Category Archives: Places

Estelle Margolis Makes Myrtle Avenue A Neighborhood

Most people drive down Myrtle Avenue on their way to — or from — somewhere else.

Some head to Town Hall, or the Westport Historical Society. Others use it as a shortcut to or from town.

But to the folks who live in the handsome homes there, Myrtle Avenue is not a narrow through street. It’s a neighborhood.

In the hustle and bustle of modern Westport life, though, it seldom felt like one.

Myrtle Avenue: grace, beauty -- and neighborliness -- in the heart of downtown.

Myrtle Avenue: grace, beauty — and neighborliness — in the heart of downtown.

Last year, Estelle Margolis — she lives at #72 — invited everyone to her lovingly maintained 1790 home. Neighbors Rondi Charleston and Page Englehart helped plan the get-together.

Over 2 dozen neighbors showed up. Some were old-timers; others had just moved in. They talked about who they were, where they came from, and what brought them to Westport.

They named themselves the MAGs — for Myrtle Avenue Gang — and shared e-mail addresses.

Since then, they’ve had more cocktail parties in various homes. They arrive early, and stay late.

Beyond the food and drink, Estelle says, “We’ve found out how everyone on the street is interesting, caring and kind.”

The most recent MAG party was last Sunday. It’s a busy time of year, but plenty of people came. In the holiday spirit, Estelle asked them to bring kids’ books. They’ll be delivered to a Bridgeport home for abused mothers and children.

Estellel Margolis (center), surrounded by Myrtle Avenue neighbors. (Photo/Rondi Charleston)

Estellel Margolis (center), surrounded by Myrtle Avenue neighbors. (Photo/Rondi Charleston)

“MAGs are now much more than neighbors,” Estelle says. “We are dear friends, very close by, all available for help that any one of us might need.”

“Estelle brought us together in the spirit of love and support, as only she can,” notes Rondi Charleston. “We are so grateful for her.”

“We feel very lucky we landed on Myrtle Avenue,” Estelle says, speaking for so many MAGs.

“We’re in the heart of downtown Westport — and as close to heaven as we can get!”

 

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?”

 

 

Minuteman Takes Months

Westport is filled with alert “06880” readers. Many have emailed me recently, asking, essentially: WTF is up with the Minuteman statue?

After a frenzy of restoration activity in late summer, our beloved town symbol has remained wrapped in plastic. On Halloween, no one turned him into a ghost or pirate. It’s Christmastime — but no Santa hat. Easter is far off, but already we’re worrying the Minuteman won’t wear his traditional rabbit ears.

The Minuteman, under wraps. (Photo/Catherine Rondeau)

The Minuteman, under wraps. (Photo/Catherine Rondeau)

Hold your fire (ho ho ho).

The Minuteman is all spruced up. The hang-up is the fence around him.

It was in very bad shape. (No surprise. Like the Minuteman, it’s over 100 years old.)

According to Francis Miller — a Hamden conservator working on the project — final touches include galvanizing, light abrasive cleaning, painting, installation, then grade adjustment. Target date for completion is the end of the month.

Organizers want to unveil the entire project at once, rather than piecemeal. So — someday next year — the Minuteman will again look like this:

Minuteman Easter

And this:

Minuteman Statue at Christmas

And this:

Minuteman 2

 

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)

 

 

 

New Sign Gets In The Spirit Of Things

On Friday, driving from the Y on the sparkling new Merritt Parkway Exit 41 ramp, I saw a guy with a truck putting up a sign.

Check it out — it’s the sparkling new white one, at the bottom of all the others.

Merritt Parkway sign

Call me crazy, but I’m guessing this is not an official — or legal — Department of Transportation project.

No Safe Harbor On Saugatuck Shores

Saugatuck Shores was on the agenda at a recent board of selectmen meeting. They considered 2 petitions: one for speed bumps on Harbor Road, the other against.

Alert “06880” reader Gene Borio doesn’t have a horse in that race. He lives on Canal Road, a 600-yard straightaway. That’s where he’d like to see speed bumps. Or at least a speed-activated sign (which residents have requested, to no avail).

But Gene has another issue with Harbor Road: the new sea wall. In his opinion, it’s waaaay too close to the road. Strolling, jogging, biking, dog-walking — all are now life-in-your-hands situations.

In just half an hour the other day, he saw:

Harbor Road 1

Harbor Road 3

Harbor Road 2

While Gene was taking these photos, a contractor asked what he was shooting.

“The beautiful view, of course,” Gene said.

“And the sea wall. I think it’s too close to the road.”

“Yeah!” the contractor replied. “Why couldn’t they have moved it back 3 feet?!”

Gene thinks that would be tough. But, he says, 1 1/2 to 2 feet could be doable.

As for the traffic photos: “There’s a lot worse than this going on every day,” he says.

Like this shot:

Harbor Road 4

There are no cars nearby — but there could be.

And that’s without speed bumps.

 

Honoring Our Veterans

Veteran’s Day is Tuesday, November 11.

Many veterans live quietly in “06880”-land. And we’d like to give them their due.

If you’ve got a photo and/or story about a man or woman who served their country — recently or long ago; still living, or no longer with us — send it along (dwoog@optonline.net). We’ll post this special tribute on our veterans’ special day.

Plaques, memorials and a statue fill Westport's Veterans Green.

Plaques, memorials and a statue fill Westport’s Veterans Green.

 

A Developing Story

Ever since the Wright Street and Gorham Island buildings were erected in the 1970s — and those were quite some erections — Westport has been consumed by construction.

Even so, 2014 stands out as a landmark year.

Here are some of the developments — as in, real estate developments — that have occurred in the past few months. Or are occurring right now.

  • The Y moved into its new home. The Kemper-Gunn House is being moved across Elm Street to the parking lot, and Bedford Square will soon rise downtown.
  • The Levitt Pavilion finally completed its renovation. Nearby, plans for Jesup Green — with possibly reconfigured parking, a new Westport Arts Center and a renovated library — are in the works. And, of course, committees and commissions have been talking all year about new ideas for all of downtown.
  • Across the river, Save the Children has skedaddled. That fantastic waterfront property will be redeveloped, such as the adjacent Bartaco/National Hall buildings have been reimagined recently.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River includes the old National Hall and the relatively new Wright Street building. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

  • Compo Acres Shopping Center is being renovated. The Fresh Market shopping center — and the one across the Post Road, with Dunkin’ Donuts — will get a facelift (and new tenants) soon.
  • Applications have been made for housing on the site of the Westport Inn. Across town, there are rumors of new housing on Hiawatha Lane, near I-95 Exit 17.
  • Senior housing has been shot down on Baron’s South. But it won’t remain undisturbed forever.
  • Phase II of Saugatuck Center has been completed. Phase III — on  Railroad Place — is coming down the tracks.

That’s a lot — as in, lots of building lots.

And nearly 2 months still remain in this year.

P.S. Oh, yeah. The beach too.

 

Halloween Update: Live From The Epicenter

An “06880” reader who wishes — for obvious reasons — to hide behind a mask of anonymity wrote at 4 p.m. today:

Greetings from Oak Street, the epicenter of trick or treating for Weston children* whose families cut through here to avoid the light on Main St. and Clinton.

I just put 475 candy bars into baskets. I ran out last year at 7 p.m. Now I am pondering not the ethics of this Weston tradition, but an etiquette question:  Would a sign saying something to the effect of “happy to be of use to you and your family again this year; now would you consider slowing down that Range Rover, and maybe stopping at either of the stop signs the next time you blast past my house?” be okay?

*Scientific fact:  My neighbor taught elementary school in Weston for 30 years. She said 75% of the kids she saw were from Weston.

"Hah! We live in Weston, where there's 2-acre zoning. Your houses are MUCH closer together!"

“Hah! We live in Weston, where there’s 2-acre zoning. Your houses are MUCH closer together!”

Happy Friday!

And what better way to welcome the weekend than with Stacy Waldman Bass’ photo of this morning’s sunrise over the Sherwood Mill Pond?

Sunrise over Mill Pond - Stacy Waldman Bass

Enjoy the day!