Category Archives: Places

Cell Phone Controversy Towers Over Green’s Farms

5 RTM members — including 4 from Green’s Farms, the center of this issue — sent this letter to “06880.” Don Bergmann (District 1), and District 5 members Seth Braunstein, Peter Gold,  Paul Rossi and John Suggs write:

An AT&T cell tower may be located in a Residence AA Zone, close to the intersection of Hillspoint and Greens Farms Roads. The tower will be 120 feet tall. It would loom above the tree line at this “gateway” intersection leading toward our beaches. The address of the site is 92 Greens Farms Road, a private residence.

The house on the left is 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The house on the left is 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

We write to engage the public, and to express our abhorrence of a 120-foot cell tower in a residential zone. A citizens group has been formed, and all avenues of opposition are being explored.

Cell phones are part of day-to-day living. They are convenient and, in emergencies, important. Nevertheless, the adverse impacts of a cell tower resonate with most citizens.

Cell towers generate health risks. Also, the size of cell towers, particularly their massive foundations, requires and impacts upon a large land mass.  That will be particularly so at 92 Greens Farms Road, since there are water courses that flow into a nearby pond and also under I-95 to the Sherwood Mill Pond.

The cell phone industry managed in 1996 to secure the passage of very favorable federal legislation. As implemented in Connecticut by the unfortunate creation of a State Siting Council, local communities are severely constrained in their ability to impact upon cell tower siting. Those constraints preclude challenges based upon the adverse effects from electromagnetic fields and radio waves generated by cell towers.

An AT&T cell tower.

An AT&T cell tower.

Those dangers, particularly for the young and those with certain genetic pre-dispositions, are well known, but must be ignored in any site determination by reason of the law. The law also pre-empts local zoning regulations, for example a regulation adopted by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission in 2000.

Our P&Z regulation makes it clear that Westport does not want any cell tower in a residential zone. Sadly, the law negates the effectiveness of our regulation, except as a public declaration by Westport in opposition to cell towers in residential zones. We believe Westport does not want a 120-foot tall cell tower looming above the trees at 92 Greens Farms Road.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is pursuing avenues that he believes appropriate. However, whatever the town undertakes, public interest and concern is crucial. We need to stop this before it gets to the Siting Council. So please join in this battle. Let us or others on the RTM know of your support. Even better, contact the citizens group by e mailing: notowerat92@gmail.com, or Hope Hageman, hhagema1@gmail.com.

Please engage. Like Joni Mitchell’s “tearing down trees for a parking lot,” this cell tower will also be a blight.

“06880″ readers, what do you think? Dangerous? Unsightly? Necessary? An issue of one property owner doing what he wants with his property, or one where the wishes of a majority of neighborhood residents should take precedence? Click “Comments” — and please use your full, real name. If relevant, include your neighborhood too.

 

 

Coleytown? That’s Rich!

Recently — tired of posting stories like “How to Destroy the Stock Market in 8 Steps” and “Why Men Are Dressing Better” – Business Insider asked a few interns (aka recently unemployed college graduates who are sons and daughters of actual business insiders) to write “The 25 Richest Neighborhoods in the New York City Suburbs.”

Hey, it was a slow news day.

Based on census tract data compiled by Stephen Higley, professor emeritus of urban social geography at the University of Montevallo — you’ve seen all those “University of Montevallo” college stickers, right? — the website posted its list.

New York State boasts 12 of the most affluent census tracts: 9 in Westchester, 3 on Long Island. Connecticut has 10; New Jersey, only 3. (Who wants to live in a place with so many traffic jams, right?)

Of those 10 — all in Fairfield County — half are in New Canaan. Greenwich has 3 (including the richest neighborhood in the entire friggin’ country: the Golden Triangle). The median household income there is a Lamborghini- and Bvlgari-popping $614,242.

Darien has 1. We have the other. It’s #10 overall.

Business Insider's photo of a home in Westport's richest neighborhood, courtesy of Zillow.

Business Insider’s photo of a home in Westport’s richest neighborhood, courtesy of Zillow.

It is … drum roll, please … not a surprise if you read the headline … Coleytown.

According to Business Insider:

Westport is a coastal town with colonial origins. Coleytown sits at the northernmost edge of town. Most homes date back to the 1950s, with some as old as the ’30s.

The area has a higher proportion of married couples living there than most other U.S. neighborhoods.

And, the site helpfully adds:

Coleytown is 91.7% white, 3.1% Asian, 2.7% Latino, 0.9% black.

Eat your heart out, Beachside.

(To see the entire Top 25 list, click here.)

From Town Hall To The Transfer Station…

…trees are coming down all over Westport.

Here’s the scene this morning, when an alert “06880″ reader dropped off some recycling:

Transfer station

No word on whether the trees were dead. They sure were not going to fall on any power lines.

The next focus may be the beach. As a planning committee looks at reconfiguring Compo, some trees — perhaps near the drop-off and Soundview lot, on the grassy field or along the median between the shore and parking lots — may be reconfigured. As in, removed.

Nothing has been decided yet. Keep watching. This story has legs — and roots.

Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree…

…at least, not the towering one at Town Hall.

Alert “06880″ reader JP Vellotti has long admired the apple tree at the foot of the old Bedford Elementary School, just above the Myrtle Avenue stone wall.

Town Hall 1

In fact, he picks apples from it every year, and makes a pie.

This year, he may have to go to Stew’s.

Yesterday, JP spotted a fresh new sign on the trunk of the old tree:

Town Hall 2

The notice — posted by the tree warden — says that “this shade tree, the property of the Town of Westport,” will be removed in 10 days, or thereafter.

“Any person or organizations” objecting to the removal must appeal in writing within 10 days. The address — 110 Myrtle Avenue — is the very same building at the top of that handsome lawn.

How do you like them apples?

 

 

 

A Hawkish Outlook

Dr. Richard Epstein’s Redcoat Road dental office features a back yard filled with birdhouses and feeders. The birds that hang around — and come right up to the windows — provide a wonderfully distracting show for patients, as they open wide in the dental chair.

This morning, a hawk perched elegantly on the largest feeder.

Hawk on Dr Richard Epstein's feeder

“I suspect it was looking for a different item on the breakfast menu,” Dr. Epstein says.

A Shi**y Day At Winslow Park

Alert “06880″ reader Chip Stephens took a walk in Winslow Park this beautiful early spring morning. He sent along a photo, of a cute-looking puppet or sculpture or something, hanging in the trees:

Winslow 2

Or not.

Here’s what else Chip emailed:

The crocuses were up, but so was something else: many, many bags of dog droppings.

Folks pick them up with plastic bags, then throw them into the woods, or trees.

Winslow 1

I got a large bag, and started picking them up. The final tally was about 317 blue bags. Most were filled with dog doo. There were also a half dozen beer bottles in blue bags, plus a dozen soda cans.

We have a beautiful park. Do you think we can all help keep it clean? Drop those droppings in the receptacle on the way out, please.

20 Maplewood Avenue: The Sequel

Maplewood Avenue is a great neighborhood, filled with older homes. Residents love the streetscape, and work hard to protect it.

In 1996, Bill Dohme — a restoration builder — and his wife wanted to expand their home, at 20 Maplewood Avenue. They drew up plans that kept the body — and historical integrity — of the house intact. But other expenses put the remodeling on hold.

20 Maplewood Avenue

20 Maplewood Avenue last year…

Right after Memorial Day last year, the Dohmes sold their house. Knowing that teardowns are rampant all over Westport, they made the remodeling plans available to the new owner.

In February — hearing that 20 Maplewood would be torn down — Bill gave the plans to the Historic District Commission. He hoped they’d meet with the new owner, and urge him to reconsider.

It did not happen. On Tuesday, the bulldozers moved in.

Yesterday, they were done.

...and today.

…and today.

Looking Down On Westport

When a tree falls in Westport, who hears it?

Everyone.

Some of us lament the loss of every tree, whether felled by a developer, an arborist, wind or old age.

Others applaud the removal of dead, dangerous trees, or say it’s simply smart design to remove trees from near new, large homes.

Most of us, though, agree on one thing: Westport has “always” been a woodsy, New England town.

Most of us are wrong.

A look through photos in the University of Connecticut’s fascinating 1934 aerial survey shows that — well within the memory of some of our older citizens — much of this town was open fields or active farmland. South of the Post Road, in fact, there were virtually no woods.

Here is a shot from just 80 years ago. The railroad is the dark line near the top, running from west to east. South Compo is the white road, cutting southeast across the middle of the photo. Longshore is at the left; Sherwood Mill Pond is on the right in the middle, with Soundview Drive at the bottom right:

Westport south of Post Road - 1934 UConn aerial survey

Contrast that view with today. We’ve got much more development — and many more trees:

Westport 2013 south of South Compo Road

Further north, here’s the Saugatuck River (center), with Main Street/Easton Road shown from south to north on the right. Those squiggles just west of Main Street are Willowbrook Cemetery:

Westport - Easton Road 1934 UConn aerial survey

Today, it looks like this:

Westport 2013 - aerial view Saugatuck River

Much has changed — including the addition of the Merritt Parkway, at top.

We can see more trees in the1934 scene below. It shows Long Lots Road, heading northeast near the bottom of the photo (that’s the Post Road at the far bottom). There are substantial woods between the main north/south roads (from left: North Avenue, Bayberry Lane, Sturges Highway), but also plenty of open fields and farmland:

Westport aerial view 1934 - Roseville Road, North Avenue, Bayberry Lane

So what does all this mean?

Westport looks different, at different times in our history. Farms didn’t just happen; our ancestors had to clear the land. Gradually, though, that open space was built over. Trees were planted. Now some of them are coming down.

So when we talk about “preserving Westport,” we aren’t always 100% accurate.

Perhaps we should say, “preserving the current look — which may look substantially different, not many years from now.”

(Aerial video bonus: Check out this YouTube video of Compo Beach and Longshore, taken by a drone on November 9, 2013. If your browser does not take you directly there, click here.)
 
 

Saugatuck River Winds Up In Town Hall

Most people go to Town Hall for one reason: to do their business. They pay their taxes, pick up a clamming permit, complain about their neighbor’s swing set.

Now there’s another reason to go. And linger.

Clarinda “Rindy” Higgins has just created — from scratch, and virtually alone — a fascinating poster series about the Saugatuck River. Hanging on the 2nd floor (front entrance level), just to the right when you walk in, it’s educational, entertaining and eye-opening.

The 2nd floor exhibit in Town Hall.

The 2nd floor exhibit in Town Hall.

Rindy — a longtime environmental educator  – provides Town Hall visitors with a comprehensive history, and behind-the-scenes (okay, “below the surface”) look at this important artery which, since the time of the earliest settlers, has shaped how our town looks, feels and acts.

As the exhibit points out, the Saugatuck River is such a vital part of Westport that we sometimes ignore it.

Rindy’s posters — which (despite her protests that “I’m no Miggs Burroughs” and “I have limited computer skills”) she designed and printed herself, each one taking 30 hours — highlight its significance. Along with the river’s history, beauty and fragility.

Rindy - 2An introductory panel describes the Saugatuck’s name (“pouring out” of the “tidal river,” from the Paugussett tribe), and notes that it “meanders 23 miles from its headwaters in Danbury.”

Westporters cross the river several times a day, without really looking or thinking about it. The next poster notes the importance of our bridges; they unite the 2 sides of 1 town. Back in the days of ferries, the Saugatuck divided 2 towns.

Panels 3 and 4 — “Bustling Maritime Trade” and “Industry” — show the enormous  impact of wharves, vessels, onions and riverside factories.

The next poster shows the USS Saugatuck — a Navy ship named after the river. I’ve lived here my entire life, but this one’s news to me.

The USS Saugatuck

The USS Saugatuck

“Changing Riverscape” details the effects man and nature have on the water. Whether we fill in the river to create a parking lot behind Main Street, or the tides work their magic, the Saugatuck changes as constantly as any living thing.

Rindy - 5“River Quality = Quality of Life” reminds us that “how we choose to use the land and the water affects not only Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound but also our own properties, livelihoods and quality of life.” Our river is part of a watershed stretching all the way to Quebec, as a we’re-all-in-this-together map vividly shows.

The penultimate panel says “Each of Us Can Make a Difference.” Calling each property a “micro-watershed,” Rindy offers suggestions for making sure that river and coastal water quality begin at home. From our kitchens, bathrooms, laundry and garage to our basements, gutters, driveways and gardens, everything we do can ensure the health of the Saugatuck River (and thus Long Island Sound) for decades to come.

Or it can help destroy it.

This Saugatuck River exhibition was Rindy’s labor of love. Gault Energy, Jim Marpe and Eileen Flug gave donations, but she paid for everything else out of pocket. She even bought the frames (from Walmart.)

Rindy’s posters are well worth a trip to Town Hall.

And as you leave — catching a glimpse of the Saugatuck River in the distance — you realize you will never again think of it in the same way.

Rindy - 3

Plowing: The Other Side

An “06880″ post yesterday showed a stretch of Main Street sidewalk, uncleared by merchants.

Meanwhile, here was the scene at 5 this morning, in the Cross Highway/Sturges area:

Plowing

The Westport side was plowed.

Fairfield: not.