Category Archives: Downtown

Snow Day: Afternoon Views

By noon, the snow had moved on. The quick storm dropped 8 inches of heavy, beautiful stuff. It was a photographer’s delight.

The sun peeks through on Meadow View. (Photo/Krystof Bondar)

The sun peeks through on Meadow View. (Photo/Krystof Bondar)

iFloat was open for relaxation. This was the view from the 2nd floor of Main Street, shot by owner David Conneely.

These trees in front of Vineyard Vines on Main Street come courtesy of iFloat owner David Conneely.

Dayle Brownstein enjoyed this painting-like view, from the comfort of inside.

Dayle Brownstein enjoyed this painting-like scene, from the comfort of indoors.

Sadie romps outside. (Photo/Karen Abramson)

A little snow does not stop Sadie from fetching. (Photo/Karen Abramson)

Emily, Michael and Luke Bernier have a great time. Who says yellow snow is bad?! (Photo/Anne Bernier)

Emily, Michael and Luke Bernier have a great time. Who says yellow snow is bad?! (Photo/Anne Bernier)

Bella Sabino, Georgia Graham, Sienna Peck and Evan Sabino enjoying the snow at Winslow Park today. (Photo/Lisa Sabino)

Bella Sabino, Georgia Graham, Sienna Peck and Evan Sabino enjoying the snow at Winslow Park today. (Photo/Lisa Sabino)

Snow-covered Compo Hill, as seen from across the Sherwood Mill Pond by David Squires.

Snow-covered Compo Hill, as seen from across the Sherwood Mill Pond by David Squires.

Attendance at the Y's fitness center was low -- but members who made it to work out also enjoyed this scenery. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Attendance at the Y’s fitness center was low — but members who worked out also enjoyed this Camp Mahackeno scenery. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport was wonderfully wintry. This shot is from Partrick Lane. (Photo/Martin Gitlin)

Westport was wonderfully wintry. This shot is from Partrick Lane. (Photo/Martin Gitlin)

Apartment Application Denied

In the 1st stop along what may be a long legal journey, the Planning and Zoning Commission last night unanimously denied an application to build a 6-story, 48-unit apartment complex on one of the busiest, most environmentally sensitive corners of Westport.

Concerns about safety and damage to wetlands adjacent to the 1.16-acre parcel at the corner of Wilton Road and Kings Highway North dominated last night’s proceedings in Town Hall.

P&Z commissioners questioned the developer — Garden Homes Management — about many aspects of the plan. They also appeared miffed that a consultant and lawyer for Garden Homes did not attend (due to illness and a conflict), and that Garden Homes submitted a raft of supporting materials at the meeting, but refused to request an extension so the P&Z could study that information.

P&Z members also refuted Garden Homes’ contentions that the commissioners’ minds were already made up — and that they were opposed to the plan because a portion of the apartments would be deemed “affordable” under state 8-30g regulations.

“We never said we’d fight 8-30g,” P&Z chair  Chip Stephens said. “We said we would fight inappropriate locations for 8-30g. Period.”

Garden Homes president Richard Freedman promised to appeal the decision.

122 Wilton Road -- site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building -- sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

122 Wilton Road — site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

The Best Small House In America

In one corner, we have a 6-story, 48-unit apartment complex proposed for a 1.16-acre parcel of land on the corner of Wilton Road and Kings Highway North.

Right next to it, we have an 1,800-square foot home, on 1.8 acres. In 1988, it won a House Beautiful contest for the “Best Small House in America.”

That home — being cited by opponents of the planned apartments as much more in keeping with the streetscape, scale and marshland environment of the heavily trafficked area — was featured in a March 13, 1988 New York Times story.

Front view of "The Best Small House in America," on Wilton Road near the corner of Kings Highway North.

Front view of “The Best Small House in America,” on Wilton Road near the corner of Kings Highway North…

The house is 42 feet at its highest point. There’s a 30-foot high cathedral, plus 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, office, 3 full baths, 2 half-baths, sauna, exercise room and family room, Not too shabby — or small, really.

Architect Bruce Beinfield’s “whimsical” design, blended modern and traditional architecture. The view from the rear looks across the Taylortown salt marsh and Saugatuck River, to downtown Westport.

...and the rear view, looking across the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

…and the rear view, from the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

The Times said the land — purchased in April 1987 for $213,000 — passed through a number of owners over the years. During construction, workers found evidence of a house from a half century ago.

Asked why no one had developed the site since then, builder James A. Olson Sr. said, “Apparently people didn’t realize the potential of the property.”

The owners of the proposed 48 apartment complex next door sure do.

Bonus fun fact: The home was listed originally for $990,000. A William Pitt broker said, “I guess some people felt that because it’s small, it would sell for about $200,000.”

Nice Thai!

The restaurant rumor mill is churning with talk that a well-known restaurateur will move into the old post office. That massive property is empty, since Post 154 closed abruptly last week.

Meanwhile, directly across the street, a much smaller restaurant has opened. Very quickly, it’s creating quite a buzz.

Jeera Little Thai Kitchen is located next to the equally small (but also fine) Finalmente Trattoria.

Jeera ThaiI checked it out the other day. I dithered between 2 dishes. Usually when I ask for help, the server says, “Oh, they’re both good!”

This time, the owner responded. Jeeranunn Atiportunyapong — you can call her “Luna” — very confidently told me which one to order.*

It was great. And — as I requested — appropriately spicy.

I’m already a huge fan of Rainbow Thai, in Bridge Square. I’ve added Jeera to my list of favorites.

Interestingly, Westport’s 2 Thai restaurants could fit comfortably in one corner of Post 154. There’s a lesson somewhere in that.

*It was kaprow.

Bad Parkers: They’re Baaaaack!

Westport’s Very Entitled Drivers took the weekend off, for the blizzard.

But the moment the lots were semi-cleared, at least one sprang into action.

Here was the scene yesterday, at 544 Riverside Avenue:

Entitled parker 1 - 544 Riverside Avenue

For all you lawyers out there who say, “Yeah, but what about the driver’s side?”:

Entitled parker 2 - 544 Riverside Avenue

Meanwhile, here’s one from downtown, sent a few days before the storm:

Entitled parker - downtown Westport

And yes, that car blocking the intersection — and the curb cut — was parked.

With no one inside.

Wondrous Weekend

This weekend has been many things: scary, snowy, white, bright and beautiful.

It also brought out the best in “06880” photographers.

All around town, you’ve been capturing amazing images of this very lovely town.

Here are a few final shots. (Click on or hover over to enlarge.)

Light at the end of the storm. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Light at the end of the storm. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

We think of John Kantor as the sailing school guy. But he loves Longshore in all kinds of weather., as this photo clearly shows. (Photo/John Kantor)

We think of John Kantor as the sailing school guy. But he loves Longshore in all kinds of weather, as this photo clearly shows. (Photo/John Kantor)

Not far from Longshore, Saugatuck Shores' Canal Beach looks equally lovely. (Photo/Gene Borio)

Not far from Longshore, Saugatuck Shores’ Canal Beach looked equally lovely. (Photo/Gene Borio)

There were ducks galore on Saugatuck Shores...

Enjoying the water of Saugatuck Shores…

...and one lone guy in the air. (Photos/Gene Borio)

…and one lone guy in the air. (Photos/Gene Borio)

The sun set colorfully over downtown. (Photo/Michael Baltierra)

Red sky at night: good news, right? (Photo/Michael Baltierra)

A special nighttime view of the Post Road, looking east. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

A colorful nighttime view of the Post Road, looking east. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Town To Residents: Prepare For Floods, Winds

Westport’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated.

Uh-oh.

An announcement on WWPT-FM 90.3 — the town’s emergency broadcaster, which will be all-storm, all-the-time throughout the weekend — says to expect only moderate snowfall: 4 to 6 inches.

That’s the good news.

The bad news: With 2 full-moon high tides, and winds gusting up to 55 miles an hour, there will be flooding on par with the 1992 nor’easter that surged through downtown. Tides are expected to be 1 foot lower than Hurricane Irene in 2011.

The high tides are expected tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m., then more significantly tomorrow  night at 11. Sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph from the northeast — with those much higher gusts — will push the water very high.

Town officials urge residents to move cars now to higher ground. Saugatuck Shores residents can park at railroad station Lot 8 (by I-95 Exit 17). Compo and Old Mill residents can park at Longshore.

Officials warn all residents to secure loose objects on decks, porches and patios.

The forecast calls for snow to begin falling tomorrow morning. The storm will continue for 24 to 36 hours.

Stay safe and warm, Westport. And stay tuned to 90.3, and “06880.”

PS: Send photos!

PPS: If there’s a fire hydrant near you, don’t forget to clear snow from around it.

Hurricane Irene flooded downtown Westport, in August 2011.

Hurricane Irene flooded downtown Westport, in August 2011.

 

Seagull Over The Saugatuck

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Post 154 Closes

Post 154 — the restaurant that opened 2 years ago in the former Westport post office — has closed.

The announcement was made last night, in a Tweet. Its website is no longer working.

Post 154

From the beginning, Post 154 faced challenges. It occupied a sprawling building — with a downstairs too — but never defined itself. Was it a hip destination? A lively bar? What kind of cuisine?

Westport’s dining scene has lost some big names recently. But new spots — like Harvest and Parker Steak House — are opening too.

As for the now-former Post 154 — whose name, you have to admit, worked great for both its Post Road address and its previous incarnation — well, that’s a huge real estate hole to fill.

Post 154 restaurant.

Post 154 restaurant.

Downtown Salt Marsh Threatened By Development

Last Sunday’s photo challenge showed a sign for “Taylortown Salt Marsh.” Though the 3.2- acre preserve sits in the heart of Westport — the Saugatuck River, off Wilton Road and Kings Highway North, opposite the “Fort Apache” medical complex — it’s unknown to many Westporters.

That will change soon.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, January 21, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning and Zoning Commission discusses a proposal for a 45,796-square foot, 5-story, 48-unit apartment building planned for 122 Wilton Road.

122 Wilton Road -- site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building -- sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

122 Wilton Road — site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

The developer — Garden Homes Management — is using Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Statute. Known as “8-30G,” it allows developers to add “affordable units” that override local zoning regulations, in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable.

In this case, 30 percent of the units — numbering 15 — would be “affordable,” as defined by state housing law.

Th3 8-30G regulation was part of a 2014 plan to build 200 apartments on the site of the Westport Inn. First Selectman Jim Marpe and P&Z chair Chip Stephens instead found a local buyer who understood the importance of maintaining the lower-impact inn on that small-footprint, already-crowded stretch of the Post Road.

The Aspetuck Land Trust — which owns the Taylortown tract, and spent the last 3 years saving the marsh from invasive weeds — is not pleased.

An email from the organization warns of negative environmental impacts to the marsh and river, as well as destruction of views of the estuary.

Garden Homes believes that development of the site will not impact the wetlands.

One view of the Taylortown Salt Marsh...

One view of the Taylortown Salt Marsh…

Interestingly, the Aspetuck Land Trust itself is a direct result of a struggle to save the salt marsh from being filled and developed in the 1960s.

Back then, there was no legal protection of tidal marshes. Inland wetlands were thought of as boggy areas to be filled for level building lots, the Trust says.

When Barlow  Cutler-Wotton learned of plans to build a geriatric hospital on the Wilton Road/Kings Highway North corner, she contacted attorney Leonard Schine. He based his case on traffic congestion. The P&Z denied the application.

...and another.

…and another.

Cutler-Wotton went on to form the Aspetuck Land Trust, for Westport and Weston. The Trust buys, or receives as gifts, property that it then preserves in natural states as open space. The organization acquired Taylortown Salt Marsh in 1987.

The Trust will have to work hard now to keep it. 830G is a powerful state statute. It overrides most local rules and regulations — except those related to the environment or safety.

Let Westport’s newest battle begin.

(Tomorrow’s Planning and Zoning Commission evening meeting is open to the public. So is a P&Z field trip tomorrow morning to examine the property. It begins at 8:15 a.m., at 122 Wilton Road.)