Battle for a Beacon - NBC Connecticut

Battle for a Beacon

Historic lighthouse may go up for auction



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    It's been a beacon to sailors in Long Island Sound for 137 years. Now, the public may have a chance to buy the Penfield Reef Lighthouse.

    It's got four bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen, a supply room, not to mention the picture-perfect views of Long Island Sound and rumors of paranormal activity. 

    Sounds like a dream home, right? That's why you don't buy things sight-unseen. As they say in the real estate business, it's all about location, location, location.

    The Penfield Reef Lighthouse off the coast of Fairfield might soon be up for sale, according to the Wall St. Journal

    The 137-year-old beacon that led ships through the one of the most treacherous parts of the Sound might be put up for public auction after a long legal battle.

    The lighthouse was decommissioned after advances in technology. In 2000, Congress authorized the Coast Guard to transfer the property to local governments or non-profits that wanted to maintain them or put them up for auction. 

    In 2008, the Ansonia-based nonprofit Beacon Preservation won ownership of the property, beating out the town of Fairfield with a promise of a $450,000 restoration. 

    But when they asked for the deed, they ran into trouble. It seems the state of Connecticut lays claim to the rocky island and the charity would have to work out a lease.  That claim was backed by the federal government. So Beacon sued last year, trying to get control of the deed. 

    "We could spend a lot of money, get the lighthouse completely restored and start running programs, and the state could decide after the 10-year lease not to renew or charge us a hefty fee," said Beacon's lawyer Keith Murray.

    In February, after the sides failed to reach a resolution, the Secretary of the Interior sent a letter to Beacon saying they were rescinding Beacon's bid and recommending the property be sold at public auction. 

    Last week, Beacon withdrew their original bid, but promised to continue to fight for the lighthouse. And don't count Fairfield out either. They said if the property is available at an affordable price, they'll try to make a bid. 

    "The lighthouse has long been part of Fairfield's culture and history," said Jennifer Carpenter, Fairfield's Deputy Chief of Staff. "The mere fact of owning it officially would just cement our strong feelings for it."