Two Nearwater Road, .64 acres in Rowayton, was purchased for a reported price of $717,000 by noted local architect, and longtime Norwalk resident Bruce Beinfield in August of last year. Plans for a 2 ½-story stilted house were presented in September. Neighbors and others, fearing that the home would disrupt the view, raised their concerns with the Mayor’s office. Beinfield withdrew his application within a few weeks and subsequently agreed to sell the property for $1M to the Norwalk Land Trust, the entity that had acquired adjacent properties to form Farm Creek Nature Preserve. Two Nearwater went to contract in February of this year with a closing date of October 1. After raising approximately $360,000 towards the purchase price, the NLT withdrew from the contract.
Those are the facts but as anyone who has driven through Rowayton recently and seen the “No House in Farm Creek” signs can attest, there are residents with strong feelings regarding the fate of this property. Had the sale gone through, this man-made spit of land, a peninsula that was created in 1894 to buttress trolley tracks carrying people to the Roton Point Amusement Park, would have become a bird sanctuary named for Mr. Beinfield. The contract further stipulated that the land would have a limited number of parking spots and be open to the public.
“A small but vocal minority in the Pine Point Association was opposed to the sale,” said Mike Barbis, a former resident of Pine Point and fundraiser for the original Farm Creek. “As a commissioner for the Sixth Taxing District, I was pleased to see that our July 16th meeting seemed really positive. It affirmed my faith that a compromise could be reached that would be good for our town.”
But the time for such agreements has passed. The sticking point seemed to be public access and the parking spots. The PPA contingent that was opposed to the sale believed that association deed restrictions did not allow for a public entity to own a piece of property in a private association. Others contended that the restrictions, which once sought to limit the neighboring Roton Point Amusement Park, were open to other interpretations.
Having the land open to the public would have been a likely outcome if the Norwalk Land Trust were to secure money from the state of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to finance the project. The Pine Point Association held a vote regarding the plans and of the 64 households (out of a possible 78) that voted, 39 opposed the plan and 19 were in favor. There were residents who raised concerns that if the Land Trust was blocked from purchasing the land due that it would be in danger of development. Former NLT president, Kathy Siever, stepped down after she made comments assuring PPA residents that the NLT would respect the results of their vote. In a meeting on July 29, the board of directors voted to terminate the contract for Two Nearwater and their newly-elected president, John Moeling, cited threatened lawsuits as a reason for the termination.
Through the process, Mr. Beinfield has also offered a “Plan B” which would be his private residence. It would consist of no more than 3500 square feet that would include the removal of the current structure, conservation easements on the trolley path and would be built within 160 feet of the road. Despite the fact that this plan didn’t get much attention, there is still the possibility that it could satisfy both the Pine Point Associations desire to keep the land private and the concerns of the NLT and Farm Creek supporters to keep the view open.
“At this point, I’m interested in building a home for my family,” said Mr. Beinfield. “I’m also interested in finding the right compromise to satisfy our community.”