Category Archives: Environment

Baron’s South Fate Could Hinge On RTM

The Planning and Zoning Commission has spoken. By a 4-1 vote (1 abstention) last week, they approved an amendment to rezone all of the 22-acre Baron’s South property as open space.

Now there’s at least 1 petition circulating — probably more — asking the RTM to overturn that decision. Petitioners want to reopen the decades-long discussion of using the town-owned property for senior housing.

The official P&Z notice of the decision will be published Friday. Petitions must be submitted within 7 days of that notice.

RTMThe RTM would then have 30 days to act. The decision can be overturned by a 2/3 affirmative vote. That means 24 of the 36 members — no matter how many attend, it’s still 24.

This is one of the biggest RTM decisions in years. A vote to uphold the P&Z decision means that 22 acres of land — hilly and heavily forested — just steps from downtown will remain open forever (perhaps enhanced by an arboretum).

A vote to overturn the P&Z keeps the door open for other uses. The most recent 165-unit senior housing proposal involved 3.3 acres.

If you’d like your voice heard in this debate, contact your RTM members. Click here to find their emails. (Don’t know your district? Click here!)

 

A “Town Forest” Downtown?

On Thursday night, the Planning & Zoning Commission resoundingly affirmed that the Baron’s South property should remain open space.

By a 4-1 vote (1 abstention), the P&Z approved an amendment that seems to end plans to build a 165-unit senior housing facility on 3.3 acres of the 22-acre property. 60 percent of the units were to be considered “affordable.”

Town officials have fought for years to add senior housing to Westport’s stock. Baron’s South — located between South Compo and Imperial Avenue, and which includes the Senior Center — seemed to many to be a perfect location.

Others were just as adamant that it be retained entirely as open space.

The entrance to the Baron's South property.

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

One — who asked for anonymity, for personal (non-political) reasons — offers an argument that hasn’t been heard much in the debate.

She is “not a tree-hugger.” But after consulting with state officials (including the deputy director of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) and scientists, she was told that “it would take 200 years to re-grow a true-practice urban forest like this.”

According to the Westporter, all those experts were “adamant that this parcel should be held as protected space in perpetuity as Westport’s town forest.” In fact, people familiar with the property “believe it can be enhanced to become a world-class arboretum.” Grant funding could help Westport “inspire other municipalities.”

The Westporter says, “we either act as responsible stewards of this municipal forest, or it will be lost forever to buildings, ancillary infrastructure, paved parking lots. Mature forests can never be replaced.”

She also fears unintended consequences from construction, such as soil erosion and rain runoff, along with the potential for more land being needed later for ancillary development.

Part of the Baron's South property.

Part of the woods on the Baron’s South property.

The RTM — by a 2/3 vote of its 36 members — can reverse the P&Z’s decision. There will be plenty of lobbying by town officials who have advocated for senior housing — as well as private citizens who believe that 3.3 acres downtown, adjacent to the Senior Center, is a perfect place to help keep older Westporters here.

What’s your opinion? Did the P&Z avoid a slippery slope that begins with construction on 3.3 acres out of the 22? Or is senior housing the right use for what is now open space downtown?

Click “Comments” to make your views known.

Talkin’ Trees

As eagle-eyed Westporters spot tiny patches of green* around town, can buds on trees be far beyond?

Probably. But as the temperature climbs near 50 — be still, my heart! — it can’t hurt to talk about trees.

Tree warden Bruce Lindsay recently updated 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and the  Westport Tree Board about “tree-related accomplishments” over the past year.

Among the tree projects last year: the median on Jesup Road.

Among the tree projects last year: the median on Jesup Road.

More than 100 were planted in Westport since last spring. Sites include downtown, Town Hall, the transfer station, Staples High School, Veterans Green, Jesup Road and Longshore.

Many were donated by Planters’ Choice Nursery in Newtown. They’ve provided more for 2015, to be used for Main Street improvements, Parks and Rec plantings, on roadsides, and in Tribute Tree and Arbor Day projects.

Donations of trees, planting services and funds also came from the Westport Woman’s Club, Smith Richardson Foundation, and local residents.

In January, Public Works and the Parks and Rec Department conducted a tree inventory on 200 acres of land at Longshore and Compo Beach. The information — including species, diameter, health, risk factors, maintenance needs and potential threats — will be merged with the town’s Geographical Information System.

Ahead: an inventory of trees on all public properties. That will generate a management plan, to be used for years to come.

New trees will add to the beauty of downtown.

New trees will add to the beauty of downtown.

Westporters love our trees — until they fall on our power lines, grow dangerously old or tall, or otherwise cause concern. Thanks to our tree warden and board, it looks like we’re emerging from a long walk in the woods of neglect.

PS: Interested in volunteering with the Tree Board, or learning more about Westport’s trees? Email treewarden@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1134.

*A color often associated with grass. 

Westport Farmers’ Market: 10 Years And Growing

Farmers’ markets can be like produce: Someone plants a seed. They grow and thrive. Eventually though, they wither and die.

Not so with the Westport Farmers’ Market. Stalls open in May for its 10th season — a very impressive feat.

To mark the occasion, it’s got a new tagline: “10 Years & Growing.”

And a new contest: a t-shirt competition.

Farmers MarketWFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall invites anyone to submit a design. It should incorporate the tagline, and embody the WFM ideals: providing fresh, local, healthy and seasonal food to the community, in a fun, safe and healthy environment.

Designs can be for the front, back or sleeves of the t-shirt. They should be submitted electronically, in low-resolution format, to: director@westportfarmersmarket.com. Deadline is March 15.

The prize: seeing your design worn all summer long. While helping the Westport Farmers’ Market grow even more, for the next 10 years.

A New Test For Westport’s Crack Drivers

To the long list of snow, ice and enormous, unseeable-around piles of congealed schmutz, add this hazard for winter drivers:

Cross Highway

That was the scene earlier today on Cross Highway. There are more cracks, potholes and buckled roads all around town.

That’s what happens when plows, salt and ice all come together, day after day after day.

The good news is: More snow is coming. So this will all be covered up again soon!

Remembering Dusty

“06880” reader Adam Stolpen writes:

My best friend died Sunday morning, and I was responsible. Though a vibrant personality to his last breath, he was quite ill and in pain. I wanted him to die naturally at home, but could not cause him to keep suffering simply because I loved him too much to say goodbye when he depended on me not to prolong the inevitable through heroic means.

Dusty

Dusty

We first met Dusty at the Westport Humane Society nearly 2 decades ago. He won all of us over. As any friend of a cat knows, he quickly proved that our home was now his place. He seemed to tolerate me as well as my son Eduard, but it was clear he was my daughter Betty’s cat.

Dusty was a constant presence, and a singularly pleasant companion. As he approached a people-age of 100 he began to slow down. He spent his days watching life from the window, sleeping in the sun on his favorite chair and developing a psychic way of knowing every time I approached the refrigerator (which held his fresh shredded Stew Leonard’s turkey).

Recently his body began to fail him. Couch backs were replaced with cushioned seats, high beds ignored. By last week his favorite hidden shelf became too much of an effort to reach. He lay in the sun on a rug. Wonderful vets tried what they could. He’d knowingly look into our eyes. We sensed he was saying, “It’s not that you live, but how you live. For me it’s over.”

Dusty and Betty.

Dusty as a kitten, and Betty as a pre-teen.

Betty came up on Saturday. They lay near each other, his head resting on her hand. He slept by her all night. The next morning he came to me. We sat for an hour talking — ok, I talked. He listened and snuzzled my leg. We followed our morning routine, watching the sun come up one final time.

We took Dusty to the vet early Sunday morning. He was not alone at the end. He knew he was deeply loved. It was quiet, peaceful and gentle. I have little doubt he was aware of what was happening, and was content. How different the life of this abandoned kitten could have been 20 years ago if we’d not met.

But this story is not just about Dusty, or how much is missing from our home since his death. It’s about how much he brought into our lives, and how glad we all are that we visited the Westport Humane Society and adopted that little ball of dust.

They’re open today, with animals waiting for a new home. I know, because we took all Dusty’s things, to pass along to the next stray kitten who wanders in.

Dusty, once more.

Dusty, once more.

Humane Society logo

It’s A Tough Winter For Everyone

Alert “06880” reader Richard Jaffe was in his kitchen a few minutes ago. He looked outside, and saw:

Richard Jaffe - 1

Richard Jaffe - 2

Hey — at least they weren’t in his kitchen.

Scott Smith’s New Pet Interest

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith has spent this snowy winter feeding birds in his back yard. In between setting out seed, he shared these insights:

I’m currently in recovery from the news that my beloved mutt Miller will not be crowned Westport’s Top Dog 2015. He did not even have the chops to make it into the finals of this year’s competition, which concluded last Friday.

I’m not giving up on man’s best friend. But I’ve recently become infatuated with a new pet interest: All the birds that flock to my backyard feeder.

A typical winter scene.

A typical winter scene.

Especially since the snow has been on the ground this new year, my feeder attracts dozens of birds at a time throughout the day.

Most are little brown birds — sparrows and such — but there are many other kinds, including gentle doves, flicky finches, belligerent blue jays, the occasional red-headed woodpecker and more. Some feed only at the hanging tubular feeding station, while others peck through the snow-covered ground below for their meals.

After I purchased a new bag of bird feed advertised especially for cardinals at Pet Supplies Plus, I’ve been rewarded by frequent visits from 3 bright red males and 2 dusky females. Being from St. Louis — and a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training — this particularly excites me.

I asked the clerk how much bird feed the store sold a week. He calculated the bags by weight and said, “600 pounds, at least.” Figuring all the other local pet stores, and Super Stop & Shop, that must add up to a ton or more of seed each week for our community of wintering song birds and other feathered friends.

Dogs rule the roost and the news in Westport. Most attention to birds in these parts focuses on problems with geese, the singular beauty of swans or the wonder of ospreys nesting along our shoreline. It takes a long white winter to notice just how many other winged creatures also call Westport home, and enliven it throughout the year.

I don’t have the camera to nicely capture the birds in my backyard, but I imagine other alert readers and local birders have their own tales and photos to share.

Scott Smith's Miller is a “bird dog.” – He loves chasing away squirrels poaching seeds scattered across the snow.

Scott Smith’s Miller is a “bird dog.” He loves chasing away squirrels poaching seeds scattered across the snow.

 

But Is It Art?

As she snowshoed through the Newman-Poses Preserve yesterday, alert “06880” reader Sandy Rothenberg spotted this sight:

Newman Preserve - Sandy Rothenberg

Uprooted tree? Natural art?

Or just another unexpected discovery in the woods of Westport?

A Last Look Back At A Pretty Nice Day

Considering what could have been, today was not bad at all.

Like many families, the Shuldmans spent the morning quietly, at home. 15-year-old Avery saw this view outside, and captured it beautifully:

Deer - Avery Shuldman

When the roads were cleared — and how about a great hand for Westport’s Public Works Department! — Bart and Sue headed out to see how Compo fared.

It doesn’t get more Westport than this:

Compo Beach - Bart Shuldman

(Photos/Bart Shuldman)

(Photos/Bart Shuldman)