Kemper-Gunn House Moves One Step Closer To Move

Historic Church Lane is nearing its new look.

Earlier today, a notice was posted in the Baldwin parking lot. It announces a hearing next Wednesday (August 13, 8:30 a.m., Town Hall Room 309) regarding a .13-acre lease in the lot. The board of selectmen will be asked to approve a lease, to accommodate the relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House from across Elm Street.

That vacated property will then become part of the retail/residential development that replaces the soon-to-be-vacated Westport Family Y.

The Baldwin parking lot lease, which has already been approved by the Board of Finance and Planning & Zoning Commission, awaits final Board of Selectmen action.

The meeting announcement sign, in the Baldwin parking lot.

The meeting announcement sign, in the Baldwin parking lot.

According to 3rd Selectman Helen Garten — a member of the Kemper-Gunn Advisory Group — “the lease creates a unique public-private partnership that not only will ensure the preservation of a historic downtown structure, but also will return the building to productive commercial use as a home for small, independent businesses.”

Major components of the plan include rental of the Baldwin lot land by the town to DC Kemper-Gunn LLC for 50 years, with renewal options up to 98 years.

DC Kemper-Gunn LLC will own the house and pay for all site work, relocation expenses, renovation and ongoing maintenance and repairs. The town will incur no operating expenses.

An old door and lock, in the Kemper-Gunn house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

An old door and lock, in the Kemper-Gunn house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

DC Kemper-Gunn LLC has agreed to preserve any original exterior features of the house that are in good condition, or replace them with original materials.  Garten hopes that some interior architectural features can be reused or donated to the Westport Historical Society.

The plan calls for refitting the interior for commercial use. The lease requires all tenants to be small, independent, preferably locally owned businesses — no chain stores. Garten says, “Our aim is to add to the diversity and vibrancy of our downtown business offerings.”

The town will receive taxes on the building and improvements, as well as rent and — eventually — a share of net profits generated by the commercial rental operation.

“Since we are receiving no income now, this is a net gain to the town financially,” Garten notes. “But the real reward for Westport is how this venture will help restore a sense of place to our downtown.”

The actual relocation is tentatively set for November. A giant Elm Street block party may accompany the move.

An artist's rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist’s rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

 

35 responses to “Kemper-Gunn House Moves One Step Closer To Move

  1. One of the main takeaways from the recent Your Downtown survey was that respondants overwhelming want to preserve the character of the downtown area – this project, I believe, nails that sentiment dead on. I appreciate the Marpe administration’s unflinching support and am grateful to Third Selectwoman, Helen Garten and her Kemper-Gunn Advisory Group members for all their hard work as well. Of course, David Waldman and his team also deserve ample credit for, among other things, hanging in there and making this work. Count me in on that block party, I look forward to toasting the house as it drives by on its way to its new home on Elm Street.

    • Morley, I’m betting it will “drive by” quite slowly. Let’s hope it is parked better in the Baldwin lot than many Westporters.

  2. Michael Nayor

    It seems we just saved an old house but at what cost? It now seems clear that Westport’s Town government, including a majority of Save Westport Now members of the P&Z ignored their fiscal responsibility in trading a valuable town resource (scarce parking) for a soon-to-be rebuilt house. The concept of preservation is a noble one that the Coalition for Westport supports, but when carried to extreme it can result in a waste of municipal resources, as it appears is the case with the Kemper-Gunn House. Many of those who spear-headed the effort to save this property have now come to realize that the property may not be one of the best examples of the style it supposedly represents. Yet government officials and townspeople have been intimidated into believing that they would be voting against motherhood and apple pie if they did not support dedicating public land and entering into a sweet-heart deal to ensure Kemper-Gunn’s survival.

    Those on the P&Z who recently spoke against the project are to be commended but it was too little too late. The most offensive argument in favor of the project was put forth by a sitting P&Z member who argued that we shouldn’t allow our concerns over the lease to spoil all of the effort the entire (sic) town put in to get to this point. Really?! When did effort become the substitute for a good outcome? According to him bad decisions must be supported once wheels have been put in motion. What a destructive, nonsensical and irresponsible approach for a public official to make.

    The Coalition for Westport brought all of the issues – cost, use of space and suspect architectural quality – to the attention of the entire RTM and to the current and former Town administrations in October of 2013. The lack of response was disappointing. Now we will apparently pay the price. For a paltry return we will give up valuable municipal land and support a soon-to-be lucrative private enterprise. It is a sad day when the Town is held hostage by seemingly well-meaning people who, with misguided zeal, clearly failed to weigh the economic consequences of their actions.

    The administration and all residents should remain vigilant to ensure that a Kemper-Gunn situation is not repeated in the future.

    Michael Nayor
    Coalition for Westport

  3. Dan…I’ve been thinking of writing an op-ed on this subject…but since you opened it up, I’m taking a deep breath and here it goes:

    I’d like to take a moment to set forth a few facts. When the KG house 8-24 was originally brought forward in 2013 , the P&Z vote was 4-2-1 against the project.. I was the abstention. (which means no-as I was correctly called out by a resident) . the P&Z staff also recommended that the commission turn down the 8-24. The commission voted against the KG house.

    The rest is history, certain RTM members began the usual media campaign, brought in the cameras, issued the press releases and circulated a petition to save the house. At no point was there a financial discussion, or an analysis of the impact on parking either done or divulged to those 500 + people who signed the petition. The question posed was something to the effect.”.Do you want to save the KG house?”

    The RTM review of the P&Z vote overturned our decision. The town was euphoric, and every candidate for public office was forced to say they wanted to save the house. Passion for the preservation of this house won out over a proper analysis of the project. Again…there were no financial details/or parking analysis presented. An RFP was put out, and the winning bidder was selected.

    Quick forward to 2014, post the 2013 election. It becomes. evident there is a project running along without anyone working on behalf of the town in an official capacity. Our new first selectman quickly forms a KG committee to negotiate with the developer. Six months later, a lease is brought forward by the third selectwoman.

    Mind you, during this time, we have a new P&Z commission and we’re in the middle of a Downtown Planning process. The facts surrounding the details of the KG project are never brought out in public hearing to the new commission, only a lease. There was one lone protester at the hearing , a major stakeholder in town who had the courage to stand up against all others and lay out some of the facts in front of the commission. it was too little too late. The vote was taken, and it was 4-2-1 for the lease.

    This time I was a no vote. (I also stated in public that there was a previous vote for changing a zoning district that I regretted making)

    Here’s the bottom line, and I’ll confine by comments to parking only, although I have many reservations regarding some of the financial details of the lease.

    KG takes away 22 spaces, if you add in the additional spaces for the change of use, the total requirement needed is either 30.6 spaces or 50.31 ( these numbers were done at my request last Thursday by the p&z staff). So now we are at a deficit of either 52.6 space or more likely 72.31 spaces–trust me there will be a restaurant at the KG house. The total spaces in the Baldwin lot is about 270 spaces (I don’t have the study handy) You’ll hear that the Bedford Square project will add a hundred underground parking spaces, but between employees and residents, I figure the total open for the public will be less than 10.

    As you all know we , the town is in middle of a Downtown plan, and we are working on possibly reclaiming the water front, and we are going to be looking at the possible redesigns of all the parking lots in Downtown Westport. Plopping the KG house down in that lot certainly will affect any future design which would most likely be more efficient .

    I know that certain politically savvy folks in town who understand the power of an election, used it to whip up sentiment for a project that flies in the face of proper planning for Westport. These same folks, cloaked the discounted rental rate of 85% of market value for small FFLD county business by using that same old tired mantra of “mom and pop” stores. Let’s get real…this is 2014 and there are local businesses that are thriving who can pay market rate rent. Have you visited Church Street lately?

    the whole KG saga is truly regrettable, but in life, timing is everything. I applaud Jim Marpe for posting a notice on the Baldwin lot advising the public of the selectmans hearing on Aug 13. I will be there to make one last protest against this project. If you can be there in person, do so, if not, I suggest you send an email to jmarpe@westportct.gov.

    It’s not over until it’s over.

    To my friends on the HDC and other preservationists, I ‘m sorry but I feel compelled to be honest about this project. Helen, I know you worked harder than anyone else in negotiating the lease, but you’re the one person I know who will understand, that I need to voice my true opinion.

    Cathy Walsh
    P&Z Commission

    • Michael Nayor

      Cathy: Glad to see that rational analysis can trump politics and that we can find ourselves on the same page with respect to Kemper-Gunn. I hope that a last minute appeal can rectify this mistake..

  4. Helen Garten

    A restored and revitalized Kemper-Gunn House will add a new, thriving commercial enterprise to the town’s tax rolls and provide the town with new rental income, a greater financial return than the town is now receiving. But, and I say this as a former Board of Finance member, financial return is not the primary goal of either this lease or the Town Plan of Conservation and Development. Preserving our rapidly disappearing inventory of historic resources (and the Kemper-Gunn House is unique in our downtown area), restoring the beauty and vitality of Elm Street, and attempting to address our residents’ concerns that there are no independent businesses left downtown–these are equally important goals of this lease.

    The cost of this venture is 22 parking spaces–significant, yes, but the town has given up downtown parking spaces for other purposes, including bump outs for trees and pop up dining, and a reconfiguration of the remainder of the Baldwin Lot can regain at least some spaces..To pass on this opportunity to accomplish desirable goals because we have not yet decided how to deal with parking issues, a subject we have spent years debating, would in my view be a great loss.

    One of the most difficult jobs we face in local government is to try to decide what our residents want and what makes sense for current and future Westporters. This venture is ambitious. The lease was heavily negotiated with our private partners to accommodate many competing interests. There is risk, as in any venture, but there is the potential for great reward. I was a latecomer to this party, but I truly believe that as this project moves forward it will generate even more public interest than it already has, and it will rekindle a sense of excitement about what our downtown can be again–a destination for Westporters. This is a perfect first chapter in our downtown planning process..

    I invite everyone to attend the Selectmen’s hearing on August 13, which has been noticed in accordance with state law by both publication and a sign on the site..

    Helen Garten, Chair, Kemper-Gunn Advisory Group.

    • jerrymacdaid

      10 years from now there will either be a statue in your honor or people will be cursing you and hanging you in effigy. Or people will be bitching about it but will forget why it happened.

      I’m betting on he latter.

  5. While I do not have strong opinions about the Kemper Gunn house move, I must admit I thoroughly enjoy seeing the GOP P&Z members and the Coalition for Westport (i.e. voted out of office democrats and their friends) find the common ground many in town knew they would find all along. It’s also fun to see how butt hurt the CfW is about the new challenges the KG house places in the way of building their coveted parking garage on the Baldwin Lot.

    This P&Z was specifically elected to thwart the over-development of downtown that the CfW strongly desires. Elections have consequences as both the former Democratic P&Z chair and Mr. Nayor can attest to.

    Next up: the traffic and congestion nightmare proposed for Barron’s South (right next to Qdoba!). Will the GOP P&Z stand firm on their mandate, or will they fold in the face of big money development, and Marpe/Joseloff small committee inevitability. Get the popcorn!

  6. Sandy Soennichsen

    First off, I’d like to add my comment again that, to me, that house had absolutely no significant architectural value representing anything other than another old house. Quite a few of that almost identical design to be found in many of our surrounding towns, especially Norwalk. I don’t know who the architect was that deemed it “historically significant” but it would make me wonder if the people involved in all this really knew what they were talking about.
    I also understand that this is a win-win situation for David Waldman et al who are doing the downtown project since they now stand to reap the benefits, mostly financial, of the rentals that might be generated, and for maybe up to at least 50 years and perhaps to 148 (the original 50 plus a renewable 98, it wasn’t clear in the blog)! What a windfall. And I sure hope that none of our town officials are partners or receive any financial remuneration from DC Kemper-Gunn LLC.
    And an additional thought, what if DC Kemper-Gunn LLC goes bottom up in two years, or five, or 10, who then takes over all that responsibility for maintenance, lease agreements, etc.? Yeah, sounds like the town is probably going to get the shaft again. That will be Marpe’s legacy.
    But I can see the Downtown Planning Committee already salivating and saying now we can go to the people and tell them there is a possible threat of losing at least 22 parking spaces to maybe up to 72+ parking spaces. “We got trouble, right here in River City, ” and that rhymes with P, that stands for PARKING. Now, will Helen Garten personally guarantee that the KG house or the site will not go beyond losing 22 parking spaces? Bet she won’t.
    It seems that in Westport, just as in Washington DC, the two step is an appreciable art.

  7. Matthew Mandell

    Ahhh the Coalition for Westport. Mr. Nayor I would have thought you would have had the grace to accept the multiple decisions in support of saving, moving and adaptively re-using the KG house.

    Since the 3 P&Z commissioners who didn’t vote in favor of the lease ( 2 no, 1 abstention) were also all Save Westport Now candidates, I’m wondering who you are indicting. If they had prevailed would you have been praising them? SWN? Come on. This was not a SWN issue, this was a completely non partisan town issue, one that had unanimous RTM support. You sir were one of only two people to write the RTM in opposition to saving the house vs the hundreds who wrote and spoke in support.

    Your issue here, besides just being political, seems more of “value” than of “use.” That’s not P&Z’s purview. Maybe you should have come to the Board of Finance hearing where you would have heard former chairs of the BOF speak in favor of the lease, the project and how it will create economic vibrancy and a return to the Town. The BOF voted 4-1 to approve. Indicting P&Z is misplaced. But so is indicting this incredible project which Ms. Garten so eloquently outlined has above.

    This is not about dollars and cents or parking, this is about preserving the soul and character of a community and pushing forward with a fresh vision of what is possible.
    .
    By all means, everyone, come to the Board of Selectmen meeting and watch history be made, and saved.

    • Michael Nayor

      Thank you Mr. Mandell. The CFW rests its case based on your illogical statements. Not about parking? Not about “value”? Then truly it must be about a house that many people say is not worth saving.

      You must be one of the group I referenced as having misplaced zeal. At some point winning at any cost becomes the goal, That Kemper Gunn represents “the soul and character of our community” is merely a subterfuge.

      By all means, show up at the Board of Selectmen meeting and state your case. Take as much time as you are allowed. You will certainly encourage clear thinking people to carefully evaluate this project.

      • Matthew Mandell

        Mike, obviously you missed my point. Not a surprise. The CFW’s blind agenda to allow for over development w/o embracing the town’s character is truly sad, and talk about illogical. Read Mr. Waldman, Mr. Whittle, Mr. Bergmann and Mr. Shuldman below. A grand cross section of political ideologies, yet a “zeal” focused on the issue; historic preservation, reestablishment of a streetscape, good return for the town and the expansion economic viability.

  8. jerrymacdaid

    Ahhh, Matt Mandell arguing for others to have “the grace to accept the multiple decisions in support of…” something.

    Bwaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Sort of perhaps what he and his SaveWestportNow friends should have done with respect to the Y at Mahackeno after multiple decisions of the in support of it by the same bodies supporting the Kemper Gunn move, instead of pursuing litigation.

    It’s encouraging to see that as Matt has gotten older and wiser, he now appreciates that someone should have the grace to accept decisions that are different than their own position. He’s even made non-negative noises about the Y since construction began. Woo-hoo. If only he had grown up earlier and spared the Y considerable time and money. Like he is asking opponents of the Kemper Gunn move to do.

    Ahhh the irony.

  9. In the latest episode of “Things that Basically Never Happen” local preservationists, those well meaning little fuzzballs that lose to developers something like 100% of the time, are recast as power mad puppet masters drunk on their new found influence over hapless low information voters. At night, gangs of them, dressed in period garb, cruise the downtown area in low riders menacing wholesome couples whose only crime is their desire for a night out on the town – if only they can find a parking space. Tune in next week when members of rival third parties start dating.

  10. Matthew Mandell

    Hey Jerry,

    Guess you’re alluding to my standing down on the Y fight and accepting the decision. Yeah, I made that public – years ago. Something wrong with that? Even ranking members of the Y have made peace since. Guess not you. Sorry about that, too bad.

    I’d still prefer a Y downtown, would have been better for the community, but some of us move on and look for other things to do. Interesting enough, the Y move is what has given rise to the saving of the KG house. So maybe it was all meant to be in some strange fashion.

    • jerrymacdaid

      Matt – I think everyone has moved on. Pretty much everyone anyway aside from SWN’s odd efforts to use state money to build more unused bus lanes in Hartford rather than help pay for upgrades to exit 41 (yes we’d all rather the state money go to help redo Compo rather than Exit 41 but that isn’t one of the alternatives at the moment).

      Even noted you had moved on. And, you’ve encouraged others to do the same after the litigation was lost. Great. Only noting that it would have been nice if you had “stood down” after the P&Z and RTM acted then like you are suggesting the KG opponents to do.

      Peace, Bro.

  11. David A. Waldman

    When the town Planning and Zoning commission approved the adaptation of the current BCD and BCD-H regulation over 10 years ago, they effectively created the parking problem which may (RBS say no) exist today by allowing all used within that zone to require ZERO parking space. There decision at that time was forward thinking and very positive to the health of the area. They understood that all parking, in a reasonable walking distance from Main Street, is for EVERYONE’s collective use and should not be tied to a specific building or use within a building. They knew more restaurants and residential units would allow parking to be shared at different times thereby spreading the use of our parking resources out over time. With the BCD-H they created protective regulations, while afford developers some bonus’s, for the towns historically significant properties. Again, very smart PLANNING by our P&Z.

    It is true that Kemper-Gunn will sit on what was is currently 22 spaces. It is true that its future use, if maxed out per zoning, could add another 25-35 more spaces. I am not disputing those facts, I am merely making sure the full picture is painted so EVERYONE can be properly informed.

    With that said, below is what was left out of the above comments:

    1) Our P&Z, prior to allowing (reluctantly) Kemper-Gunn to move forward, allowed The Spotted Horse and Java to change zones and therefore not require any parking for there current uses. Clearly, I was a direct beneficiary of those decisions, but I would think the town would feel our P&Z did a great service by allowing those projects to move forward. They not only added MORE reasons to come and stay downtown, they did it in architecturally significant buildings. They allowed what was once ONLY history to become part of our towns exciting FUTURE. When Bedford Square is completed, the both sides of Church Lane will be connected to the rest of the town and integrated into the downtown experience. The same will hold true for Kemper Gunn, which when completed will put a desirable and familiar face on a side of Elm St. which is a void of interest.(other then Seabury house of course)

    2) When the Y vacates the 60+ spaces occupied on an daily basis by full and part time employees, as well the another 150+ used by visitors, all of which is in town lots, will go away. Without boring everyone with the facts that substantiate this next detail, the fully completed Bedford Square project, has almost the same USE demands on public parking as the Y does today. The biggest NEW difference between the old and new uses is that Bedford Square will be supplying 100 on-site spaces where only 10 exist today and only 33 were required by current Zoning. So even if Kathy’s comments above are correct and those spaces will be used by Bedford Square’s employees, resident’s, Tenants and patrons, that still means that 100 NEW spaces where added within the downtown area and those spaces relieve the current burden on the town owned parking lots. Bedford Square was not required to build them but we elected to include it because we knew it would benefit the whole are. If those spaces were there today they would be used by the Y’s employees, guests etc. and those people would NOT be in the public lots.

    3) The people who SHOP/DINE/HANG/WORK downtown come here for a variety of reasons. It is not to just go to one specific place. It may be to eat lunch or dinner, grad a coffee, shop, get a hair cut, go to Church, sit by the river, stroll around the new Levitt or see a show, visit our library, attend the art festival, blues festival or book sale and so much. They come for it all and the more we can add to and compliment what we already have, the better it will all work. When Kemper Gunn is completed, the 60+ new cars are not going to be coming just for Kemper Gunn. Either they are already here or while her for Kemper Gunn, they will continue on to other store, places and uses in the area.

    We are blessed to live in a town which has so many cultural and natural resources within our downtown area.. Other towns have tried to re-create our formula but have failed. When you blend a diverse mixture of shopping, dining, living and office spaces in architecturally significant or well designed buildings, toss in the Saugatuck river and top it off with the new Levitt, Library, Art’s Center, Blues Festival, Sidewalk Sales, Art Festival, Art About Town, revitalized National Hall re-development, future Save the Children redevelopment and passionate volunteers, residents and politicians, you end up with the BEST downtown on the East Coast.

    The preservation and relocation of the Kemper Gunn project is a WIN-WIN for me and my partners and for the Town. It is consistent with the POCD and with the majority of the residents. Your decision to allow this land lease on town property so it may accept the preserved 1880 Kemper Gunn house, is a smart one, a creative one and the right one. I again applaud our P&Z, RTM, DC Kemper Gunn committee (and in particular Helen, Matt and Don), Select “men and women” and the countless others who not only listening to the residents of Westport but understand the facts and how they play into and add to the future success of our downtown.

    Sincerely,

    David A. Waldman

  12. Jack Whittle

    I wanted to weigh in on this topic and point out a few items, since I respectfully disagree with any suggestion that “the facts surrounding the details of the KG project are[were] never brought out in public hearing to the new commission” – but this should not be taken to mean there is any discord within the P&Z Commission – I certainly respect Cathy Walsh’s right to have, and express, her views – whether or not I agree with them.

    Revisiting the chronology of Kemper-Gunn House items before the P&Z certainly demonstrates the amount of time and care we have given this topic, and the depth of materials and information we have received and reviewed:

    On July 17th the majority of the P&Z Commission approved the lease of the .13 acre portion of the Baldwin lot for the Kemper-Gunn house after a full and careful consideration of all of the relevant facts and lease terms; the vote was 4-2-1 and I was among the 4 who voted in favor of approval.

    On May 1st the majority of the P&Z also approved a special permit and site plan for the Kemper-Gunn House move to the .13 acre Baldwin lot site with a 6-0-1 vote, after a full and careful consideration of the application, which was rather dense. I was among the 6 commissioners voting in favor.

    On April 3rd a majority of the P&Z also approved a map change amendment for the .13 acre portion of the Baldwin lot in order to permit the relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House, after careful consideration, review and debate.

    In March a majority of the P&Z approved adoption of text amendment #669, which modified the BCD/H zone to accommodate the relocation of historic structures, focusing on the relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House. I was among those commissioners voting in favor.

    And of course, there was the 4-2-1 vote to issue negative “8-24” report in September 2013 regarding the proposal to relocate the Kemper-Gunn House to town-owned land on the corner of the Baldwin lot; I was among the 2 who voted to issue a positive report; 3 Commissioners voting in favor of the negative report have since left the P&Z. The Commission was presented with much information and material in connection with that hearing as well.

    That vote was appealed to the RTM, which, in a unanimous (and historic) 33-0 vote, reversed the P&Z’s negative report on the Kemper-Gunn House move. I don’t believe the entire RTM was hoodwinked by distorted, unknown or withheld facts or swayed by any upcoming election pressures; instead, I happen to believe they were doing their job representing the views of their constituents (I think the RTM is a great example of a true representative democracy at work). That 33-0 RTM vote continues to guide my thinking on these Kemper-Gunn House matters, because I am also elected by the residents of Westport to accomplish what they want, to the extent possible, and they clearly want the Kemper-Gunn House saved and moved to the Baldwin lot. The preservation and relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House also happens to be entirely consistent with the desire, overwhelmingly confirmed by the recent Downtown survey, to preserve the character of Westport’s Downtown area.

  13. David A. Waldman

    Well said Jack

  14. Bart Shuldman

    This is a total win-win for Westport—so let me be clear—I am all for getting this approved. I also spent some time to understand the details and concluded this is very good for Westport. Let me explain:

    If the project gets the approval next Wednesday, then DC Kemper Gunn will sign a 50 year land lease with options bringing it potentially out 98 years. Once signed the DC Kemper Gunn partners will pick up the house and put it in a new foundation on the town owned land. The owners will then renovate the entire structure at their cost which I am told will estimate at around $2.5MM. The house will be owned by the DC Kemper Gunn group and they will pay the town, under the terms of the land lease, $15K per year in rent, with CPI increases commencing in Year 7 for the term of the lease and options. DC Kemper Gunn group will maintain the structure and site as any good Landlord would. To help motivate small businesses to the site, the Kemper Gunn group have agreed to cap the rent for any current or future lease within the building at 85% of the then market rent. They have also agreed to market to small Connecticut businesses for the first month and then to companies who have no more than 5 stores. As I have been told and others can confirm, no lease, now or in the future, can be signed by a Tenant, who at the time of the signing, has more than 5 stores. A tenant can grow from sub 5 to 500, so long as Westport was one for the first 5. Also, Westport will be paid property taxes on the building which could bring in another $25,000 +/-. Lastly, after Year 7, if after operating expenses 10% of the NET profit to DC Kemper exceed the then land lease payment, the town would get the greater amount. The only concern being no store owner with 5 stores or less comes forward.

    The only liability I see would be in the event the Kemper Gunn group (or any future purchaser) defaults on the lease payments to the town or does not maintain the exterior in accordance lease. In those cases, the owner would be in default of the terms of the lease and it would be subject to termination if not corrected within a set period of time. If the default is not cured, the town would OWN the fee interest in the building and get all the benefits associated with being a Landlord. True, in that case, if the Town did not sell the asset, they may have rent exposure, maintenance, market risks, downtime etc. but we all have to believe that 5,140 rsf in the heart of downtown has a much better chance of appreciating in value over long periods of time then decreasing. A default by the DC Kemper Gunn group would actually be a WIN for Westport. Brand new building at a cost basis of $0.

    And finally, once the Y is officially closed, many parking spaces will become available as those that use the Y transfer over to the new location. More parking spaces will be available, so any fear of losing spaces is just not true.

    • Mike Petrino

      As is typical for this type of project, the proponents do not consider the opportunity costs. The only way KG is a WIN for Westport is if those costs are ignored. Moreover, the assertion that if the building cannot generate enough rental income to cover the lease it is still a valuable property is laughable.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Mike. Trying to understand your post. What opportunity cost?

        Just look at what could happen for the town– if the town took over the building in no way would they NOT be able to rent 5140 sf of space downtown for more then $15k. At $20 per foot the property would generate over $100k per year FOR Westport. Not sure how you understand this or if you do. This building will be in a wonderful location, with great parking, near the new area for shopping and dining in Westport. The building is focusing in trying to help small businesses but in the case of an issue, the town would get a nice building with very good financial metrics. And the parking issue has already been addressed.

        • Mike Petrino

          You gave away a town owned resource without competitive bidding. How much would someone pay for a 98 year lease on the property which was GIVEN to KG? How much more money would the town make if the lease were established using competitive bidding and the rents were market rents? As thing stand now, the renters will be subsidized by Westport taxpayers as will the owner of the building.

          We know how much the building is worth on its own. What was the highest bid for the property when it was offered? 0

  15. Don Bergmann

    It was ln 2012 when I attended a presentation on the Bedford Square Project and became aware of the likely demolition of the Kemper Gunn House and the loss of the green space on that site. I dragged Matt Mandell up Church Lane to impress upon him what was occurring, while at the same general time, we came to learn that the HDC was troubled by the proposed demolition. From then on the process began. Matt, HDC Chair Francis Henkels, I and David Waldman worked on the matter and moved the process ahead. Many came to support the effort, others either expressed concerns or were in opposition. Those supporting the effort believe that the house is worth saving, that its location on Elm Street will “work” and that the negatives are outweighed by the positives. Also important is a sense that the relocation of the house could well begin a reclamation of Elm Street. All that followed is process, with good people disagreeing on some points and good people having different judgments as to the benefits and detriments. At this point, we are about to move into the implementation stage. I expect the result will be very positive. I surely hope so. Only time will tell if I am right or wrong, though even then good people will probably have differing views. I am proud of my role.
    Don Bergmann

  16. Nancy W Hunter

    If only Monaco, or is it Westport? had an ounce of grace.

  17. Why should the town give to any developer the full control and use of public land?

    The answer is the town should never give up public land to a private entity for any reason..The town should have a plan for the property and then make a wise decisions on how to implement the plan.

    Many similar situations have come up like this before. 170 Post Rd West.across the street from Kings Highway Elementary school, my family moved a historical house 20 years ago.. It would have been unfair and a huge financial windfall for us if the town allowed us to move the house 100 ft across the street where the school play ground is now located. Why would we let the same thing happen with the Baldwin lot? A 98 year lease is the equivalent of selling the property.

    In the past we wouldn’t permit the YMCA to move onto town land so why are we permitting a developer to take public land now? In the past we made people remove newly constructed stonewalls from town property.. What has changed to warrant this use of public land for a private developer’s benefit. All being done without any open public bidding. We have screamed about open public bidding with the Board of Education why is it ok for this process to not have a bidding process? Many developers would like to bid on this project and own public land.

    If the town wants to save the house by putting it on public land, then the town should pay to move the house and rent it out at the highest market rents. This will allow the town to control the development and not negatively impact any future improvements to the Baldwin lots which are key to any downtown improvements…

  18. Helen Garten

    Mr. Ross,

    This project was competitively bid in 2013, DC Kemper-Gunn was the winning bidder.

    Having the town own, restore and rent out the house was considered, but it was rejected because of the cost involved and because the town is not a particularly good landlord. Under this arrangement, DC Kemper-Gunn assumes the cost and most of the risk. We think they can do a better job than the town could of finding tenants, maintaining the property and managing the business successfully.

    The town does have an interest in the future development of the property, so the lease tightly controls what can be done to the house and the site. Any exterior changes will require town and Historic District Commission approval. The project occupies one corner of the Baldwin lot and will not interfere with any future plans the town have for the rest of the lot.

    Helen Garten

    • Mike Petrino

      Really ? Where was the town owned space put out to bid, and what were the constraints if any? The space should have been leased to the highest bidder irrespective of the use to which it would be put. No such bidding process took place.

      • Helen Garten

        As I said, the project — moving the Gunn House to public land, renovating it and leasing it for commercial use — was competitively bid.

        • Mike Petrino

          As I said, there was no bidding for the use of the land. The bidding was restricted to the project you chose. There might have been higher value uses; we will never know because the KG stampede prevented the exploration of that possibility.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Helen. We have had our difference but your responses have been wonderful and detailed. The persons who continues to try and debate the subject refuses to understand there is more to the story. The intent of what people wanted was dealt with professionalism and concern for the town. The result could not have been better even though this individual refuses to understand the goal.

          I hope others step up and thank you and the others for driving a great result and a win-win for all.

          I hope other a step up and thank you.

  19. Sandy Soennichsen

    So Ms Garten….what you are saying is that you are personally guaranteeing that the project will cause the loss of ONLY 22 spaces? Is that correct? And if the future plans of downtown include putting a second level on the Baldwin lot that the house will remain, or will it be torn down? Ah, I hear the musical refrains again, the Westport “Two-Step.”

    • David A. Waldman

      House remains in future and was designed to work with a deck in the future and yes, only 22 spaces will be lost.

  20. Helen Garten

    The Board of Selectmen, as Traffic Authority, has to approve any loss of parking spaces in the Baldwin lot. They (we) have already approved the removal of the 22 spaces. The Planning & Zoning Commission has rezoned the affected portion of the lot from “residential” to “commercial.” (It’s hard to see in the photo, but there is a map of the proposed site on the notice that shows the specific parking spaces that will be removed.) The relocated house must fit within that site. Any change would require entirely new approvals both from Planning & Zoning and from the Board of Selectmen.

    Ms Walsh’s concern seems to be the extra demand for parking that may be generated by the success of the businesses that will occupy the Gunn House. Those spaces won’t be “lost”; rather, she worries that they may be in more demand. David Waldman has answered her concerns better than I could. All I can say is that I certainly hope whatever businesses occupy the house are successful, because that will promote a more vibrant downtown and provide revenue to the town.
    .
    I can’t predict what future P&Z Commissions or Boards of Selectmen may do over the next 98 years, and I certainly don’t want to get into a debate about whether a parking deck on Baldwin is needed or not, but whenever the possibility of a deck has been discussed, the suggested location has been at the rear (north side) of the lot. The Kemper-Gunn House will front on Elm Street (south side), across from the Mexican restaurant.

    All these questions are legitimate. I can attest that they have been considered, and the pros and cons weighed, by the many town boards that have reviewed this project over the last twenty months–RTM, P&Z, Board of Finance, Board of Selectmen, Historic District Commission, Architectural Review Board, probably others.