Old Lyme - Sound View Beach business owners called on the Board of Selectmen Monday to repeal its months-old decision to charge for parking along Hartford Avenue, a policy they say has contributed to plummeting revenues this summer.
With scores of speakers, many of them wearing green T-shirts emblazoned with "Sound View Beach," waiting to address them, selectmen indicated they were not inclined to vote on the matter at Monday night's board meeting.
Reading from a prepared statement, Lindsey Maratta, a spokeswoman for the business owners, said a dozen Sound View businesses, including two convenience stores, two bars and a number of private parking lots, have experienced significant declines in business this year despite the unusually good weather.
The $25-a-day parking fees approved in March are not the only issue, Maratta said.
Beach-goers have complained, she said, of the "over-presence" of police on the beach and the effect of "unwelcoming" signs.
Maratta said the business owners also want representation on the Sound View Commission, the town panel formed last year to deal with the public beach community's concerns. The group also wants to provide input regarding a proposed beach-improvement project for which the town is seeking a grant.
The audience erupted in loud applause at the end of Maratta's presentation. As the discussion proceeded, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder responded to further outbursts with calls for order, at one point warning that those who disrupted the meeting would be removed. Three town police officers were in attendance.
Before Maratta spoke, Reemsnyder recounted Sound View Beach's checkered history and the town's repeated efforts to curb public drunkenness there, as well as loud noise and raucous behavior. She said she has heard from a number of residents who support the board's new parking policy.
Reemsnyder said the revenue generated by the new fees is helping the town pay for Sound View Beach's upkeep and noted that some Sound View businesses charge for parking in their own lots.
Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal said the business owners should have first taken their concerns to the Sound View Commission before approaching selectmen. Both she and Selectman Skip Sibley suggested the downturn in Sound View Beach business was attributable to the general economic conditions.
"This year's a tough year," Sibley said. "There are smaller crowds at the state beaches, too."
He said the crackdown on illegal parking in Sound View was "the culmination of a different culture we're trying to promote down there. Some people like to go to the beach to go to the beach, not to patronize the businesses."