Pine Point debate over Norwalk Land Trust turned ugly

The view of 2 Nearwater Road from the Norwalk Land Trust Farm Creek Preserve on Sammis Street.
The view of 2 Nearwater Road from the Norwalk Land Trust Farm Creek Preserve on Sammis Street.

NORWALK, Conn. – Sarcasm, cynicism, shock and disappointment mark the comments coming out of the Pine Point Association, both before and after Sunday’s resounding rejection of the Norwalk Land Trust’s attempt to put a nature preserve in the exclusive private Rowayton neighborhood.

“I am surprised and very disappointed that the majority of Pine Point Association members are not in favor of the nature preserve at Two Nearwater Road,” wrote NLT President Kathy Siever in an email Monday. “NLT’s board of directors will decide what its next steps will be at it’s next meeting on July 7.”

PPA members voted 39 to 19 to oppose NLT’s plan to demolish a cottage on the old trolley line to create a bird sanctuary at 2 Nearwater Road. They voted 38 to 21 against a bird sanctuary that would be negotiated to include conditions placed upon it by the PPA board.

The plan was created in response to public outcry over architect Bruce Beinfield’s attempt to get zoning approval of a significantly larger house on the property. Since signing a contract with the land trust Beinfield has circulated a different proposal to Pine Point members.

This would include a house “in the same location as the existing cottage, but 10 feet shorter in length,” Beinfield wrote Monday. “The land from the existing cottage to the end of the peninsula would potentially be placed in a conservation easement, which would prevent future building.  The land from the south of the existing cottage, and extending 170 feet towards the road would also potentially be put into a similar conservation easement.  A house of not more than 3,500 square feet would be built by the road.  That would provide permanent protection of existing views over the peninsula, and the natural habitat would be enhanced.”

One Pine Point resident, who wished to remain anonymous, cast aspersions on the motivations behind the people fighting to “Save Farm Creek.”

Lisa and Dan McHugh live next to the property owned by Beinfield, the resident said. The entire thing started with an encroachment issue, he said. Lisa McHugh accused Beinfield of threatening her with a pickaxe, and Beinfield was arrested, he said.

Other supporters of the NLT deal are just out to protect their view, he said. They are looking for taxpayer funds to keep their view while talking about birds, which is a bit disingenuous, he said.

Another resident called a string of emails responding to an opinion sent out by Lisa McHugh “absurd.”

“I am so shocked I live amongst these fearful, angry, ignorant people,” the resident wrote in an email. “There was no dialogue between neighbors at the (Sunday) meeting, only angry spewing individuals.  Our board did an amazing job at staying steady, and impartial.  Leah Hogan, our president, kept this very difficult situation in control.  This was not an easy task.”

Lisa McHugh sent the opinion via email to PPA members Sunday morning:

“Today we all take our thoughts and opinions to vote.  This is what community does, and regardless the outcome, I hope our community moves forward in a constructive manor. I also hope we remember that this vote is about whether we want the Land Trust to purchase and steward a very unique, historic, and never to be replaced piece of land.  A spot, like the Sammis Street preserve, that is viewed and enjoyed by those who appreciate and enjoy nature.
“These are not people who come in droves, or busloads, that will make potholes in our streets, and devalue our properties.  The Land Trust has a stellar record in protecting its lands, with issues ranging from removing invasive plants to liability in protecting its properties.  If you have never walked onto the Sammis Street property, I urge you to do so today, before your vote.  Let your heart be silent for a moment, and imagine what we have the ability to do right now, which is complete a ring of preserve in Farm Creek for generations to come.

“We seem to have turned our attention from the question of ‘preserve’ to what kind of house Mr Beinfield will build.  We have been shown a sweet watercolor painting of a boater and the little cottage resting in the distance.  With all respect due, Mr Beinfield is a wonderful architect, and has contributed many pleasing visuals to the town of Rowayton.  But this land is different.  It is very long, very narrow, and if we are to imagine a 3500 house in relation to that, it will be anything but the ‘essence’ we are being led to believe with that sweet watercolor painting…”

“We strongly agree with Lisa McHugh’s points,” was the first reply in the string sent to NoN. “Regardless of the nice watercolor, the plans that have been articulated by Mr. Beinfield will not be as idyllic as we imagine. The damage to the setting is irreversible and once the land is gone it’s gone.”

Another resident wrote, “There is also no guarantee that Mr. Beinfield will build a house there … he can always sell the property to someone else who may come up with a fantastic offer for him and an even worse idea for the property.  If this happens, I doubt that the Norwalk Land Trust would even try to come to our rescue …”

It went downhill from there.

“Let’s remember an important fact about today’s vote,” One man wrote. “It is not binding and is only a show to the land trust what our community wants. This is not about (Charlotte Sabbagh’s) view or your encroachment or nature in any way. It’s you imposing your view and using nature lovers along with the community to satisfy your own personal needs.

“I’m ashamed on the way this was redirected towards Bienfeld and Pine Point and our neighbors when it should have been you. Thank you… have fun in San Francisco after you hurt our community.”

Another resident wrote that there are no simple answers. “Either option presents a set of unknowns, which is unsettling,” the resident wrote. “…Mr. Beinfield does extraordinary work, I don’t doubt that he would stand by his word.  But I really worry that he may forsee too many problems (who could blame him?!) and sell the land to someone else.  Then what …”

A final series started with a frightening scenario:

“Please consider the possibility that the Farm Creek organization may fall into a new very strict Federal Bill tied to the Wildlife & Farm Bill that regulates the proposed PPA public bird park. The Federal Government would take precedent over any and all PinePoint decisions and no court could overturn decisions made by the Feds under such a bill.

“The Federal Government has found that amateur and underfunded bird and wildlife sanctuaries are proving to be a serious problem to nearby communities and other healthy wildlife for many reasons including the unexpected attraction of the wrong kind of birds, sick birds and predatory wildlife seeking out such birds.

“Such predatory wildlife can put both pets and children at risk. I don’t believe we are equipped to handle such a scenario.”

A reply:

“I find your scenario outstandingly far fetched, much like I feared from the splinter group – I asked at the last meeting for realistic scenarios that would one day in the future make me regret having voted in support of the Norwalk Land Trust; NLT has been around for 40yrs, and owns and manages 27 properties – and any businessman knows you can’t underwrite the Federal Govt and what they might do in the future – I will take the risk of a large man-eating bird suddenly finding this site and swooping up Jack and carrying him away; are locusts also on the list? Please again I ask my neighbors to tell me what they really expect to happen if NLT buys this property? More than 3 cars trying to park at 2NW at once??? Really???”

The  answer back from the person warning of predatory wildlife:

“I found this info on both government sites and national wildlife sites as well as it was brought to my attention by EPA Federal Procescutors. I think its important to discuss and disclose all of the issues. Don’t you?

“Can you clarify ‘splinter group’ I thought the folks in favor of the public park were the splinter group? I believe the people against are the majority.”

And back from the skeptic:

“I think you are way out of line… in your email to Lisa, this is why PPA is looking so ugly to our community (Rowayton and (gasp!) Norwalk, for those who have forgotten – we all have the same ‘conflict’ – the value of our property – and it’s not a conflict nor would it be immoral or illegal to vote today!! I am glad we are having this exchange because everyone can see why you might vote against this – man eating birds invading the neighborhood. Are there any better reasons to vote against NLT?”


7 responses to “Pine Point debate over Norwalk Land Trust turned ugly”

  1. Susie Salomon

    Just imagine if business interests had won out over what had finally become our National Parks!

    NLT: Same thing on a small scale. Important, nevertheless, for moments of serenity, and respect for life and habitats other than our own.

    Susie Salomon

  2. piethein

    Amen, Susie !

  3. Dawn

    i repeat. What about the non-refundable deposit.

    and where should i park my SUV to take my passel of kids to the beach for a down home BBQ.

  4. EveT

    By sniping at each other, Pine Point residents have just branded their oh so lovely community as a place where nobody in their right mind would want to buy a house.

  5. TG

    I don’t always follow Rowayton news…but when I do, it’ turns out to be much of a caricature as would expect. I know many residents are not so, but the Pine Point ones who made up this majority appear to embody the attitude that they will do anything to keep the “riff raff” out- even if it means making a deal with someone who underhandedly agreed to something and then reneged by seeking support for a new house plan. Don’t they realize someone who does so may just as easily turn around and change the plan, i.e., sell the property to someone who will build a monstrosity?

    Trust a grouo that successfully manages dozens of land parcels or the guy who wielded the pick axe? Hmmm…
    I agree with Eve- who wants to live among this sniiping group?

  6. kent van horn

    Well the majority of Pinepointer’s who voted against a bird sanctuary must be very proud, They were successful in trying protect their hallowed streets from walkers like us, and “keep the Mexicans off their beaches, and off their driveways”. Truly unconscionable words spoken in this day and age. It certainly reflects the character of fearful, small minded individuals.

    So busy were they fearing all the ghastly scenarios they were being fed, that they didn’t realize they were used in a grand scheme to get Mr. Beinfield out of his contract! Mr Beinfield was quoted in The Hour as saying “I would be delighted to sell to the Land Trust”. Were he honest in intent, he wouldn’t have had his lawyer send a threat in writing to the NLT last week stating if they tried to put parking behind the fence, he would sue them for Tortious Interference. This simple act of letting the NLT put the parking behind the fence would have helped the “security” dialogue with Pine Point. From what I have heard, it seems they never actually had any dialogue, as they were very quick to lawyer up instead.

    Is it not obvious to all that Mr Beinfield never had any intention of selling his land to the Land Trust, and let the Pine Point Assoc fight and bicker over their privacy issues, all the while doing the dirty work for him so he looks innocent in this whole mess?

  7. Yankee Clipper

    Kent Van Horn… well said. Beinfield and his attorney’s behavior is despicable …. what a charade! I sure hope this gets around … Beinfield should get the Hell out of Norwalk … […]

    This comment was edited to comply with our policy against name-calling.

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