Category Archives: Environment

CL&P’s Definition Of “Exciting News” Is Different From Yours Or Mine

There are many ways for CL&P to spend its customers’ money.

This is not one of them:

Dear Valued Customer,

We are pleased to share exciting news with you. As of February 2, 2015, Connecticut Light and Power is becoming Eversource Energy….

For the more than 8,000 employees of Eversource, this is more than just a new name. It’s about the value we place on always improving on our commitment to bringing you reliable energy and superior customer service.

Thank you,
Your Eversource Customer Service Team

If any “06880” reader can explain that last paragraph — how the new name translates into an improved commitment to “reliable energy” and superior customer service — please click “Comments.”

I’m in the dark.

CL&P

(Hat tip to Andy Yemma)

Here’s The Poop On That Longshore Trash Can

It looks like another gorgeous view of the entrance to Longshore:

Longshore entrance

But look closely next to the stone pillar. See the green trash can?

Before you go all WTF on Parks and Rec, you should know this: It’s only there for the winter. With the golfers’ red trash receptables stowed for the season, this is a way for dog walkers to dispose of the little blue “gift bags” they carry (we hope) while strolling near the beach.

Now that we all know they’re there, there’s no excuse for cleaning up after Fido — then casually dumping his dumpings wherever.

“Gloria,” As You’ve Never Heard It Before

In 2008, the wife of Chris Bousquet’s friend died suddenly. He realized how quickly someone’s world can fall apart, and wondered how anyone can move on after such a tragedy.

Chris Bousquet

Chris Bousquet

The singer-songwriter — he led High Lonesome Plains, and has performed with Roger McGuinn, John Sebastian, Asleep at the Wheel, the Nields, the Turtles and J. Geils – started to write a song about all that.

It didn’t go anywhere. “I was maybe too close to it,” he says. “Or maybe it was not really my song to write.”

A couple of months later, he read about Westport oysterman Alan Sterling, and his boat Gloria (named for an old girlfriend). Bousquet calls it “a profoundly moving story of grief, continual struggle, and the simple triumph of carrying on.”

Having grown up in Clinton, Connecticut, Bousquet always found the sea to be “ethereal and transcendent.” Staring out at the water, he believes in the interconnectedness of all things. So when Sterling noted in the story that a gull might be Gloria watching over him, Bousquet understood.

Gloria (Photo/John Kantor)

Gloria (Photo/John Kantor)

The sea can be warm and caressing, but also brutal. “Alan was well aware of the cold and raw, but it didn’t blind him to the beauty,” Bousquet says. Inspired, he reworked his old song into a new one: “Gloria.”

Bousquet never met Sterling in person. He thought about sharing the song with him, but felt it was presumptuous. Sterling died last July 4. Now, Bousquet wishes he had told the oysterman what an inspiration he’d been.

“He made me appreciate my life — and my wife! — even more,” Bousquet says. “I don’t mean to sound trite. But he reminded me to head out on my proverbial boat, and sail on each day.”

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

The song was supposed to be part of a compilation CD a few years back. It didn’t happen. But it’s one of his most popular songs during his live performances. Bousquet cherishes the connections “Gloria” allows him to make with audiences.

Now, Bousquet has re-recorded it. It will be on an EP to be released this spring.

But, he says, if any of Alan’s friends want to do something with it, he’ll be glad to help.

“The best songs are the ones that feel like they came from some place outside myself,” Bousquet says. “Like in some sense that gull came down to guide me too — and lead me home.”

(Click here to listen to Chris Bousquet’s haunting song “Gloria.”)

 

Developing News: White Barn Preserve Under Attack

As Westporters in 2 corners of town — Post Road East near the Southport border, and Saugatuck by I-95 Exit 17 — battle high-density housing, a 3rd neighborhood is also girding for a fight.

Since early 2003, Cranbury Road residents have worked to protect the former Lucille Lortel White Barn Theater property, on the Westport/Norwalk border. Nearby neighborhoods include Newtown Turnpike, and Partrick and Stonybrook Roads.

The White Barn Theatre.

The White Barn Theatre.

According to RTM member Matthew Mandell, then-Governor Jodi Rell secured 5+ acres of open space of the 15-acre property. The rest was to be taken over by the Connecticut Friends School. They would restore the historic theater and build a low-impact green school, instead of 18 houses that had been proposed.

Recently, the school decided not to go forward with its plans. The property now reverts to the Fieber Group — a New Canaan developer — which has applied for a special permit to build at least 21 homes on 7 acres. The theater would be demolished.

A new group called Save Cranbury – Again says that the proposed “conservation development” will include filling in wetlands elsewhere on the property. This may damage “the very drinking water and wildlife resources the easement was meant to protect.”

The original low-impact plan for the "green school."

The original low-impact plan for the “green school” (pink building near center).

Mandell says that the Fieber Group is using “a specific Norwalk zone where the houses are clustered and the number is determined by the amount of acreage. They are including the open space land in their calculations.”

Mandell adds: “This developer was paid by the state, by you and me, for the land to keep as open with public access. Now they are trying to double dip — on top of destroying 3000+ square feet of wetlands and building houses in the wetland setback.” He calls it “a very unsavory plan.”

Mandell says that Norwalk zoning regulations are not as tight as Westport’s — and the city moves quickly. The first planning meeting is Thursday night at Norwalk City Hall (no public comment allowed).

Mandell’s bottom line: “Over-development and its impacts do not observe town lines.”

Save Cranbury - logo

O Christmas Tree … Go Christmas Tree!

Boy Scouts are supposed to do a “good turn” daily.

It’s hard to imagine a better one than what they’ve got planned for Saturday, January 10.

Troop 39 of Westport will pick up your Christmas tree. That once beautiful, now dying and needle-dropping symbol of last month’s holiday cheer can be disposed of with one simple mouse click.

To register for this much-needed service, click here. Then place your tree by your mailbox by 6:30 a.m. on Saturday — yeah, you do have to move it that far yourself — and tape an envelope with your donation to your front door.

The suggested donation is $20 per tree. I’m sure the scouts would not refuse higher amounts.

The Boy Scouts are well known for “good turns” like helping little old ladies across streets. Bush league. In Westport, they help little old ladies — and strapping young men — dispose of big old Christmas trees.

Troop 39 in action.

Troop 39 in action.

 

2,000 Trees, And Counting

A year ago, Westporters were up in arms over the imminent removal of 15 trees from the Longshore entry drive.

We survived (though the trees did not).

This year’s Longshore tree news is that the town has hired Davey Resource Group to conduct an inventory of the trees in Longshore. All of them.

And the stumps too.

Trees are an important part of Longshore, as this aerial view shows.

There are 2,000 or so trees (and stumps) left in Longshore (minus those 15 controversial tulip poplars and Norway maples). “Specially uniformed Davey personnel” will spend 2 weeks identifying trees by genus and species.

They’ll rank them for health, structure and primary maintenance needs (removal, selective pruning, or removal of dead, dying and/or broken wood).  After the inventory, town officials will receive an action plan for a “5-year urban forest maintenance schedule and annual budget projections.”

No word on what will happen to the stumps, though.

 

Westporters Sustain Choate

Choate Rosemary Hall — the prestigious private school in Wallingford — boasts the Kohler Environmental Center. It’s the 1st teaching and research center in US secondary education, a model of self-sustaining architecture, and the 1st education structure to achieve LEED certification by the US Green Building Council.

Students live and learn in the building, which is nearly “off the grid.” Electricity is produced on-site, and they grow their own food.

Choate's Kohler Center

Choate’s Kohler Center

When the Kohler Center received a big award on Thursday from the American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter, several Westporters were more than interested observers.

Kevin Smith was the principal architect. He’s a partner in the international firm Robert A.M. Stern Architects (and, with his wife Deirdre O’Farrelly, designed the Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall).

Westport’s Landtech provided site planning, and civil and environment engineering services, for the project.

As for “Kohler”: The project was written by Herbert Kohler, of plumbing products fame. He’s a Choate grad. When he was a football quarterback there — back in the day — he handed the ball off to a halfback named Earl Smith.

Earl has lived in Westport for years — and was a longtime Staples assistant football coach, under Paul Lane.

 

Matt Debenham’s Clean Treats

Eli Debenham is a Staples High School sophomore. His dad, Matt — a fiction writer and teacher — recently branched out into the brownie-baking-and-selling business.

Not just any brownies.

Paleo brownies.

Matt Debenham

Matt Debenham

He got into it via his wife’s thyroid specialist. It took 5 months to come up with a recipe that didn’t taste like a caveman who’s been dead for 35,000 years.

Baking — and selling — brownies (paleo or obesity-o) online is not easy. Matt learned about commercial kitchens (he uses one in Saugatuck, at night). He learned about bar codes, labels, shipping, and thousands of other quasi-related-to-baking things.

But Clean Treats is up and running. So is the Clean Plate Club, a food blog for paleo eaters. (Gluten-free ones too.) It features recipes, links to kitchen equipment, and posts about visits to free-range, chemical-free farms.

Matt’s is an interesting story, about something that (of course) morphed from a sideline hobby into a full-fledged, taking-over-his-life business.

Yet many other Westporters have similar tales. Why is this one “06880-worthy”?

A Clean Treat brownie.

A Clean Treat brownie.

Well, it involves food, which everyone loves. Desserts, especially.

Matt’s doing all the right things, marketing-wise.

And Eli asked me to write about it. It’s his Christmas gift, from a son to his dad.

Merry Christmas, Matt! I’m sure Santa will love those Clean Treat brownies you leave out for him on Christmas Eve.

 

Westport Inn Proposal: Traffic And Safety Trump All

There are over 125 miles of roads in Westport. But through November 28 of this year, 6.4% of all reported traffic incidents happened on one small stretch of the Post Road: between Maple and Bulkley Avenues.

That’s the area with no traffic lights, and a couple of dangerous crosswalks. Four pedestrians have been killed there since 2008.

It’s also the spot where a developer hopes to tear down the Westport Inn, and replace it with a 200-unit apartment complex.

The heavily trafficked stretch of Post Road East near the Westport Inn. Sasco Creek Village is on the right; Lansdowne Condos (not shown) are on the left. (Photo/Google Street View)

The heavily trafficked stretch of Post Road East near the Westport Inn. Sasco Creek Village is on the right; Lansdowne Condos (not shown) are on the left. (Photo/Google Street View)

“This is not a NIMBY issue,” says a neighbor opposing the proposal. Jan Winston is president of the Lansdowne Condominium complex, across the street and a few yards east of the site.

Winston — a 28-year resident of the condos — points out that directly across from Lansdowne is the former “trailer park.” Now called Sasco Creek Village, it is being modernized — and enlarged. When completed next year, there will be 93 units of affordable housing, up from the current 72.

“There hasn’t been a peep from us” about the increased housing across the street, Winston says. “Many residents of Lansdowne fully support” affordable housing.

However, he notes, part of the what is driving the Westport Inn proposal is 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.

“You can’t put another 200 units there,” says longtime Lansdowne resident Mike Turin. “The number of cars accessing and exiting the Post Road in that area will be overwhelming.”

A drawing of the proposed apartment complex, as seen on Change.org.

A drawing of the proposed apartment complex, as seen on Change.org.

Winston and Turin know there is plenty of opposition to the new plan, for many reasons. Westporters are concerned about the impact on schools, wetlands, sewers and the height of the proposed complex. Winston also acknowledges that Westport is far from the state’s 10% affordable housing mandate.

However, he says, “this particular development — with 373 parking spaces for 200 units — is not the way to get there. It terrifies us.”

He foresees tremendous traffic issues. It’s simply too dense for the 2.4-acre property. Lansdowne, he  notes, has 90 units on 34 acres.

So where could the next affordable housing complex in Westport be built?

“I have no clue,” Winston admits. “I don’t pretend to be a surrogate for the P&Z.

“I just want to know 2 things. What are the rules — not only for affordable housing, but safety on this really dangerous stretch of road? And how does the town get to the right goal?”

 

 

Gotta Hand It To Our Dump

It may not be the only one of its kind in the country, but Westport’s dump could be the most interesting since Arlo Guthrie and Alice visited theirs that famous Thanksgiving years ago.

Consider:

  • We don’t call it a dump. It’s a “transfer station.”
  • Sure, there are trucks and Suburbans. But there are also plenty of Range Rovers, BMWs and Mercedeses, plus the occasional Tesla, Maserati, Rolls and Bentley. All are driven by “normal” Westporters, trash in tow.
  • It may be the only dump transfer station that’s a regular stop for politicians stumping for votes, and non-profits to hand out flyers.

Now, add one more “only in Westport.” Is there another one anywhere with a hand sanitizing pump — and marketing materials?

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)