at this location and makes it unsuited for a structure like a pier.
Richard Heiden, representing the Lordship Conservation Commission, said the group passed a resolution in February asking the DEEP to reject the Kings' application on the grounds it would cause significant erosion damage and impede public passage on a public beach.
"No private party should be able to usurp any part of a public beach … this is not the applicants' private sandbox," he said. "If the phrase 'EP' in DEEP has any meaning, it will reject the application for this boat pier."
Stratford's Zoning Commission approved the Kings' application, according to the project manager representing the couple.
Lordship Improvement Association President Richard Diedrichsen said he supports the Kings' effort to restore their seawall but not their push for a private boat lift.
Many residents said they simply do not want the natural beauty of Lordship to be altered by a man-made structure.
Tom Bannister's Prospect Drive home directly abuts the Kings'. He said he's lived there for 25 years and his wife grew up in the house. The entire back of the house is glass, Bannister said.
"I don't want to see lights," he said. "There's nothing nicer to look out your window and see the whole Long Island Sound."
Another hearing on the King's application will take place 10 a.m. Tuesday (tomorrow) at the DEEP's headquarters, 79 Elm St. in Hartford. The public will not be allowed to speak but are invited to attend as officials will discuss what was said at the public hearing at Stratford Town Hall.
What's your take on the proposed pier? Tell us in the comments.