The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will start removing more than 40 vacant cottages, outbuildings and docks from Long Beach West in February even though local officials say the previously approved sale of the 35-acre barrier beach to the federal agency is in jeopardy.
Those are among the issues ironed out during a Wednesday night meeting among town and federal officials, who met behind closed doors in Harkins’ Town Hall office.
All sides agreed afterward that demolition of the cottages will move forward despite announcement recently by the non-profit Trust for Public Land — the intermediary agency that is supposed to transfer the property to the fish and wildlife service within five years — that the land is now valued at less than the minimum $10 million voters overwhelmingly approved in a November 2008 referendum.
With the land value now estimated at $7 million, and potentially lower, that means the sale is in jeopardy, according to both Harkins and TPL officials.
The consensus is the lower price tag calls for a new referendum, though my hope is this kills the deal permanently. Fish and Wildlife are not the villains in any sense but I see little gain — certainly not financial — in the town surrendering over a mile of deserted shoreline to federal authority. Development isn’t a concern; access is, and Stratford is better situated to steward Long Beach West than anyone else.