Pickleball players protest public toilets
WESTPORT — Funding for new bathrooms on Compo Beach came to an impasse at a recent Board of Finance meeting after pickleball enthusiasts protested the proposed location between the pickleball court and beach.
“It makes no logical sense whatsoever. There are so many other locations that would be reasonable,” Robbie Feinberg, a 30 year Westport resident, said the morning of Sept. 5 while sitting outside the pickleball courts at Westport’s Compo Beach.
Each morning, a group of about 20 players gathers on the two courts to play pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in the country, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Assocation. The bathrooms proposed by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department would obstruct the players’ view of the beach, Feinberg said.
“This project has been through the required process with the land-use bodies, receiving unanimous approvals from all bodies along the way,” Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava said while asking the Board of Finance for an appropriation of $840,000 to replace the port-a-potties on South Beach with permanent restrooms.
The idea to build restrooms on South Beach first emerged during the Compo Beach master plan process in 2013. In 2015, the Parks and Recreation Department decided to move forward with the idea and received approval for the plans from town bodies, including the Planning and Zoning Commission, Representative Town Meeting and BOF over the last two years.
“It’s very important that we serve the entire Westport population,” Fava said at the Sept. 5 BOF meeting. The proposed bathroom facility, which would include three ADA-compliant restrooms and an outdoor shower, would provide bathroom access for seniors and people with disabilities who currently have to travel across the beach to reach ADA-compliant restrooms, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Charles Haberstroh said.
Despite the many meetings about the bathrooms, the town’s pickleball players were only recently notified of the plans, player Jay Walshon said.
In researching the plans, Walshon said Fava told him the proposed location was the only appropriate place for the bathrooms, per the recommendation of the Conservation Commission. But in later talks with Conservation Department Director Alicia Mozian, he learned the bathrooms can be placed in alternative locations, Walshon said.
“Why not come up with another idea that might be better, less costly and a win-win? What’s wrong with doing that? All I ask for is to be reasonable and that has been denied up until now,” Walshon told the BOF.
BOF member Mike Rea agreed the bathrooms would ruin the vista for pickleball players.
P&Z member Cathy Walsh said she was aware the bathrooms would impose on the pickleball players’ view, but let the concern go in order to join her commission in approving the plans. Given the outcry from residents, however, she is willing to go back to work with the P&Z and choose an alternate location.
Several RTM members, including Kristan Hamlin and Seth Braunstein, said the approval process for the plans was flawed because it did not appropriately include the voices of residents and presented officials with no alternative locations for the bathrooms.
Many pickleball players spoke at the meeting in opposition to the plans, saying the sport, similar to tennis, is accessible for older residents who are no longer able to play more strenuous sports. If anything, they said, the courts, which were built three years ago, should be expanded into the location of the proposed bathroom, given the demand for courts at the beach.
The BOF postponed voting on the appropriation until a later meeting date.
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