On Thursday night the Planning and Zoning Commission’s withdrew a proposed amendment that would have allowed construction of a 60-foot-high movie theater downtown.
Yesterday, a longtime Westporter reacted with relief. And a plea.
He addressed this open letter to all “06880” readers:
When I was in school, textbooks called China a “sleeping dog.” The giant would arise some day — but until then, let sleeping dogs lie.
Those words were prophetic.
Also when we were younger, there was passion among Westporters when outsiders threatened us. United Illuminated wanted to build a nuclear power plant on Cockeone Island. Bloomingdale’s wanted to build on the baron’s property (now Winslow Park).
Westporters rallied, and beat them back.
Over the next 3 decades Westport seemed to fall asleep. Very little activism seemed to be present — except for occasional McMansion debates, the Y discussions and a few others.
That changed this week.
This month the spirit of Westport arose like a phoenix. We pushed back against the P & Z, as our own elected officials in a bit of an overzealous move tried to push through an amendment that would have allowed 60-foot buildings in order to accommodate a movie theater in town.
Over 2 nights Westporters flocked to the Town hall to express 2 loud and uniform messages: They would love a movie theater (as they loved Fine Arts 1-4), and Westport likes the way it looks and exists in a small-town downtown where 60-foot buildings do not fit.
As Mike Calise put so well, we let things get out of hand in the 1960s and ’70s with lax regulation. We ended up with the Wright Street building, the current Gap building (125 Main Street), the Riverside Avenue 4-story buildings and the one on Charles Street.
New rules stopped that madness, and we thank those who took that step. Without it, Westport would look much different now.
The P & Z and developers today seem intent on undoing those rules, with the theater overlay amendment (now dead), the 6-story proposed building next to the Y, a 4-story parking garage on the Baldwin lot, and other projects proposed downtown and on the Post Road.
After the amendment was withdrawn last night, I feel Westport will rise to the challenge of the next battles. It was a proud moment for us long-timers still around.
Maybe the P & Z should take a lesson from our old textbooks: Let sleeping dogs lie.