New Party Time In Westport

Though Election Day is far away — right now, it’s far more important to make it to spring — politics is always in season.

In Westport, the news is a new political party. The Coalition for Westport just became our town’s 4th official party, joining Democrats, Republicans and Save Westport Now.

Coalition for WestportThe party focuses on “activities that impact on downtown improvements,” Baron’s South, the Compo Beach Site Improvement committee, the proposed library and Westport Arts Center projects, and beautification efforts throughout the community, plus transportation issues that relate to each of those.

Chairman Mike Nayor and CFW member Denise Torve attended the 1st Downtown Steering Committee meeting as observers, and spoke. They’ll also attend Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, and report back to the CFW.

The party was formed when “it became apparent that dissatisfaction existed with the level of progress being undertaken in town,” Torve says. “Projects were discussed for years, and nothing happened.” She was a member of the Downtown Merchants Association from 2001-04, and says many of the ideas talked about then are still debated.

Downtown Westport is one focus of the new political party.

Downtown Westport is one focus of the new political party.

“There was also a concern that  Westport would go the way of over-development, and the path chosen seemed to be that of least resistance: do nothing,” Torve adds.

“No one in the Coalition favors large-scale development. We advocate for growth that respects the past and embraces the future.

“We plan to voice support or opposition when appropriate. In the long term, we would like to see a P&Z that plans as much as it zones. We support a P&Z that provides a framework for planned and controlled growth, one that can guide developers and residents. We have a role to play with respect to the continued evolution of our town, and we plan to do so.”

12 responses to “New Party Time In Westport

  1. Is the Westport Arts Center project a done deal? I don’t recall reading that it had been approved.

    • Ellen van Dorsten

      The most interesting thing about the internet these days is that; if you (pl.)write enough comments, have enough of your “members” contribute to enough blogs and submit enough editorials citing how the “majority” are in favor of what YOU believe…that… after enough exposure … a minority can actually begin to look like a majority. THAT is the power of the internet to some…..and, of course, it is also the danger to everyone of us. Westport residents need to go to the meetings and be heard. “Friend-ing” something on FACEBOOK doesn’t really mean anything when it comes to politics and final decisions about our town REAL estate. Showing up at meetings and speaking out does.

  2. Hopefully. they’ll put up campaign signs soon (and lots of them) so I can base my vote on quantity of yard signs. With a little luck, they can be placed illegally on state property, too.

  3. Matthew Mandell

    Bobbie – The WAC has proposed building 10K with underground garage on Jessup Green. They have come before the RTM Long Range Planning Committee they also held a small public get together showing a bunch of folks these plans. Other than that they have not moved forward other than testing the waters. There is nothing formal out there.

    As you may know the Library is in front of the P&Z commission this week seeking 20K more in space. Needless to say this will encroach some on Jessup, but they are also making some enhancements to off set this.

    The question here is – if the library is expanding is there more room for another building? Maybe the answer is, if we do want the WAC there, to find a away to combine the two and create efficiencies. Save open space, save energy and be green and save tax payer money. Then again we can help the WAC find an alternate spot downtown, something I have helped them with in the past, but to no avail.

    As for the original post on the CFW – What specific issues are they in favor or opposed to? They say a lot about this or that, but have taken no positions other than NOT supporting the moving of the Kemper Gunn House which saved a historic house, preserved downtown character, re-established a streetscape on Elm and will offer non chain local mom and pop business an opportunity to thrive.

  4. If CFW’s recent “advocacy” for the Kemper Gunn House is what “respect for the past” looks like…kindly stop helping.

  5. Sandy Soennichsen

    Matt…I think your statement about the Kemper Gunn house is over-exaggerated and a bit optimistic. First of all, with the plan now to possibly add a staircase and elevator, that could drastically change the style of the house and make it just another added on building. And why did you say it will offer a non chain local mom and pop business? It will be leased out by David to probably anyone, the only stipulation is that he can only ask for a rental fee of approximately 15% less than on Main Street. And make no mistake about it, he has the rental contract on that house for 99 years, at a very reduced rate, and the town then has to foot the bill for upkeep. Yeah, such a deal!

  6. Matthew Mandell

    Sandy you have only some of the facts.
    1. The deal is for a non chain local business that is not to have more than 30% of its business outside of Fairfield County. This would preclude anything national and would instead foster local. David will be following through on this.
    2. The maintenance is all David’s not us. The overall lease is not set and could be based on profit or a fixed amount adjusted for inflation.
    3. As for the add on, there is not much we can do about ADA issues and fire codes. These will be on the back side, and while not perfect the house lives. There is something like this on Riverside and while from the back it is busy, from the front it all victorian.

    This has many aspects that benefit the town and why the RTM unanimously supported it.

  7. I do not understand those who deliberately misinform. The Coalition was never against moving the Kemper-Gunn House. We raised legitimate questions about its proposed location and the role of the Town in providing public property in such instances. We were always in favor of saving the Gunn House and never advocated its destruction.

  8. Matthew Mandell

    I’m sorry Denise, but the RTM received two emails for Mr. Nayor, chair of the CFW, opposing overturning the P&Z, which would have left the house to be razed. The RTM received scores of emails in support of approving the move, only 3 in opposition, 2 were CFW. And during the process the other candidates and Save Westport Now endorsed the move, CFW did not and plenty of opportunity to speak up.

    But let’s move past that, what positions and ideas does the CFW have? Its all well and good to say we need conversation and planning. But we do have all of those with the current P&Z and the duel downtown studies. What do you specifically want to happen?

  9. Denise, with all due respect – and I do mean that – your organization’s half cat, half dog position on the preservation of the Kemper Gunn House seemed, to put it politely, somewhat cynical. That has, predictably, left you vulnerable to legitimate criticism. In any event, I’ll take your assurances at face value and wish you and CFW the best.

  10. Sandy Soennichsen

    It seems to me that it’s strange that a current member of the RTM be so anti the CFW, or is it afraid of the CFW. They just started, lets see what they do in the future. It’s all too easy for someone who is currently in a political position to be critical of others possibly taking over those positions. Maybe all terms for all positions in town should be limited to two terms, no more, not even if a term is skipped. Those that have been around in our local politics seem to be getting too stale in our local politics. The old days are gone, Westport will never be their vision of the quaint little town of years past, so it’s time to move on, Now do they have a vision of what the future might hold? Are they willing to listen to others? Time will tell.

    • It is even more strange when you
      realize the RTM is supposed to be non-partisan , and the RTM member is attacking a political part in a most partisan manner.