Friday, August 25, 2006

Sitting by the dock of the bay ...

Well my last blog entry went over like a lead balloon so here’s something for you: a condo building huge docks into the bay. We were alerted to the issue by the town building inspector, who has read our Bay Area Task Force report and wanted some comments. And sheesh, in this case the condo project had 180 foot docks that went out into the middle of Tompkins Channel, the bayside channel that runs parallel to the Island.

So I wrote a real corker, factual and all that, and not conversational like my blog, and sent it off to the US Army Corps of Engineers. Basically, the project jutted into the areas directly west of two street ends, the docks would obstruct navigation in the channel, and the project would basically ex-appropriate almost two acres of submerged public land so some wealthy condo owners could dock a boat behind their new digs.

And for all that baloney, they only have nine slips, about 20 feet wide and 20 feet long. I suppose if they only have skinny bay boats, this could be doubled, but what I’ve seen of many high-dollar condos is that many of these folks will need every inch of that berth, and probably the stern will stick out ten feet into the channel. No, Toto, we’re not talking about little ski boats with outboard engines here; we’re talking boats that cost at least a quarter million dollars for a small dog.

Why are they doing this? That is an easy question to answer. Basically the water is shallow there and the shallow water is chock full of sea grasses, which are protected by state and federal laws. So they pretty much have to dock in Tompkins Channel. To pull a dredging permit and mitigate the sea grass would cost much more money than all the extra wood used in the dock. You’d need to hire another engineer and biologist.

Why is this a bad thing? To some of us on our committee, projects like this could set a dangerous precedent, such as to use the Tompkins Channel as a parking lot for boats and basically take over the street ends and entire bayside – gated and restricted with no access.

At one time there was a grand vision that perhaps is more fitting for the commercial zone down by Louie’s up to Fisherman’s Pier, maybe expanded north and south, where a continuous boardwalk could be constructed along the bayside. It would be free for all people to walk. Shops would front the boardwalk. The gates to the finger docks where the boats are moored might be locked, but the boardwalk would be for free. Many seaside communities have done this kind of thing and it is quite a draw. Given the most excellent sunsets and fireworks here on our Island, it could be even better.

Can you imagine having a soda or a margarita or something, walking a 14-foot wide dock, and having fun? I can. Some art shops and small restaurants would be cool.

See, those properties such as the condos don’t own one single darned inch of land over the water. That is water and land owned by you, me, and everyone. However, when a private entity applies for a dock over the water, it becomes useless for the public – in fact they’ll run you off or call the cops if you get on their dock.

Honest, I would like the Aldermen and the Comprehensive Planning Committee to further examine this vision for the bayside. It could draw millions of dollars in value-added revenue. Or, this could be the largest taking of public property in many years. Thank you for your time.

1 comment:

mleahy said...

Hey Sam, this boardwalk idea sounds vaguely familiar. I hope that the town council properly regulates this type of encraochment before it sets a precedent. MLeahy