Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Penfield Reef Lighthouse (CT) reverting to the federal government

Penfield Reef Lighthouse, in Long Island Sound very close to the border between the towns of Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a handsome structure with history and legends to spare. Back in April 2007, it was announced that the lighthouse would be available to a suitable new owner under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. 

On July 29, 2008, Beacon Preservation, Inc., of Ansonia, Connecticut, received notice that the organization had submitted a "superior" application and had been recommended as the new owners.

Since then, the stewardship of the lighthouse has been obscured by a legal battle concerning the bottomlands under the structure. Beacon Preservation claimed that the federal government owned the bottomlands, while the State of CT claimed it did.

State legislation was passed allowing Beacon Preservation to occupy the submerged lands. But Beacon filed a suit in federal court seeking the right to administer the lighthouse and the lands beneath it “without first executing a lease with the State of Connecticut or the Town of Fairfield pertaining to the submerged lands on which Penfield Reef is situated” and to affirm Beacon’s “rights to all rights, title and interest” to the property.

A judge had yet to rule on the suit, but now Beacon Preservation has withdrawn the matter. According to the General Services Administration, this means the lighthouse will now be put up for public auction.

With the lighthouse reverting to the federal government,  I don't understand why the whole process under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHLPA) won't simply begin again, with the lighthouse being offered to a suitable applicant, such as a qualified nonprofit group or a government agency. It seems like the GSA is skipping a step; usually a lighthouse is auctioned to the public under the NHLPA only if there are no suitable applicants.

You can read more about this story here.

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