Consultants Plan. Candidates And Readers: Respond!

On Monday, “06880” gave a nod to the Westport Historical Society’s “06880 + 50” exhibit. It’s an intriguing look forward, at how our town might look and act 5 decades from now.

Yesterday, Saugatuck Center Transit Oriented Design consultants unveiled their latest master plan.

Looking forward themselves — but only 5 to 10 years — they presented a vision for the area bounded by the train station, Saugatuck Avenue and Riverside Avenue.

The landscape looks beautiful — filled with trees, sidewalks, a realigned park and improved lighting.

There are also over 200 new residential units. Plus more than 40,000 additional square feet of retail space. And new deck parking.

Colored areas show possible development of Saugatuck over the next 7-10 years, based on a presentation by the Transit Oriented Design group.The railroad station is at the bottom; the intersection of Riverside and Saugatuck Avenues is at the top.

The development of Saugatuck is exciting. It’s also challenging and controversial.

It comes at a time when downtown Westport grapples too with new development — on both sides of the river.

Many plans for the future look great. Many blend our town’s history and heritage with the reality of today, and the promise of tomorrow.

Sometimes they miss things. Traffic — as anyone who has crawled through Saugatuck or sat on the Post Road can tell you — is central to all aspects of life here.

Our infrastructure is aging. Our public services are stretched thin.

The future of the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is key to any discussion of the future of Saugatuck. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

This November, voters will elect a first selectman — and 3 Planning & Zoning Commission members.

Four Westporters are vying to be chief executive. Five are running for the P&Z spots.

All will face issues involving preservation of historic structures and open space. They’ll weigh in on amorphous subjects like town image and character, and concrete ones like personal property rights versus property development.

All candidates are invited to chime in on those topics right now, in the “06880” “Comments” section. Of course, readers can pipe up too.

But here’s something we can all agree on: Let’s keep it civil. Discuss the issues in a positive way. Don’t bash others; no ad hominem attacks.

After all, this is Westport, not Washington.

Our future is in our hands.

(Click here for the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design website. As of yesterday evening, the most recent presentation had not yet been added to the site.)

Pic Of The Day #155

Schlaet’s Point this morning. Rough weather was predicted for later, but the remnants of Hurricane Jose moved far to the east. (Photo/Matt Murray)

Jose Can You Sea?

A tropical storm watch for the remnants of Hurricane Jose has been discontinued.

However, a coastal flood advisory is still in effect, for low-lying areas during high tides.

One of those is Burying Hill Beach.

This was the scene earlier today:

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

It sure could have been worse!

Westport Favorite Is Farmer Of The Year

The Westport Farmers’ Market is proud of its many vendors. They sell honey, ice cream, tamales and pizza, along with the usual (and delicious) fruits, vegetables and meats.

Today they’re particularly proud of one.

Patti Popp has just been named 2017 Farmer of the Year.

That’s not some silly online poll. The honor comes from the Farmers’ Almanac and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Popp is one of 3 outstanding farmers or ranchers throughout the country — and the only woman. All were chosen for their support of the farming tradition; innovation in agriculture; community involvement, and inspiration as an agricultural leader.

Popp grows produce, and raises chickens and pigs, at Sport Hill Farm in Easton. She operates a community-supported agriculture program, and a retail store sellling locally grown and crafted goods.

Patti Popp and friends.

In the summer Sport Hill Farm sponsors a children’s camp. She hosts other events throughout the year, including farm-to-table dinners and workshops.

Popp calls herself an “accidental farmer.” In 2000 she and her husband purchased a home with enough property to grow vegetables and raise chickens.

They learned to farm by trial and error — reading books, and asking questions of other farmers.

Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall says, “Not only does Patti grow some of the choicest food in the area, she gives of herself to the community in an unparalleled way.

“We always count on Patti to dig in when we need anything — from offering fresh food, to partnering with local chefs, to volunteering for events that help folks make a connection between the farm and our food system.”

You can see the national Farmer of the Year at the Westport market on Imperial Avenue every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through November 9.

House Hunters Hit Westport

If it seems that every new home buyer in Westport comes from Brooklyn: Watch “House Hunters.”

The popular HGTV show’s promo for tonight’s 10 p.m. episode says:

Buyers in Brooklyn, NY, look for a home with more space in nearby Westport, CT. One wants a modern place that’s move-in ready, has an open floor plan and a Japanese bathtub. The other is hoping for a Cape Cod or Colonial with vintage charm. Can they meet in the middle and find the spacious home of their dreams?

Of course they can! This is reality TV — and there are plenty of homes on the market.

There’s still one unanswered question, though: Will they move next door to the 2nd Fattest Housewife in Westport?

(Hat tip: Charlie Haberstroh)

 

Drumlin Does It The Old-Fashioned Way

Fred Cantor graduated from Staples High School in 1971. After Yale University he got a law degree, married, and worked and lived in New York.

But his heart was always in Westport. He and his wife, Debbie Silberstein, bought a place here for weekends and summers. Then they moved in fulltime.

It’s a decision Fred never regretted — in part because of his close-knit neighborhood.

That friendly spirit remains. Fred reports:

Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

My family moved to Westport in 1963, when I was in 4th grade, and I have many fond memories of my childhood here. Our home was on Easton Road. I spent many afternoons and weekends playing and/or hanging out with friends on nearby Silverbrook. It was a true neighborhood — at least for kids.

I know a number of “06880” readers lament some of the changes in town in the decades since that time. But I can attest that the small-town, neighborhood feeling is alive and well on the street my wife and I have lived on for the past 20+ years: Drumlin Road.

One prime example: This past weekend we had our annual road barbecue. Close to 50 residents turned out.

The ages ranged from 91 to just under 2 years old. Homeowners who lived on Drumlin since the mid-1950s chatted with a family with young daughters, who moved here just a few months ago.

Every household brought a dish (many were homemade).

Generations mixed (and ate) together at the Drumlin Road party. (Photo/James Delorey)

The friendly interactions during the party reflect the year-round atmosphere.  It’s not unusual to see residents helping out each other out. One man put his new snowblower to use in a winter storm, clearing the sidewalks of his elderly neighbors.

One of my favorite sights is seeing kids come off the school bus and — believe it or not — not stare down at their iPhones but instead talk and mess around with their friends or siblings as they head up the street to their homes. Later in the afternoon, they kick a soccer ball in the front yard, or shoot a basketball in the driveway.

Kids had a great time too at the neighborhood event. (Photo/James Delorey)

Perhaps the size of the lots — 1/4 acre — and the horseshoe shape of the road contribute to the neighborly character of the street. Whatever the reason, my wife and I feel fortunate to have lived more than 2 decades in a place that — to borrow from the slogan of the old Westport Bank & Trust — is truly a small-town neighborhood in a town of homes.

All ages posed for this Drumlin Road party photo, by James Delorey.

Pic Of The Day #154

There’s a new addition to Town Hall: a fountain in front. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Players Learn From A Real-Life Newsie

Most high school theater groups prepare for a show by listening to the cast album. They watch a video. The director adds whatever insights he or she can.

Staples Players is not most high school theater groups.

For one thing, this fall’s main stage production is “Newsies.” Players scored a coup last spring, when Disney asked directors David Roth and Kerry Long to pilot the production. They’ll provide executives with feedback. A year from now, other amateur companies across the nation can produce the show too.

For another thing, Players’ cast and crew learned about “Newsies” from an actual newsboy.

Actual, as in one who was on Broadway.

Adam Kaplan — the former Players star who graduated in 2008 — played a newsboy (and Morris Delancey) in the New York production. He also understudied for lead Jack Kelly.

Last week, Kaplan returned to the Staples auditorium. He shared stories about his time with “Newsies,” including how he got the role and how he trained for it.

Adam Kaplan (center) with Nick Rossi and Charlie Zuckerman. The Staples students are double cast as Jack Kelly –the role Kaplan understudied on Broadway. (Photo/Kerry Long)

He also offered advice on how the young actors can take care of themselves, while doing such a physical show.

The students seemed awed when Kaplan walked in. But they quickly responded to his enthusiasm and charisma.

They loved when he joined them in “Zip, Zap Zup” — a popular theater game he played, when he was at Staples.

And when he himself dreamed about making it to Broadway.

The cast and crew of Staples Players’ “Newsies”pose with Adam Kaplan. (Photo/Kerry Long)

(Click here to join Staples Players’ email list, for ticket information on upcoming shows.)

Historical Society’s New Exhibit Looks Forward — Not Back

Since 1889, the Westport Historical Society has focused on our town’s past.

From now through the end of 2017, it’s looking ahead.

Specifically, to 2067.

06880 + 50: Visions of Westport” is not as outlandish as it seems. The Historical Society’s exhibit — local architects’ ideas about this place, half a century from now — includes intriguing aspects, like what we’ll do with parking lots once we move around in driverless cars.

This contribution — from Roger Ferris + Partners — focuses on the Saugatuck River. In the future, it could be a unifying element between the east and west banks. New buildings, parks and community features will be constructed on both sides — and the river itself will be revitalized.

But there are some back-to-the-future elements too. One contribution, for example, envisions neighborhoods filled with clustered housing, walking paths, open space and farms providing much of the food — a way of life that Westporters centuries ago might recognize.

The intriguing exhibit had its genesis last year. Andrew Bentley — a member of the WHS advisory board, and a man committed as much to the future as the past — wondered what would happen if the organization cast its eye beyond old houses, toward new ones.

The WHS asked 40 architects who live or work in Westport to submit ideas about what this place will look like 50 years from now.

Andrew Bentley

Bentley chose 50 years because it is the Goldlilocks of futurism. Ten years from now, we’ll still have single family Colonial homes. A hundred years may bring Jetsons-style stuff.

Five decades, Bentley says, is “the sweet spot. Architects can release their inhibitions, without being crazy.”

More than a dozen responded. The request was open-ended — and so are the concepts.

Mounted on the WHS walls, they range from a full town plan, to a school design, to new street lamps.

They include a beautiful S-shaped pavilion and park behind Main Street, in space freed up by new modes of transportation. There’s a high-speed ferry terminal, linking the Saugatuck River with New York.

Homes may be made of innovative materials. One way to avoid teardowns is building houses using modular pieces, like Legos. Instead of demolishing entire structures, they could be modernized by replacing outmoded parts.

Some projections are practical. Others are fanciful. All are worth seeing.

Architect Robert Cohen drew this bridge. He foresees it linking 2 Coleytown gems: the Newman Poses Preserve and Blau Gardens.

Each contributor has been invited to present an hour-long “brown bag talk” about their visions, with Q-and-As to follow. They’ll be scheduled weekly, throughout the fall.

Bentley hopes that the exhibit spurs attendees into thinking about what Westport can be.

At the same time, he says, it will help us appreciate the talents and visions of the architects currently living and working here.

This is a very intriguing and enterprising project.

And perhaps — say, 50 years from now — the Westport Historical Society can revisit it, with a retrospective of what the town thought 2067 might look like, way back in that crazy year of 2017.

(The “06880 + 50: Visions of Westport” opening reception is this Friday, September 22, 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit runs through December 31. For more information, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #153

Wakeman Athletic Fields, 6:30 a.m. (Photo/Lisa Hilton)