BEACON FALLS — The Board of Selectmen grounded the idea of a seaplane base at Toby’s Pond.
The board unanimously passed a motion at its meeting Monday to not proceed any further with the exploration of opening a seaplane base at Toby’s Pond on Pines Bridge Road.
The proposal for the base was raised to the board in May by Seymour resident and seaplane pilot Nelson Tchakirides.
Tchakirides told the board, last month, there’s a scarcity of seaplane bases on the east coast and a seaplane base in town would lead to economic development in town. He cited the town of Tavares, Fla., as an example since it has recently put in a sea plane base.
Monday night First Selectman Gerard Smith explained he spoke with Tavares Mayor Robert Wolfe.
“Tavares is completely and totally different from Beacon Falls,” Smith said. “It did completely transform the city of Tavares because it’s a massive lake. They built an airport, they built a marina. It’s completely different from what we’re talking about.”
The base cost Tavares approximately $8 million, Smith said.
“When I said ‘well, what I have is a gravel pit that’s three-quarters of a mile long and 300 feet wide,’ he said ‘You’d absolutely be crazy to even consider it,’” Smith said of his conversation with Wolfe.
Smith added the town’s legal counsel and insurance agent advised him a seaplane run by the town would open the town up to liability issues. The town attorney and the insurance agent both felt that the town would be wise to create a subsidiary company to run and operate the base, he said.
“So that brings in the expense of doing that,” Smith said.
Smith said he was told insurance would also be very high since the town has no history of operating a seaplane base.
“So all roads led me to realize that the Toby’s Pond seaplane base was not something that the town of Beacon Falls would want to pursue,” Smith said.
Even though he did not feel it was the right idea for Beacon Falls, Smith did like the idea of a seaplane base and the benefits it could have for a town.
“The only reason I didn’t hang up the phone with the guy from Florida from the first was because it was fascinating,” Smith said. “I was intrigued by this whole thing, and I wish we had Candlewood Lake in town. It was a revenue source.”
Smith said that Tavares was able to update its downtown and open 26 businesses in 18 months because of the seaplane base.
“It turned the town completely around,” Smith said. “But you need Candlewood Lake to do it. Toby’s Pond isn’t going to cut it.”
The designated purpose of Toby’s Pond and Recreational Park is for permanent protection of a natural resource. It serves a multitude of public benefits and functions including providing a valuable water-based recreational resource, floodplain protection and wildlife management. Prohibited from the pond is powerboats. This protects canoeist, kayakers, fishermen and the wildlife that inhabit the park. Why was a seaplane operation even consideration? Utterly ridiculous idea.