Neighbors say Seaside beach visitors causing a nuisance

Several beachgoers find some quiet and uncrowded real estate at the beach on the Seaside property in Waterford on Saturday.
Buy Photo Tim Cook/The Day Several beachgoers find some quiet and uncrowded real estate at the beach on the Seaside property in Waterford on Saturday.

Waterford - Neighbors of the vacant Seaside property on Shore Road say they are upset by the increasing amount of garbage, dog feces and noise coming from visitors at the former sanitarium and its beach.

"I find a lot of people do their doggie bags and then put them down and leave them," said Mary Cahill of Woodsea Place. "It's worse than just leaving the stuff because that would biodegrade."

Residents say they pick up after beachgoers, yell at teenagers to quiet down in the Seaside parking lot and make the occasional police call. It's not unbearable, they say, but they are worried that as more and more people show up - sometimes as many as 60 cars - someone could get hurt.

The beach in front of the former Seaside property is not public, and people are not allowed to park at the parking lot on the property, said Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative Services.

"We don't allow vehicular traffic on the premises," he said.

There are signs on the premises that read, "State property, no trespassing, police take notice," but no gate blocking someone from parking a car in the parking lot near a graffiti-painted building.

On any given sunny day, up to 60 cars might be found in and around the parking lot, neighbors said. There is a guard who visits the premises occasionally, they said. He often comes on a Thursday night when no one is there and isn't around on a Sunday afternoon when the place is packed, said Gene Ryan, a resident who lives on Woodsea Place.

Beckham said he couldn't say how frequently the guard patrolled the area but that it cost the state about $25,389 in fiscal year 2012 for guard services at the property.

Pedestrians who can get to the Seaside grounds, which includes the beachfront, by foot are permitted to walk the grounds, Beckham said. They are advised not to walk near or enter the buildings for their own safety, he added.

The building, however, is wide open and the state is more reactionary than proactive, Ryan said. The state patches up a broken window after the fact but hasn't sealed up the building, he said.

"It just seems sooner or later, something is going to happen in there, somebody is going to get hurt," Ryan said. "I see kids in it all the time."

It is an unsupervised beach so there are no facilities for people who stay the whole day, said Ann Schenk of Woodsea Place.

People bring their dogs, grills and alcohol.

"We can hear it in our house," Schenk said.

Waterford police Lt. David Burton said they haven't received an increase in complaints from that area. They respond to roughly one to two parties a summer, which isn't unusual, he said.

Formerly called Seaside Regional Center, Seaside was originally a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients and later a home for the developmentally disabled.

The state has a purchasing agreement with Farmington-based developer Mark Steiner, but the agreement depends on whether Steiner gets the local zoning, building and other approvals he wants, Beckman said.

First Selectman Daniel Steward has said he wants Steiner to buy the property before permits are approved.

"Those permits are not easily given when you are not the owner," Steward said in July.

Steiner has proposed a 122-unit condominium complex at Seaside, which would be worth $125 million to $150 million and would yield about $1.6 million to $2 million in property tax revenues to the town, Steiner said.

If Steiner were to buy the property, the town has said it wants public access to the waterfront, Steward said.

If the property were purchased and private, it would be the responsibility of the town police department, Burton said.

Whether the public can use the beach depends on whether there is public access. According to Connecticut law, the public has access from the water to the high tide mark on the beach, often where leftover seaweed is found. If someone can access that area without trespassing on someone's private property they can use it.

Pedestrians can go down to the beach at Seaside, Beckman said. But the beach is not a public state beach such as Hammonasset Beach State Park, which is maintained and has facilities for visitors, said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The beach is under the jurisdiction of DAS, not DEEP, he added.

Cahill said she wishes the state would just rip down the building and use it as a public beach.

"If they had people there and garbage cans and someone picking up the garbage it would be better," she said.

Steward said the town is not interested in tearing down the building because it would cost millions.

j.somers@theday.com

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