Embrace Baron’s South

5o years ago, Westport bought Longshore.

The entire process — from conception to approval — took 18 days.

It was the right thing to do.

Half a century later the town has the chance to build senior housing at Baron’s South — land we already own.

It will take considerably longer than 18 days — no doubt more than 18 months.

Once again, it’s the right thing to do.

The proposal — presented last week by 1st and 2nd Selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelley Kassen  at meetings of the P&Z, RTM Long Range Planning Committee and the Senior Services Committee — would involve 66 units of 1- and 2-bedroom rentals.  More than half would be available to people earning approximately $50,000.

The proposed Baron's South project. The senior housing and skilled care facilities are in blue, just east of the current Senior Center.

A “mansion” on the property — currently a deteriorating structures used to store library books — would become an 84-bed skilled nursing facility.

Also available:  assisted living services, such as meals, housekeeping and hospice care.  Shuttle service would be available between the senior housing and the current Senior Center.

The town would find a non-profit partner to assist in the project.

For too long we’ve farmed out our senior citizens — and affordable housing — to other towns and cities.  It’s past time to do our share.

Baron’s South is not Winslow Park, on the other side of Compo Road across US1.  The Baron’s terrain is tough — you can’t walk dogs there, or cross country ski.  Though the public has had access for years, it’s virtually unused.

Each event celebrating Longshore has had a common theme:  Imagine what this town would be like today if our politicians lacked the foresight — and will — to buy the property.

We already own Baron’s South.  Now let’s have the foresight — and will — to do something smart, and good, with it.

39 responses to “Embrace Baron’s South

  1. Yet another wealth transfer to be borne by the taxpayers of Westport. Joseloff and his crew drive the elderly out of Westport by imposing rediculously high taxes to provide uniformly mediocre services, and then he whines that the elderly are leaving the People’s Republic of Joseloff. If the crew in Town Hall were more intelligent and frugal, the elderly might hang around.

    There you go Dan, that ought to get the ball rolling.

  2. I have to disagree with my good friend, Dan Woog on this one. I am opposed to municipal government becoming involved with a skilled nursing facility. The financial and operational risks of owning this kind of facility are too high for a town to incur. I would be more in favor of the town providing a below market long term ground lease to an experienced operator that would bear the business risk and pass on the advantageous land basis to future residents.

  3. dan woog is right: it’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do because this makes purchasing a residence in westport a more attractive long-term investment than if the town didn’t offer senior housing. westport would not be as attractice a town without it’s long term residents and this option provides more an opportunity to become so.

    • The Joseloff option actually makes Westport a less attractive place to live. A result of the Joseloff plan will be taxes on homes above where they would have been had the land been used at its highest value usage. Taxes are a lien against the value of a home; they don’t increase the value, they decrease the value. The plan is merely an effort by Joseloff and his cronies to increase the amount of patronage available to Town Hall. You might ask as well; “Who determines how the new partonage will be dispensed? Who decides who lives in che Joseloff?”

    • John McCarthy

      As I understand it, there will be no way for the town to set aside these units for Westport residents.

  4. you are really reaching with the charges of ‘patronage’

    • Please revisit the last episode of “Save the old folks” as it played out at the old Saugatuck School. It is a scam, pure and simple. Joseloff’s only interest is political, afterall he is a politician. If this plan were advanced in Chicago, would you have any doubts? The argument that Project Joseloff advances housing values in Westport is unsustainable.

      • Chicago is a poor example, as they have the best run “machine” anywhere. Use Providence RI if you want an example of a badly run political operation.

        • Yet Providence is also a prime example of a city that has been brought back from the dead. Its renaissance — architectural, economic, demographic, artistic and technological — is the envy of urban planners everywhere.

          • True – but they went through a pretty bad spell for a while. I haven’t been back in several years, but I’ve heard good reports on the more recent improvements.

        • The Chicago machine has fallen on lean times. It started down hill when Daley Sr. died. A better example would be Hudson County NJ. The Democrat machine and the Mob are one and the same. Providence is surrounded by RI which was very near the top of the list when it came to corruption in the last decade.

  5. Patronage? I’m willing to be proven wrong, but somehow I doubt Westport is big or busy enough to delver Mr. Joseloff patronage as I think of it. Is Brooks Brothers giving him free ties in exchange for more parking spaces? Did he hire his sister to be town clerk? I dunno. Somehow I doubt he’s in a back room somewhere smoking cigars and rubbing his hands together.

  6. For many years, the question has been “What is the best thing to do with town-owned properties?” If we agree that we can’t sell them to private developers, then the question is what is the best usage for these properties, as measured in both dollars and in town services? Long Shore and Winslow are being put to good use. Converting Wakeman to Bedford MS and improved ballfields was a good choice, given the parameters at the time. Isn’t this the best alternative for the Baron’s South property? People have been kicking ideas around for a long time; it’s time to make a decision. Or do you think it’s best to leave it fallow for all time?
    Remember that there isn’t any land remaining that the town can purchase for a reasonable price.

  7. Didn’t we already give the Seniors a school? And wasn’t that with the agreement that we’d be able to use the ball fields behind it – which we now cannot because they block access?

    Didn’t we already build the Seniors a Senior Center? Smack dab in the middle of land we could have put to more efficient use by combining with a YMCA – or “Town Rec Center”?

    Don’t the Seniors already take all the good Longshore tee times while the rest of us race off to work?

    When Bradley Commons was constructed way back a whole year ago – care to guess how many Westport Seniors applied for the Affordable Housing Units? ONE!!!

    And most importantly – once we sacrifice our scarce open space for the good of our Westport Seniors – please understand there is NO LEGAL WAY we can limit it to Westport Seniors, relatives of Westport residents, etc. This place will be filled up with random Fairfield County geezers in no time.

    • Thanks for posting, David. And — assuming you’re serious — I look forward to more of your insights, particularly those describing your method for never growing old, or having elderly relatives.

    • John McCarthy

      David brings up a good point which speaks to the real demand and should not be dismissed out of hand. “When Bradley Commons was constructed way back a whole year ago – care to guess how many Westport Seniors applied for the Affordable Housing Units? ONE!!!”

      Anyone can run a survey asking if people want something that sounds good (Who wants a free pony?) , or open a waiting list for housing units . But watch what people do when the market presents a real life opportunity if you really want to gauge demand. David’s point (which I believe he is intimately familiar with) should really raise questions about

  8. Sensible One

    It seems to me that the basic premise of this project (as Dan has described it) is to provide housing and medical care for our Westport Senior citizens, because they have been “farmed out” of our community.

    Aside of the myriad of financial and legal concerns that I can only imagine….. (the Dude would be the one with the legal expertise) how would we be sure that ONLY Westport’s seniors would be the ones accomodated? Or is that beside the point??

    Would the facility be a free for all for those with an income of 50K? I can’t imagine that legally, we could exclude those living outside Westport.

    I would also be interested in knowing who decided that we really need to have this facility. Were people complaining to Town Hall?

  9. It is interesting to see just how naive people are when local politics are involved. The Joseloff proposal is a scam. Joseloff is willing to spend OPM to make his dream come true, while claiming it is all a matter of good will towards seniors in the Westport community. The facts are as posted elsewhere, there is no way to take state or federal funding for the project and still assure the taxpayers of Westport that the subsidized housing will go to seniors from Westport. Moreover, if Joseloff really gave a hoot about seniors he would go to Hartford and ask the state to lower the estate and income taxes, while he does a better job controlling local taxes.

  10. Someone who wished to remain anonymous asked me to post this:

    I believe the property might be put to another useful purpose – one which directly or indirectly helps everyone in Town. The Town already owns Baron’s South. The Town pays approximately $300K/year to store school busses on a private lot on Post Road across from Playhouse Square. So does it follow that if the busses were parked on Baron’s South the Town just might save approximately $300K/year. Additionally there may be other Town facilities which would effectively fit the land area and may save additional dollars. Where else in the Town can we find a $300K/year savings?

    • As you mentioned Dan, the property is very hilly. I used to go sledding there with friends and it was great because of the undulating terrain. Lets think of the costs involved to make it a habitable spot for large vehicles. That $300K savings would have to wait at least a few years to recoup the leveling and grading costs to create a parking lot.
      Why wasn’t this piece of property used to maybe house the new YMCA? Did I miss that drama somehow?

  11. i thought that the housing would be reserved for former westport residents…so what i said in terms of being a proponent of this way at beginning doesn’t hold at all.

    but, the comments re. the democratic party and the mob being one in the same are not true. jeffxs often has right points even if i disagree with how they are weighted vis a vis other relative interests, but these sorts of remarks about patronage, and ‘the mob’ & the democratic party are just silly and sensational’istic tabloid vernacular.

  12. no, i have never lived in hudson county, nj; and, in addition to being well read up, i’ve lived more than a bit of politics too.

    and, resting your argument on one county, one state is narrow-thinking.

    • I did not write that the Democrat Party and the mob were one and the same everywhere, but in Hudson County NJ, that claim is accurate. Moreover, your views on patronage and local politics is quite naive. The Joseloff proposal has no rationale that withstands examination other than patronage.

  13. Sorry Dan but I side with what I believe is a majority of Westporters. This is just not right. I for one am sick of the entitlement attitude in this town and nationwide. I do not feel entitled to being able to live in Westport now or as a senior, I believe in earning it. That said I probably will not be able to live in Westport as a senior due to unchecked high taxes due to projects like this.
    Amazing The Y could not fit or operate on the same property according to our elected officials unilateral denial of considering such. But now we can put 66 condos and a rehab center on the property. AND IT WILL COST US NOTHING !
    Trust the government?… talk to a Indian (Sitting Bull)

  14. Let’s keep politics and Joseloff feelings aside – I think that clouds what is a complicated issue and quickly leads people to chose sides.

    I understand the “dream” – and could even support it if I really believed it was a) needed, and b) legal.

    For a) Review Bradley Commons. Six affordable/senior housing units were created and one senior applied (and then moved in). Demand was so low they filled two of the units with non-residents.

    Also – it’s not clear to me how all the new development with Hales Court – if there’s still actual demand for AH/SH – or if we’ve created a surplus. I’m well aware that we’re far from satisfying 8-30g, but with the new units at Hales Court and my experience with Bradley Commons – I’m not convinced there is a committed list of residents/relatives ready to move into this proposed development in the next year or two.

    For b) We all know there’s no way it’s legal to exclude non residents. Might as well exclude all minorities and people with funny last names while you’re at it. Can’t do it – won’t do it – so don’t hide behind the emotion of seniors being priced out of Westport. When the development is initially opened – the BEST the developer/manager can promise you is that Westport residents/relatives will be put at the top of the list (as they were for Bradley Commons). But once that list is run – it will be wide open to all – and when it’s full with out-of-towners, it’s full.

    So show me the demand, stop pulling at our heartstrings when you can’t deliver, and if you want this project at least be truthful about what you’re providing and for whom.

    • How can you “keep politics and Joseloff’s feelings aside?” Joseloff proposed the project and he is a politician. His announced rationale for the project does not withstand scrutiny. Joseloff is trying to use taxpayer dollars to curry favor with a constituency. If he wanted to keep seniors in Westport, he would run a more efficient government.

    • John McCarthy

      David, the developer won’t be able to put Westport residents at the top of the list if any state/fed money is used. Or if the units are to be considered 8-30g compliant. 8-30g has a detailed public-notice based protocol on how the AH units are to be allocated. And Westporters First would violate the letter and spirit of 8-30g and most public housing regulations. So there will not, and cannot be a Westporter-First List.

      Now, what about the subsidized “Non-Affordable” units? Who will they go to? How will you feel when someone sells their home in Westport, buys a condo in Florida AND a subsidized unit on Barons South with the profit.

  15. The political reality in Westport is seniors vote- especially in local elections, which are held in odd years. Westport has notoriously pathetic voter turnout in local elections, especially compared to our town’s outstanding turnouts in national elections. In local elections, seniors vote disproportionately- and those running for office know it. Hence the pandering to that constituency, which is completely disingenuous since it has been pointed out correctly that Westport seniors cannot be given preferential treatment in a development where state or federal money is used (and it won’t work for a developer without it).

    Inexplicably, there is an overwhelming desire to repeal the life cycle of this town. Young families move here, raise there kids and send them to our schools, then the empty nesters sell there homes for big profit and move away. What is wrong with that? Westport is becoming an old town- one of the oldest in Fairfield county if not the oldest. As a result we are beginning to see an emerging generational conflict, especially around issues such as taxes and school budgets. Only 35% of the households in Westport have school aged children, and this number has been going down. The murmur of people who have sent their kids through the schools and now don’t want to pay for them anymore is becoming a very audible growl. Ironically, if the fantasy of Westport seniors getting first crack at this development were to come true, and those 66 homes were sold to, let’s say, 66 families with 2-3 children each, we would have an additional 200 students in town who would need classrooms and teachers. Paid for by higher taxes.

  16. there is absolutely nothing naieve about my understanding of politics.

    however i must have misread your entry, i thought you were trying to mingle ‘the mob’ with the democratic party

  17. there is nothing naieve about my understanding of politics.

    however, i apologize for misreading your entry, i thought that you were mingling a ‘mob’ with the democratic party

  18. Luisa Francoeur

    The discussion about best use for the property has gotten lost in fabulous claims about Joseloff and the red herring of another town/state.
    Those who remain focused on actual real demand and whether or not Westport citizens will benefit are the ones who are bringing up relevant issues.
    There is no harm in exploring various options – as long as there is no rush to decision.
    As I recall, the Y was denied for the same reason another poster did not want a partnership for senior housing. Sharing town land with a private organization could get “sticky”.

    • “Best use” is a political issue. Wealth transfers are political issues. “Real demand” is the red herring. How do you measure real demand for a product with a price that is subsidized? What is the real demand for $3500 Bentleys? What is the real demand for a $20 Rolex? The issue is inherently political and two of the appropriate questions are: Who benefits? and Who pays?

    • Did you read Joseloff’s statements in regrad to his boondoggle? He was disengenuous. He can’t promise that even one Westport senior citizen will gain access to the housing. Joseloff is pandering.

  19. One of the reasons given for this project since its first incarnation as “workforce/senior” housing was that it would serve to revitalize downtown Westport. I wonder if any Westport town officials own commercial real estate in the downtown area, and thus would stand to benefit personally from such “revitalization”?