Chabad Lubavitch Makes An Unorthodox Move

After more than a century as a restaurant — and with parts of the building dating back over 200 years, to its days as a stagecoach stop — the former 3 Bears will turn into a Chabad Lubavitch synagogue.

Or not.

A January 23 Norwalk Hour story said that the 9,180-square foot property, on 2.73 acres at the corner of Wilton Road and Newtown Turnpike, was “poised to change hands and become the new home of Chabad Lubavitch of Westport.”

The Three Bears was a famed restaurant/inn — with 6 fireplaces — from 1900 until February 2009. It reopened for about 5 seconds as Tiburon restaurant, but the property was soon abandoned. Weeds sprouted on the once-stately site.

The Three Bears, after abandonment.

According to the Hour, John Zervos of DVB Commercial Realty said that Chabad — an Orthodox sect based in Brooklyn, and by some estimates the largest Jewish organization in the world — was “not planning on changing the outside, and the inside works really well for them with the big open spaces of the dining rooms.”

The Hour paraphrased Zervos as saying that while the group had already moved their offices into the new space, they had not yet applied for permits with town officials “to use the space as a religious institution in order to officially close the deal.” (They appear to be leasing, not buying, the building.)

The Three Bears, in its heyday. (Postcard/Cardcow.com)

The story noted that Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department received a complaint on January 4 from a neighbor “regarding activity taking place at the former restaurant.” A January 11 inspection revealed work being done on the premises without permits.

A letter sent January 13 cited violations of zoning regulations, said P&Z director Laurence Bradley. Chabad’s attorney requested a 30-day abeyance for more time to submit paperwork. It was granted, giving the group until February 23 to file its application.

Bradley noted, “they have been working and doing things without a permit. It’s been a restaurant since probably before there was zoning, so if they want it to become a synagogue, they will have to go through an extensive review and public hearings.”

Chabad attorney Ken Gruder told the Hour that the space will be used for an outreach group that includes prayer services, educational programs and religious discussions.

“It’s not a synagogue in the traditional sense, it’s so much more,” Gruder added.

But the story does not end there, with applications simply pending.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a longtime Westporter. Attached was a letter the resident sent a day earlier to Bradley.

The interior of the Three Bears, also from its glory days. (Postcard/Cardcow.com)

It said: “Without proper permits for use of the premises as an office or house of worship, the group appears to already be working in the building, often at night, although the nature of their activities are unclear.” Apparently, there are 6 to 10 cars there each night.

The resident added that an “extremely bright outdoor security light in the parking area” was infringing on neighbors.

The writer expressed concern about traffic, parking and wetland impacts, and noted that the building — currently enjoying a “pre-existing approval for non-conforming use as a restaurant in a residential area” — would need a new P&Z approval process for any change of use.

One more concern: exterior alterations to historic building.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-94), famed Chabad leader.

In the email to me, the resident added more information: Several years ago Chabad was embroiled in a lawsuit in Litchfield, over proposed renovations that would turn a Victorian house in the town’s 1st synagogue. At one point, according to the Register-Citizen newspaper, Chabad filed suit against the town in federal court, alleging anti-Hasidic prejudice.

Right now, Chabad occupies a house on Kings Highway North that faces the medical complex.

Will they apply for permits by February 23? Will there be hearings — and if so, how contentious will they be?

Will Chabad move a mile or so up Wilton Road? Will the site of what was once Westport’s oldest restaurant become our town’s newest synagogue-or-something-like-it?

And why — despite a story last month in a Norwalk paper — is no one talking about this in Westport?

217 responses to “Chabad Lubavitch Makes An Unorthodox Move

  1. hmm…use of a commercial property (previously abandoned and littered with garbage) on a corner with a gas station, a utility company and a nursery school on the adjoining corners is being lambasted by an anonymous writer about a change in use to a religious institution where community (whatever its denomination) is a main focal point? Doesn’t pass the smell test to me…

    • Longtime Westporter

      Agree.

    • What doesn’t pass the test? That a resident would be concerned about a group, any group, moving in and starting work without permits? The gas station, utility company and nursery school are all closed by around 5pm. Most residents probably had no issue with the restaurant, despite later hours and being open 7 days a week.

      Perhaps if Chabad had submitted plans to P&Z for their proposed activites at the site, no one would be concerned. You may not live on Wilton Road, but for those of us who do, it is a community and we know our neighbors. Folks have a right to wonder who is moving in next door and how it will effect their families. Try leaving your driveway at 8:30am or getting home at 5pm on Wilton Road – wall to wall traffic. No one wants to see that situation get worse. And maybe it won’t, it is not yet clear.

  2. Dan – you are not getting the full story here. This should be a wonderful story instead of a negative one. Rabbi Kantor and his wife Dina have been pillars of our Westport community. They run a summer camp in Westport for over 300 children. Their Hebrew School and outreach programs have touched countless Westport families.
    This article doesn’t even interview the Kantors to understand what is going on here. I’m just shocked this article would be published without proper research. This can negatively affect hundreds of Westport families.

    • Yes, what is going on here. Why have they not done all the nessesary legal paperwork involved in something like this. By reading the comments it seems they are very active. Do they always disregard the proper procedures with there other properties.

      Also, I think you missed Dan’s point in his response to you. You can elaborate. This is a one man blog, not CNN.

  3. Thanks, Avi. Feel free to elaborate!

    • Thanks Dan – hopefully you can speak with Rabbi Kantor and Dina after the Sabbath. They will not even know about this article until after sunset.

  4. “Chabad occupies a house on Kings Highway North that faces the medical complex” That house is supposed to be a residence, but is reportedly being used for “meetings.” The expectation in Westport that any organization — including Chabad — will comply with the law and seek proper approvals before beginning work.

    • Anonymous – the house on Kings Highway North is a residence. The Rabbi, his wife, and their children have lived there for years. They lease space elsewhere for “meetings” – whatever that means to you. People are allowed to worship in their homes, the last I checked. As an aside, the house they built to live in on Kings Highway North is beautiful and goes very nicely with the historic architecture of the neighborhood.

  5. You write as if your afraid of the Brooklyn based Jewish Organization entering your town. Chabad has been in westport for 14+ years with well over 150 families who participate each year in the community-building programs. Nearly 300 local children go to the summer camp each year. While you seem to be afraid of your back yard, there is nothing to fear here but the antisemitism that you try to incite in your article. Like everyone in this town, we expect to go through the legal approval process with the same consideration as any other group or religious organization. You clearly would rather have a delapidated and vacant hitorical landmark poised to become anything other than a vibrant, active, beautiful community-building center for hundreds of wonderful residents that already live and love this town.

  6. So, there are six to 10 cars in the parking lot now, when there used to be many times that number? And the problem with that is….what? While P&Z needs to keep an eye open to see how it develops, this hardly seems like something that should ring the alarm bells.

  7. Probably makes sense for you to do a bit more homework before writing an article. Not sure you are using ‘Synagogue’ in the right context. A lot of good work being done in our community by the Chabad folks. I suggest you ask around and will come back with very positive and exciting view of the impact of the Chabad outreach and educational programs.

  8. Westport Resident

    We are excited for something new to be in our community. Especially something that postively impacts so many. There have been so many great classes and events that took place in their previous location which was on Ketchum Road. I am sure the community at large will benefit from anything this organization embarks on.

  9. With apologies to Rabbi Harold Kushner, we don’t want to see good people doing “bad” things.

  10. Even the original Compo Playground encountered vociferous opposition. In a 1987 NY Times article a resident stated ”it’s such a shame that our lives are so comfortable that we have all this time left over to be disgruntled about the children’s playground. I feel like our priorities have gotten all goofed up.”

    That quote seems applicable to this scenario.  Chabad of Westport, like Compo playground, enhances our town with vibrancy and community spirit.

    • Vibrancy and community spirit are great. Working without permits and increasing traffic on an already terrible road in Westport is not so great. It is natural for neighbors and residents to feel cautious and have concern for any new enterprise where facts are few and speculation is rampent.

  11. Chabad is wonderful jewish group that reaches out to the community in such a wonderful way. No matter how “jewish” you are or are not, you are welcomed with open arms. They bring so much to the community. As suggested instead of speaking of lights on inside, and cars in the parking lot, was that not happening when it was a restaurant? Speak with the people inside. This is not a cult or an extremist group. This is a rabbi and his wife. Do your homework. Very poor reporting.

    • The point is not that the building being occupied is inherently bad, of course there was lots of activity there when it was a restaurant. The point is that there was work going on without permits and neighbors might notice that kind of thing especially at night….

  12. Sounds like a great group that does good work. Even I knew I had to get a permit to put up a tent in my backyard for a party that lasted a few hours. The town came out, then a Firerman to inspect it. Thanks for bringing this up Dan.

  13. What’s a paper?

    • Do you mean newspaper? If so, it’s a source of news with the goal to provide objective coverage of pertinent issues. It’s the place where open-minded people turn to get the facts, as opposed to the opinions offered through cable news and blogs.

  14. As Yogi said; deja vu all over again. For anyone who has lived in Westport since last Tuesday the carping and whining should sound familiar; after 33 years it has gotten old. I think we had a similar dust up in regards to another religious establishment in town a few yeras back.

    • Was that the one that said their members would never park on the neighbors streets but get upset when they are told they can’t park there?

    • At least the temple on Hillspoint got permission to park in Mitchell’s lot to eleviate congestion. That still doesn’t stop folks from parking all over Hillspoint and along private side roads. The Three Bears doesn’t have a space for such overflow parking. Despite the large parking lot the building has, what happens when there is overflow? Wilton Road and Newtown Turnpike cannot handle side of the street parking.

      • For 3 days in the year??? One day Yom Kippur and 2 days for the new year???

        • Yes, even for three days a year. Especially when they promised to NEVER park on the street when they were pitching the idea to us.

  15. its unbelievable to see The 3 Bears, it’s essence, really being dismantled; the name Tiburon suggested it might come back under new owners. The 3 Bears, it was – when you speak about westport as a former artists colony that also brought in politicians and business interested in film and politics – The Three Bears was an important meeting spot. If those walls could talk, for a restaurant, some pretty dynamic history evolved there.

    • It is actually nice to see the 3 Bears come back to life! It is fantastic that a vibrant use has been found that will preserve the historic building as is.

      • But how do we know that the intention is the preserve the building “as is”? Guess it would depend a lot on whether they are leasing or buying the property.

      • i think you missed my point: reincarnating The 3 Bears as anything other than a restaurant that bordered on a social club never mind an orthodox religious insitutiuon of any persuasion destroys the essence of what The 3 Bears was all about. of course, that area isn’t as rural as it once was and as a result since that suburban-transition it hasn’t been the same reclusive private social spot for new yorkers that it once was.

        and,please, none of my thoughts on this are in any way anti-semitic. it’s more just noting the contrast between the bohemian-business-rural hotspot that it was for several decades versus what it became due to suburbanization of the area.

  16. I live right by the Three Bears, or rather the former Three Bears, and it’s really a shame to see the condition it’s been in for the past three years. I remember as a child seeing the parking lot full of cars and people laughing outside. Now it’s just a relic with weeds everywhere. I welcome someone taking it over, but hopefully they keep it as is. It’s a landmark.

    Also, as a Jewish man…can we cut the persecution complex, guys? Not everything is anti-semitism. Jesus.

    • Westporter Since '03

      Love it ! Esp. the “Jesus” part… really 🙂
      Seriously, good for you for pointing out the “persecution complex.”

      (I was thinking the same thing: why does every one hafta play the “race” card all the time ?)

      Despite Chabad doing “wonderful things” here in town, everyone is subject to the same rules about permits and P&Z review…

      And I believe every resident has a right to be vigilant about the things that affect their “quiet enjoyment” of their properties and property values;
      therefore, a neighbor has a right to question a “change in use” or unapproved renovations.

      It happens all the time here in Westport. Not just under the auspices of “persecution.”

      • What makes you think that “everyione is subject to the same rules about permits and P&Z review”? When you live here long enough you eill learn that is not the case.

    • Nicely stated. All respect to you sir.

  17. Chabad is everything good in this town. All they do is try to help. Ask any of their congregants and they will tell you that the Chabad is one of the greatest things.

  18. Westporters love to argue. A long history of squabbling dating back to the Nike site, our precious island to the south and even Longshore. More recently, football lights at Staples, the YMCA and now Three Bears. It would appear P&Z was asleep at the wheel but did go into action once alerted. The Professor wrote an enlightening piece without any bias. If you want him to go digging like a war correspondent in Bagdad, why don’t you drop him a check??

  19. This week marks the 3 year anniversary of the Three Bears filing for bankruptcy (see http://westportnow.com/index.php?/v2/comments/22643/).

    Tiburon was shuttered just months after it replaced the Three Bears. While it would be nice to see a restaurant return, it is obviously not the best location for a profitable restaurant.

    Downtown areas around Westport (yes, including Saugatuck!) have seen a revival in restaurants. It seems that clustering restaurants together helps both the restaurants and the vibrancy of these downtown areas.

    Much better to have a user that will retain the Three Bears building than a user that may demolish it.

  20. I see that you can “Donate” to your blog. What do you do with the money? What charities do you sponsor ?

    • Sublime to Ridiculous

      What does he “do with the money ?”

      Dan never claimed to be a 501(c)(3)…
      gimme a break !

    • I use the money to support myself. I am a full-time freelance writer. I started “06880” in March 2009 as a way to provide information and a bit of entertainment to the community. Since that time I have never missed a day of posting; sometimes I post 2 or 3 times a day, on subjects both heavy and light.

      Part of running a blog includes: paying for domains and keeping “06880″ ad-free; interviewing, researching, writing, responding to comments (public and private — I get over 50 “private” emails a day, and respond to all), taking photos, editing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate) graphics.

      As a full-time freelance writer, I cover my own health insurance and travel expenses. And — from the money I make writing — I support plenty of charitable organizations.

      I plan to continue doing what I’m doing, because I love this town and I respect my readers. I hope they’ll contribute — just as they would to a public radio or television station, if they like what they hear or see — but right now, from the statistics I have, fewer than 1% do.

      I’ll also continue to provide a forum for any and all comments, even those that seem to think this blog puts me in the “other” 1% — the one with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.

      Thanks for asking. Feel free to follow up at any time.

  21. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with respecting the law. The same concerns could be raised about any group, religious or non-religious, moving into a residential area. Despite all the great things Chabad may do for the community or the model citizens the Rabbi and his wife may be, they do not appear to be following the rules and regualtions of the P&Z which everyone living in this town must follow. No one likes an abondoned building growing weeds, but so too does no one like a huge influx of traffic on one of the most congested and dangerous road in Westport. If you lived in the nieghborhood, you would already be preparing for the traffic from the new Y at Mahackeno, and with the addition of a Jewish community center, even more raffic and congestion with overflow parking on the high holy holidays. Westporters may like to argue over everything, but there are two sides to every story and it would be great to hear from Chabad about their intentions and plans for the building. The heat generated by this article is perhaps the reason both the Westport News and Westport Now decided to pass on this story…? Thanks Dan for opeing up the dialogue!

  22. Christies’ Country Store couldn’t get zoning approval to change its use from a service station to an antique shop. This would appear to be a similar situation… except, oh yeah they give away special permits in this part of town. I guess this is better than the mini-mart I always expected to replace the Three Bears.

    It’s important they follow all the zoning rules – at the very least for the entertainment factor (how many weeks until pitchers and catchers report?). Should be interesting to see our new P&Z in action on such a combustible topic.

    • I know little about what happened with Christies. However, Christies’ and the Three Bears are very different. The Three Bears has been a gathering spot with a vast parking lot. Restaurant use 7 days a week including evenings is a much more intensive use than a Hebrew School that meets on Sunday mornings and Tuesday afternoons.

      • How does anyone know how often the building will be used? Or how much traffic planned activities will generate? Will it be less impactful than the restaurant on the neighborhood and traffic on Wilton Road? We don’t know. And it is for this very reason that PERMITS are required for any change of use of a property – traffic studies need to be conducted, surveys dones, etc. Perhaps if Chabad had made their intentions known from the beginning, this would all be less contentious.

  23. Let’s wait until Feb. 23 to see if they file an application for permits. Meanwhile, they are using 333 Wilton Road “East” as their address (http://www.chabadofwestport.com).

    As for their application, they, like many relgious organization, may attempt to claim exemption under RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act)

  24. Congratulations, Dan, on surfacing a story that no one else seems to want to touch. This has nothhg at all to do with religion – it has to do with zoning issues. How does an organization enter into a purchase or lease and not be aware of the zoning problems they may face?

  25. Dan, thanks for bringing this story to light. I look forward to seeing and hearing how the Westport P&Z will handle this. I don’t see it as having anything to do with religion but everything to do with following rules and regulations. I live near the Three Bears, and I’m also curious to know what is going on there and how much impact it will have on the traffic.

  26. Just imagine if it was a mosque

  27. It’s just sad to think that in the span of just a few years, The Three Bears, Cobb’s Mill, and the Silvermine Tavern all shut down

    • The Dude Abides

      Good point, Jake A. My understanding is that Cobb’s Mill will be up and running soon?

      • I’ve heard rumors to that effect — and also the possibility of the land being sold to a residential builder.

        • The Weston Forum reported this week that work was being done on the interior of Cobbs Mill Inn in anticipation of reopening it as a restaurant. Keep your eye on Stonehedge in Ridgefield; I predict that will be the next grand dame to close.

    • Did you ever eat the foor served at those establishments? Those were all mercy killings.

      • Agreed, although Stonehedge ‘s food was favorably reviewed in this month’s Connecticut magazine. The place is creepy, though, because there are so few people who dine there. You can add Le Chateau in South Salem to the list of places with beautiful atmospheres but perhaps past their primes.

      • The brunch at Silvermine was a memorable experience, in a good way.

  28. What resident on February 4, 2012 @ 4:22pm said….nailed it!!!! Well said.

  29. Fair Westporter

    P&Z…..ZBA……Fire Inspector……Building inspector…….EPA………and all of the other agencies that are local, state and federal will do their part in making sure that the Chabad follows the rules and regs needed to move forward with any and all activities and building plans. Each official takes their position and responsibilitiy seriously and will hold the Chabad fully accountable. With more effective communication to the local community, all fears will be calmed and the end result will be respectful progress for all involved.

    • If the 1st Selectman’s website Westport Now failed to cover the story, how can we be assured his administration will vigorously enforce the zoning regulations and processes?

      No one wants to piss off a fundamentalist religious organization that has a history of being litigious and politically active – and apparently based on the comments on this blog – very knowledgeable about grassroots PR.

      A fair and open process will ensure that the end result is the town asset the supporters assure us it will be.

      • Except for this blog, no Westport media has covered the story….Westport Now, Wesport Patch, Wesport News, The Daily Westport, Minuteman.

        • They didn’t want to risk of being viewed as anti-semite, no matter if they try their best to be impartial

        • My guess is that many of the online media outlets don’t have reporters beating the bushes to find these stories. In the old days, reporters used to visit Town Hall every day to see what was new.

          • Uhhh, the reporter in the case of Westport Now has the top office in Town Hall. What Mr. Joseloff chooses to cover (or not) is both an editorial and a political decision.

    • That sounds great but nobody has been checking all the work that has been going on so far. If this article had not been written how much work would have been done without oversite. Also where is this Summer Camp for 300 children in town. Does that have all the necessary cridentials to operate?

  30. Anon Nymous is that your full name?

  31. The camp for the children of this town and surrounding towns has been in various sites in this town and surrounding towns. And has been in operation for over ten years. It will be open for you to visit this summer as well. Make sure you check it out and see how amazing it is. Oh, by the way, feel free to check all the credentials with the town. They have always been and will continue to be impecable.

    • That’s great to hear. Maybe the people running the camp should also take over the work on Wilton Road so all the proper paper work gets taken care of. Who doesn’t know you need to get a permit before you start work on a propert?

  32. As a Jew, I just want to emphasize that it is not anti-semitic to raise concerns about Chabad’s activities. News reports in other towns make clear how this wealthy and powerful group often finds ways to evade the law. I am not saying that this is the case in Westport, but it seems to me that Chabad has a history of justifying its actions by calling on the ant-jewish race card. Chabads ultra conservative practices in no way speak for all jews.

  33. that is a sophisticated observation regarding Chabad’s ultra-conservative practices in the US. that level of conservatism, how it plays out within Chabad, really runs as a contradiction to the very American principles that enables members of Chabad to practice as conservatively their religion as they choose to.

  34. Longtime Westporter

    This has been so interesting, Dan, and I appreciate your putting the topic out there for a lively, fair discussion. And it reminds me to send a [small] donation to your site. A day without 06880 blog would be a day without intellectual & emotional stimulation. Thanks!

    • Thank YOU! You made my day!

      • Westporter Since '03

        Ya know – Longtime Westporter – you’ve inspired me to do the same !

        I’ll join you in making a (small) but significant donation to 06880, too…
        significant cuz it’s in the amount of חַי…

        For those of you who don’t know what “Chai” is – it’s 18 – or a number that relates to the term for “life” in Judaism —

        And I’m not EVEN JEWISH (Emma)… but I happen to know MORE about “this conservative religious organization about which most posters seem to know little or nothing,” than you would want to give me credit for (Emma).

        Keep on truckin’ Dan. 🙂

  35. Robert Gelfand, MD

    Robert Gelfand: My wife and I have lived in Westport for over 10 years. We liked the food at the Three Bears – unfortunately we seem to be alone in that regard, and so they went out of business. We have also been members of every synogogue in town. We are now proud to be part of Chabad. The work the Kantors do for the community and for their members is inspiring and wonderful. The camp, which is off site, was wonderful for our children, now beyond that age. I have spoken at length with Rabbi Kantor about the building. He intends to maintain the historical charm of the exterior, and retrofit the interior appropriately. He would do nothing to skirt the law. The suggestion of nefarious and illegal building in the middle of the night is a dangerous, careless and unfair accusation to make.
    The allusion to Chabad as the ascent of an ultra-orthodox cult coming to take over the neighborhood is beyond ridiculous. The members of Chabad of Westport are just local people who have chosen Chabad as their synogogue. As an outreach program, Chabad appeals to local citizens who are not truly members of the Lubavitch sect of Hasidism. The Kantors keep Kosher, and follow the Sabbath. The majority of the members of Chabad of Westport do not. Nor do they dress in the traditional Chasidic fashion. But the spirit of Chabad is in them – a sense of belonging, community, and celebration of the differences among us.
    Come by and introduce yourself to Rabbi Yehuda Kantor and his wife Dina. See how kind and charming they are. Ask them their vision of what is to become of the old “Three Bears” – they won’t lie. You will walk away understanding that they wish to be part of this community in a positive way, just as every other house of worship in this town wants – no matter what the denomination. Don’t let your prejudice interfere with your judgment. Dan – I think you should meet with the Rabbi and his wife – then re-write your blog. If I see it as fair (and I speak, I hope, for other members), then it would be my pleasure to be a contributor to 06880.

    • No re-write required.

    • Are you really saying Dan Woog is prejudice? He wrote an article about a commercial property and the lack of proper paper work. He even says some of the information comes from the Norwalk Hour New Paper. I don’t see anyone writing out here that they have all the paperwork done. I only see people saying what a wonderful organization they are. I don’t think Dan will be waiting on your check anytime soon. For their sake I hope you took this on yourself and we’re not the one chosen to responded on behalf of Chabad.

  36. So many Anons. Gotta be a record. Gotta mean something. DUH!

    These guys I never heard of, but they sound like dirtbags doing good things according to the almost only named commentator, Avi Kantor.

    Can’t wait for the follow up from our Zoning Police!

    Way to post, Dan… LOVE IT !!

  37. regarding the posting on the behalf of Chabad – whether formally or informally – i’m guessing this blogger/dan woog is above catering to the promise of a donation.

    and, while the Westport members of the local Chabad are not as ultra-conservative as Chabad in general the funds of the Westport members go to support that ‘level of orthodoxy’ around the world.

    • What are you talking about? I seriously hope that not many intolerant and slanderous people like you live in Westport. How dare you put down people’s beliefs that are different than your own? I’m not interested in whatever bigoted world conspiracy response you come up with.

      • intolerant? i enthusiastically embrace all religious institutions that are not discriminatory towards other religions, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, etc. i also provide financial support to a number of different religious institutions whenever friends of faiths other than my own are involved in fundraising. i think it’s important that everyone have a primary source that provides them with a moral guidance that resonates with them personally as individuals.

        so, intolerant (and slanderous) would not be an accurate description of my post.

  38. Robert Gelfand, MD

    Please note that I never suggested Dan was prejudiced – not sure why that was inferred. I would not have posted my name if my statement were not made on my own behalf – I would never presume to speak on somebody else’s behalf unless asked to,and would do so with tranparency.

    • That’s funny because you clearly tell him not to let his prejudice interfere with his judgement. Did you read your post?

  39. I can’t put a small deck on my house or change the size of my windows without updating a property survey, meeting health department and zoning requirements, etc. This amounts to paying about $5000 in fees and required plans, papers, certifications, etc., before I bring my private residence up to current standards.
    If an organization can make significant changes to a fairly large building without incurring any expenses or completing the paperwork required of any other property owner I would like to know how to do that.

    • I see that you can “Donate” to your blog. What do you do with the money? What charities do you sponsor ? Also if someone was doing a story on you Dan wouldn’t you expect to be contacted by the writer, they can write a well informed piece. You seemed to have skipped a step. Maybe the local papers have not written a story because there is no story.

      • Donna, a blog is different than a news article. As stated previously in these comments, a blog is one person’s opinion.

      • Welcome the Internet Donna.
        Sheesh!

      • Donna, maybe you missed it but what Dan does with any money that comes in has already been asked and answered. Also if read Dan’s article a local paper has done a article on this.

      • so, Donna, you’re asking what does Dan Woog donate to the Westport community above and beyond the time and effort it takes to write and publish on a daily basis a well-researched and articulated blog that drives donations of all sorts (money, time, goods, educated and practical interest, etc.) to several local groups as well as drive investment into some areas of the private sector that have needed a boost throughout this recession?!?

      • Donna, think of Dan as a friend with whom you have coffee with each day. He tells you what he thinks about things that he hears are going on in town. Once in a while, he asks if you can pay for his cuppa joe because he’s short on change.

        • Yeah, Donna…
          Next thing, the Dude’s gonna hafta step in and suggest you “take a toke
          and chill out !” 😉

        • John McCarthy

          Actually, to correct your example, occasionally Dan asks for us to pay for our own cup of coffee.

          • Great point. I’ll happily buy Dan a cup of coffee to hear his 2 cents. My donation was sent today.

    • They haven’t made any significant changes – no decks, changing window sizes, etc. They are filing for all necessary permits prior to doing any work, and will do no work until approved.

  40. I love the ugly fluorescent lights that they have already hung inside the former Three Bears.

    The cold blue glow emmanating from inside is so much better than the warm yellow glow the restaurant used to have from within.

    (R.I.P. Three Bears – your warm rustic charm and hearty food are missed)

  41. Terry Brannigan

    Wow, this one flies really close to the bulb. Dan has the courage to put his name on his posts, in the spirit of creating awareness. I wonder how many of the Anonymous posters would choose the same words in a live conversation. I’m sure no one would look Dan in the eyes and ask what he does with the money he gets from the blog. (BTW: I spent part of last night with someone on the P&Z and we got to talking about Dan. If anyone wants to question Dan, why don’t you ask him what he does with the money he gets from coaching? Look it up and you will never question this guy’s motivation again. You would be shocked anyone would ever take the job much less devote themselves to it.). Email can be a kin to sniping.

    Lastly, by now surely the good people at Chabad are aware of this string. A simple direct response on this forum would settle many of the questions before any more misunderstandings get amplified.

    • THANKS, Terry — much appreciated!

      As for Chabad: Representatives are working on a response. I have told them that I look forward to posting their story.

  42. i love these photographs of The Three Bears. though the restaurant is long gone, seeing these photos and then referring to my own from really decades ago reminds of how Westport though then so rural was a very culturally rich and dynamic spot. society used to be so much more indulgent.

  43. Matthew Mandell

    NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING WITH CHABAD

    I met with the Rabbi, Yehuda Kantor, a week ago. We are in the process of setting up a neighborhood meeting. This meeting would serve the purpose of letting the community know what plans Chabad has for the property and allow the neighbors to air their concerns. RTM members from District 3 will also be attending.

    Please be patient as we look for a good night to hold this.

    Matthew Mandell – Chair RTM P&Z Committee (District 1)

  44. War is hell.
    I had to post to get this blog to 100.

  45. Does any one think that there would be over 100 comments if this thread were not about a conservative religious organization about which most posters seem to know little or nothing?

    • I think we know a lot more now – especially after several of the “conservative religious organization’s” supporters suggested antisemitism as the intent behind Dan’s article as well as the concerns that many residents have about zoning issues (and historic properties) in this part of town. Before this religious organization has even been “introduced” to the town, they have resorted to cheap and petty character assassination. Stay classy Chabad Lubavitchers.

      • correction: change “they have resorted” to “their supporters have resorted”

      • They are wonderful people and have been in Westport for over 14 years. What an awful mean-spirited comment.

        • Well, then, after 14 years of being here with over 140 families as members and a crack legal team, they should be well aware that they require permits before changing the use of a building. AND they should know they can’t work inside the building once a CEASE and DESIST has been issued. As of 1pm today, still plenty of acitivity going on at the old Three Bears….

    • I do.

    • No, I don’t. Stop being paranoid.

    • John McCarthy

      Of course, Zoning is a quasi-religion in Westport.

      • In reality, zoning is a mechanism for dispensing economic rewards. The power to create land use restrictions is worth a great deal. And as we saw in the Mt. Laurel case, zoning has pernicious side effects beyond economic dislocations.

        • Ah, so you want to discuss affordable housing. Let me know when you want to come by and I will show you the 5 $1.3 million homes that were built in my backyard using the nuclear weapon known as 8-30g, CT’s so-called Affordable Housing law..

    • the comments here chacterizing this religious organization as ‘very conservative’ indcates a great understanding of the organization. the level of conservatism, it’s common knowledge and a description that members themselves offer.

    • um, yeah. becasue if a taco bell were planning to move into the Three Bears you can bet there would be a lot of comments and complaining as well – oh, but Taco Bell would apply for permits before moving in…

  46. Among those 140 Chabad families are some very well-educated, intelligent people who have numerous lawyers who have trod this path before in neighboring towns in CT, NY and NJ. It is VERY hard to believe that none of these people were aware they needed permits for a change of use. And because it is so hard to believe, it leads one to ask if this was not done intentionally…?

  47. You can tell a lot about an entity by the law firm they select to represent them. You can also deduce when that law firm posts anonymously.
    Gimme a break.
    Why all the activity in the dark of the night? Because they are not people of the light. They hide behind the cloak of religion, but they are deceivers. Just wait. The worst is yet to come !

    • Luke Skywalker

      Ok Darth Vader. Return to your lonely cave of darkness and despair. The Force will never be with you. Luke.

      • Chabad is a wonderful organization. Over 140 families in town have been members for the last 14 years. They do not care about your level of Jewishness. They have not changed the windows. I can’t belive how anti-semitic Westport is. Sorry Dan, they got to me. Maybe you can coach at Darien next year.

        • Westport is not anti-Semitic. Chabad is considered – amongst devout Jews – to be very orthodox. In Westport that is considered to be more liberal where all religions & ethicities mix fluently that high level of orthodoxy isn’t enforced.

  48. Based on the WN post this morning, we now know that the P&Z Director, a Board of Finance member (who’s wife is on the board of the organization) and the 1st Selectman all new work was being done on the 3 Bears – but only considered enforcement after a resident complained. In fact, it appears that they delayed enforcement until a complaint was made. And, oh yeah – they’re going for the coveted “special permit” which allows them to obviate zoning laws just like the YMCA. Business as usual in Westport.

    • Really, this is too much. Once it becomes so obvious that there are special rules for special people, it seems hard to respect the zoing process at all. What is the point of a town meeting and the application process when there is such obvious collusion between town entities? We should all start building patios within our set backs and filling in wetlands….sheesh, who are these rules for anyway? Clearly the other 99% of us…..

  49. Terry Brannigan

    Jacob, you Dan an apology for that one and probably most of the town for that matter.

  50. Terry Brannigan

    Oops , I meant to type “you owe Dan and apology”

    • Hi Terry, I was kidding. They did not get to me and I did not drink the Koolaid. I truly believe Westport is wonderfully diverse town with an abundance tolerance. I also enjoy your posts and know how much you do for the community. I apologize to Dan and the Town of Westport. Dan, you do not have to coach in Darien.

  51. Wow. Over 130 comments. Thank you Dan for providing a venue for communication.

    I’d like to respond to a few points:

    1) My relationship with Chabad has nothing to do with the Board of Finance. My wife and I support many local organizations besides Chabad. I am also a personal friend of Rabbi Kantor whom I admire immensely. This issue will never come in front of the Board of Finance. The BOF is not a land use board. The only leases or sales that come to the BOF are those owned by the town. This property is not owned by the town.

    2) I was interviewed by WestportNow only because the reporter saw my name listed as one of the first commenters. There are a handful of commenters using their real names – I’m one of them.

    3) Dan Woog. It is hurtful to see negative statements targeting Dan. I think Dan does an amazing job putting out this blog. My email alert to this story (and all 06880 stories) enabled me to quickly comment. I would have loved Dan to get the full story before publishing, but I understand that his is not a full time journalist job! Dan has always been gracious.

    4) I’m saddened to read some comments that border on racism, especially in our diverse community and in this day and age. The ability to post anonymously has pros and cons (mostly pros), but this is clearly a con. I doubt WestportNow will get 130 comments since people have to use their real identities.

    5) Chabad’s plans – Chabad of Westport is working on a press release that will outline its plans, which will be played by the same rules and regulations that any entity must follow.

    6) Thank you to all the reasonable commenters – on both sides of the matter. Open communication will lead to a better outcome for all. I’m looking forward to the open house.

    • “….plans, which will be played by the same rules and regulations that any entity must follow…” Henceforth, I hope.

  52. Religion and zoning; brings out the best in Westport.

  53. I live on Wilton Road across from the Three Bears Restaurant and am the resident who notified the P&Z and Building Depts. that there was illegal work being done at the Three Bears. In the days before my inquiry, I noticed three large dumpsters and contractors trucks in the parking lot, and workmen going in and out of the building. Obviously, it piqued interest. My neighbors at the Country Store said they had been told the Three Bears was going to become a “Jewish Community Center,” which piqued my interest even more because such a use would require a special permit and, as a neighboring property owner, I certainly hadn’t been notified of any special permit applications or hearings.

    This entie area of Westport is zoned AA residential. An AA zone is for one-acre single family residential homes ONLY. The nursery school, Country Store and Three Bears Restaurant are all grandfathered into that zoning, as their uses pre-existed the current zoning. Without a special permit, they can ONLY be used for their current uses – i.e. restaurant, nursery school or store/deli – OR a single family residence. That’s it. End of story.

    Chabad’s attorney is Larry Weisman, a local land use lawyer who is extremely well versed in Westport’s zoning regulations as well as our special permit requirements. Mr. Weisman has made his living applying for special permits for his clients many, many times over – including for the Westport YMCA and the Mahackeno project. I’m sure he could recite our zoning regulations and special permit requirements in his sleep.

    However, neither Mr. Weisman nor his client, Chabad House, bothered to apply for a special permit in this case. Or a building permit. They just moved in and started their renovation work, with no regard for the law. After I was informed by the town departments that there were no special permits granted or building permits pulled for the Three Bears property, I went over to the site to find out who was occupying it and doing the illegal work. I could not have received a more hostile reception.

    Without going into the details of my conversation with them, which I’m saving for the P&Z hearings, let’s just say that NOTHING CHABAD OR LARRY WEISMAN WERE DOING AT THE PROPERTY WAS ABOVE BOARD. In fact, they outright lied to me about their intended use of the building and insisted they already had a special permit. They were as evasive, defensive and nasty as they could be, and were clearly put out that I have the nerve to question them. I then came home and and filed a formal complaint with P&Z and the Building Dept. asking them to investigate the matter.

    From the get-go, both Chabad House and Larry Weisman have made it clear they don’t intend to play by the rules. From what I’ve read in the NY Times about similar zoning issues and zoning battles over Chabad Houses in residential zones, this seems to not be atypical for this group. They have muscled their way into many other neighborhoods and shown a flagrant disregard for zoning regulations, their neighbors and the law. And, by doing so, they’ve then filed expensive and protracted lawsuits against these towns for enforcing their regulations.

    If, in this case, Chabad couldn’t be trusted to apply for the appropriate permits, when their counsel CLEARLY knew they are required, can we trust them to fully disclose their intended use of the property, or future use of the property? Mr. Weisman has already applied to the P&Z Commission for an amendment to the parking requirements for a house of worship, so obviously the parking at the Three Bears is insufficient for whatever they’re planning. That amendment will be heard by P&Z on Feb. 16th.

    I don’t care if the tenant or owner of the Three Bears property is Chabad, Hari Krishna, the Moonies, a mosque or a Catholic or Protestant church. THE RULES ARE THE RULES and Chabad has not and is not playing by them. I can already hear Larry Weisman’s lame excuses and lies as to why not, but it is what it is and there’s no getting around the fact that they were knowingly occupying and operating illegally.

    As much as I like Avi Kaner as a person, as an elected official and the chairman of the Board of Finance, he should not be acting as Chabad’s press agent either. If Avi’s wife, who’s on the Chabad board, would like to do so, that’s her business. But as for Avi, he should be aware that Helen Garten of the BOF was told by a town official that she had to choose between helping Y Downtown and being on the BOF because an elected official of the whole town can’t take sides on zoning matters. Or does what’s good for the goose not apply to the gander in this case because everyone feels the need to tippy-toe around a Jewish organization that violates our zoning regs, lest we be accused of anti-Semitism? BTW, while I am not Jewish or practicing any formal religion, my family comes from a long line of Jews who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany and Holland, some of whom were concentration camp victims – so if we’re going to throw religion into the argument, I can hardly be accused of being anti-Semitic.

    The bottom line is this: What Chabad House, Larry Weisman, Larry Bradley- in granting an abeyance so they can continue working without a permit – and Avi Kaner – in making public excuses for Chabad’s illegal actions – have made clear is that we law-abiding citizens who get permits and C of O’s and pay all the fees before we begin construction are just chumps. It’s a free-for-all in Westport if you’re lucky enough to be a favored member of society and among the select few for whom the rules don’t apply. I’ll be seeing you at P&Z.

    • Well, this just got a lot more interesting.

    • Amy – we’re sorry you lost your RTM election by a wide margin. I wonder why. Is it your documented history of litigious threats? You’ve threatened others over the years with libel. I hope you get back what you dish out.

      • Lisa Marie Alter

        Anonymous: why is it so many like you fear THOSE WHO SPEAK THE TRUTH ? I have always found Amy’s point-of-view, while courageously outspoken, to have kept to TRUTH and FACTS.

        Had she been in my District, I would have gladly re-elected her. Frankly, Westport needs more people like her (and Matthew Mandell and Dan Woog) who are not intimidated, like sheep afraid to speak out, stand up for what they believe in, or buck the trend (perhaps) set by elected officials and public servants – who by the way, are SUPPOSED to be looking out for the citizens’ best interests – not working in collusion with a private interest.

        As John McCarthy said: This just got a lot more interesting.

    • Pretty much says it all. Everyone knew, and they let it happen.
      Mr. Kaner clearly new work was being done without permits and chose to not report it – and perhaps consulted/concurred with his congregation (wife) that this was reasonable behavior. I guess he sees his fiduciary responsibility to the town as very (very) narrow in scope.

    • So now we know who [probably] told the Norwalk Hour and [likely] Dan Woog, too. Not content with letting the process play out, she has caused it to bring out all the vitriol.

  54. Adrian Bowles, is that you? Or maybe Ron Wimer? In any case, this is not about me or my battles with Politicus Maxiumus, or whatever your ridiculous attack website was called. I’m just stating the facts as I personally know them about this case, and how flagrantly Chabad and Larry Weisman have disregarded the law and our zoning regulations. As someone else posted, “Resident” who commented on Feb 4th at 4:22 pm nailed it. This argument is about zoning regulations, abiding by them, and nothing else.

    • According to Amy, a residential developer can buy the property, tear it down, and build a couple new homes, as of right. What a shame.

  55. Fred G. Sanford

    Avi, was Ms. Ancil’s commentary the full story you were alluding to?

    Avi: ” I would have loved Dan to get the full story before publishing, but I understand that his is not a full time journalist job”

  56. Fred – please see the WestportNow article for the full story.
    http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v2_5/comments/36966/

    I am not their official spokesperson, although I am an active supporter. I was interviewed because the author saw my name as a commenter, unlike all the other anonymous ones.

    My understanding is that more news will come out very soon as the application is filed.

    • The facts should be easy to ascertain; do they have the required permits or not? Are they acting within the law or not? This is not tough stuff.

    • And the “full story: is that the building is being occupied without the proper permits; no amount of hand waving and two stepping will change that fact.

  57. And BTW – the abeyance thing is total bullshit.

  58. For “Answer to Amy Ancel”: If you “heard” that I “barged” in and was “scary” and “nasty,” then you obviously weren’t there and have no idea what you’re talking about. When I approach a complete stranger to find answers to my questions, it would hardly serve my purpose to “barge in” or be “scary,” now would it? So, let’s be reasonable and not believe everything you hear. I know exactly what went down when I walked into the building and approached a very attractive and nice woman sitting at the counter and introduced myself with a smile. But if they would like to see me be nasty and scary, I can do that too.

    I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone. I’m just looking to see that the use of the building is appropriate and within our zoning requlations, and if it’s not, what is the town doing about it to make the occupant comply? I’d do the same if it were any occupant other than a restaurant owner or single family home owner at that particular site. i don’t care if the Dalai Lama, who I happen to revere, wanted to set up shop in the Three Bears… I’d still question his activities and intentions, and make sure he’s forced to go through all the necessary applications, notifications, hearings, etc. to obtain a special permit before he could occupy the building and conduct his business. Ditto for the building permits and inspections. That’s all this situation boils down to. If Chabad doesn’t want to comply with those rules, then I’m sure they can find another building in a non-residential zone where they don’t have to jump through so many hoops. There are plenty of empty buildings available in Westport, so that option is open to them.

    Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an antique lover and diehard historic preservationist, and the last thing I would want to see is the Three Bears town down and one or two new single family houses built there, so “Neighbor”, please don’t put words into my mouth. I am not advocating that in any way. I don’t make the rules, and the rules are that without a special permit, the property can be used as a restaurant or a single family residence. That’s all. It’s extremely simple and black and white. What the P&Z does about this matter is up to them. We shall see.

    • “I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone” That’s a hoot for anyone who has tangled with her.

  59. Ha ha. Told ya it was gonna get worse. BTW I have watched RTM elections for many moons and have seen many talented and dedicated “lose” an election because the electorate are illiterate (hyperbole)…SR, RM, GF, AA, are ID just a token reminder. If you do not know who they are, you low life chicken plucker, you do not deserve to be nasty to Amy. Funny, we criticize the “good Muslims” for not speaking up against the terrorists, but where are the “good Jews” when these bad apples come to our town? Why, they are anonomous! Except for Avi, who I admire for his BoF work, as well as his willingness to ID himself. Even me, Anon 357 is chicken to comment on Larry, Larry and the interlopers because I fear the kickback. Says a lot about these folks and their “supporters.”. I’m gonnago throw up.

    • ANON357 – really STFU your embarrassing yourself, the town and Dan;s website.

      • Like, Hostility Pays (aka Tired of "Anonymous")

        Then STFU yourself & say something “meaningful,” Mr./Ms. “Anonymous”…

        AND PULEEZ: Do NOT speak for Dan. He can speak himself.

    • RM was a loss, AA was not. But who are GF and SR?

      • Like I said, if U do not know SR & GF , you are uninformed. But your comments already prove that.

        This is all about circumventing the Town P&Z rules by a religious organization and instead of speaking out (good Jews), the not so good Jews are aiding and abetting the violators

        • Your obsession with “good Jews” and “bad Jews” is offensive and discredits any other point you may have. Perhaps this was just too good a topic to not let you inner bigot come out.

  60. I almost totally agree with this statement: “Funny, we criticize the “good Muslims” for not speaking up against the terrorists, but where are the “good Jews” when these…” The only reserve point is that maybe this branch of Chabad Lubavitch in Westport, maybe it’s local Westport donors specify that their donations do not support the harsher aspects Chabad Lubavitch requires of it’s less liberal members in other geographical locations.

    • Dunno… ask AVI. 🙂

    • The beliefs of the group are completely irrelevant. The only issue of substance is whether or not they comply with zoning statutes.

      • Westporter Since '03

        WOW, Emma…
        Suddenly you are making SENSE !

        And YES, Fred G. Sanford. Thank you for your summation.

        It REALLY IS that simple.

        SOMEBODY is gonna have to come up with a really good explanation.

        So far, we have not heard one.

      • ‘the beliefs of the group’ are only ‘irrelevant’ in regard to the ‘zoning statutes’. outside of the zoning conversation they are ‘relevant’ and interesting. nobody should be made afraid to discuss the groups beliefs and practices. in fact, discussing them might correct some misconceptions held by either members and supporters of the group and, or the public not members of the group.

  61. Fred G. Sanford

    This really is not too complicated. I don’t know how anyone, including Mr. Kaner, can attempt to defend the illegal work that was done to this historic building in a residential neighborhood to boot. It is rather hard to watch folks attempting to spin what went on here. Follow the law and please attempt to get the appropriate permits…. you big dummies.

    Fred

    • Atta boy Fred. You nailed it. SPIN.
      AKA Bull S**t.

      One would think the DEMOCRATIC Town leaders would step up, but they may not be “good.”

      Didn’t this happen before with some of the same players?

      These do nothings are a disgrace.

      • The repubs control the P&Z and this is a P&Z issue.

        • It’s a P&Z Zoning VIOLATION. Therefore it’s a First Selectperson and P&Z Director issue. Gordon & Larry (that’s Bradley, not Weisman), but they look like Siamese Twins at the zoning meetings. Larry had Mel in his back pocket, now he’s got Larry B, with Gordos full approval, of course.

  62. To Amy Ancel – can you imagine the reaction you would have if you had a dumpster in your driveway and a complete stranger came to your door asking why you had it and what you were doing? My guess is that you’d have a pretty strong reaction, which is probably what the people at 3 Bears had. You have no right or responsibility to inquire and you are owed no explanation. If you wanted to inquire about what was going on, you should have gone right to town hall – that, you can do as a private citizen. You’d think after all those years on the RTM you’d know that. To Dan Woog – I love the blog but I think you reported too prematurelywihtout a full understanding of the issues. I don’t think you had enough facts, you made this too much about who the tenant was, and not enough about what you say is the real issue. I believe you are the person who turned this into a religious debate when it really isn’t. Did you really have to put a picture of Rabbi Schneerson on the blog to make a point?

    • How do you know she didn’t go to town hall? If she did, the point is there would not of been any paper work for her to see!

  63. Wondering if this is why Larry Weisman has introduced text amendment to section 34-5 of the zoning regs to change required parking for places of worship?
    http://westport.patch.com/articles/westport-parking-standards-to-be-reviewed

    • Nope. The 3 Bears has a huge parking lot – unless a developer builds houses on it, as Ms Ancel explains is residential zoning. Isn’t she a real estate broker? Maybe she can get the listings!

      • Not sure if there is any connection, but does anyone know for whom Larry Weisman has filed this text amendment? Or is he doing it out of the goodness of his heart? Oh, and just because 3 Bears has a large parking lot doesn’t mean that the text amendment could not benefit the construction of a house of worship on that location. It does not take too much of an imagination to see an addition to the existing structure or even a potential demolition of all or most of the building.

        • What sort of lease gives renters the right to demolish the building they are renting? As to a “potential demolition” that falls in the realm of speculation at this point.

          • The type of lease that turns into a purchase.
            Yes, it is speculation, of course.

            • It has not turned into a purchase at this time. So why get your shorts in a knot? If the P&Z does its job, you have bo beef.

              • I believe that approving a text amendment that is brought without a specific site plan is a bad idea. That was the basis for why many were against David Waldman’s recent text amendment. Changing Westport’s zoning regulation, just because someone believes there is a theoretical need is a recipe for disaster, IMHO.

              • Right; it is much better to have empty stores and abandoned buildings. No sense having people invest in Westport unless they conform to your wishes.

                • Nice leap of logic.

                • If someone has the financial resources to deliver on a plan, then the plan is more than “theoretical”. Now, “recipe for disaster” is not only a leap of logic, but a revealed preference on your part.

                  • Yes, I have a preference for knowing details of how a proposed change in the law will be used by the person that is proposing the change. Guilty as charged.

                    • I have a preference for knowing the cost of zoning regulations to the taxpayers of Westport. I have a preference for knowing which special interests are further by the current regulations.

  64. Text Ammendment = sneaky way to make major Zoning changes masquerading as a simple clarification. It should be stopped immediately by the RTM.

  65. Wilton Road Neighbor

    Amy – as a fellow neighbor — thank you. The late night work/ work at odd hours, contractor trucks, etc. raised a good deal of questions up and down Wilton Road. May the facts / rules lead the way with P&Z.

  66. Another neighbor

    Amy does not speak for us. We’re looking forward to their open house to learn more and to officially welcome them to our neighborhood.

  67. When I first heard that the regulatory process appeared to be being violated, I inquired of the matter to Larry Bradley, Dir. Westport P&Z. It is always unfortunate when people do not follow Westport regulations. I wish we had sanctions that provided for some reasonable adverse impact resulting from such actions. Our regulations are crucial to preserving our lovely Town and to assuring our citizenry that all are treated equally and fairly. I await the Special Permit process before the P&Z Comm. On a personal note, I regret that The Three Bears closed and will be even more saddened if the exterior of this lovely structure is not preserved. Don Bergmann

  68. Good grief, with all the Anonymous commentators, it’s hard to address a particular one on a blog. But to explain to Anonymous above who posted Feb. 1Oth at 7:25 a.m., you may have missed that I already stated that I called both Larry Bradley at P&Z and Steve Smith at the Building Dept. to ask if there were any special permits and building permits issued for the Three Bears property, and if there were any applications filed. Both of them said no and that they didn’t even know it was occupied, or that work was going on, or that the property had changed hands. Larry Bradley asked me if I wanted to file a zoning complaint and I said no, that was premature. I did offer to go over to Three Bears and ask what was going on, and Larry Bradley said that would be great and to get back to him. The Building Dept. said the same.

    I was also still an RTM for my district at the time. So there was nothing illegal or inappropriate about my inquiry. I also beg to differ with you that I, and everyone else, has a right to ask questions of their neighbors. There may be no obligation to answer, but there’s a right to inquire. If some little old neighbor lady had gone over to ask what they were doing at a previously abandoned building, would you be so harsh, critical and judgmental toward her? I doubt it.

    I might add that, in Westport, very often when people start construction on their house, their neighbors or strangers passing by stop by, pop in and ask what they’re doing, or compliment the work that’s being done. It happened to me constantly when I renovated and built an addition at my house on Partrick Road, and it’s happened to most of my friends who have done construction on their properties. It happens all over Westport when commercial projects are under construction as well. People here are innately curious, if not obsessed, when it comes to real estate in this town. So to introduce oneself as a neighbor and ask questions is a right and certainly not a crime. If someone wants to say “none of your business,” that’s their right.

    But the folks I spoke with at Chabad did not say “none of your business.”
    They repeatedly lied to me about what they were doing and that they already had special permits, etc. and got really nasty about it. That doesn’t exactly make for a great new neighbor introduction. It wasn’t until I told the man, who I assume is the rabbi, that I was an RTM for the district that he softened up and said he appreciated my inquiry and thanked me for coming by. At least he left a very unpleasant and offensive exchange on a more decent note, which I appreciated. I then got back to Larry Bradley and Steve Smith as I was asked to do. That’s the nutshell.

    Some people in Westport love to put a target on other people’s backs. Especially when they can hide behind the cowardly cloak of anonymity or a pseudonym. I guess it makes them feel powerful. But that’s also when civility and the Golden Rule go down the drain. As a society, can we really afford that?

    DAN, as much as I appreciate your stories, current news and blog, and generally find it interesting, I think it does a real disservice to the people in Westport to allow anonymous commentators and fake names. Ditto for Westport Patch.

    If people had to own what they say on these “community” and “political” blogs, it might make them rethink what they put in writing. It might also make for less “entertaining” reading, in a perverse kind of way, but it would probably better serve the community.

    I really hope you’ll rethink your policy, because getting ugly and letting the fur fly without taking any responsibility for the shitty things one says, is not very enlightened. It’s the equivalent of a junior high school slam book making the rounds – baby boomers may remember those – or the same activity that bullying kids do on Facebook and Twitter now that we forbid our own children to engage in. Think about that, and the hypocrisy in it: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

    I am happy to meet with Rabbi Kantor and the members of Chabad, attend their open house, and talk with them about their plans – immediate and future, now that they’ve applied for a special permit. I wish Rabbi Kantor had called me to invite me over to chat, like he told Matt Mandell he was going to do. I would have appreciated that. He also told Matt that he was going to take care of the halogen lights that shine into my living room window every night and blind us, but he hasn’t done that either. Promises, promises. I’d like to hear from Rabbi Kantor and experience his reported kindness, charm and good neighbor reputation for myself.

    That’s all I’m going to say on this matter until it goes before P&Z. I have more important things to do with my time… like helping to find Andy the Missing Corgi, who BTW is still out there and has been sighted, so please keep an eye out for him! I suggest all you Anonymous folks consider putting your time to better use too.

    • Amy – Huh? You say “I was also still an RTM for my district at the time. So there was nothing illegal or inappropriate about my inquiry.” You further say “It wasn’t until I told the man, who I assume is the rabbi, that I was an RTM for the district that he softened up and said he appreciated my inquiry and thanked me for coming by.”

      I thought you lost your election in November. The swearing in ceremony for the new RTM members was on November 21st. So that means you misrepresented yourself and used your past title to intimidate them.

      • I’m afraid I don’t recall the exact day, hour, minute, second, latitude and longitude that I went over to the Three Bears. It might have been before the election. It might have also been after the election, as there is a period between the election itself and the swearing in of the new RTMs that the “old” RTMs who were not re-elected are still, in fact, RTMs.

        And on that note, ANDY, I’M COMING TO LOOK FOR YOU NOW! SIT AND STAY, LITTLE GUY, DON’T KEEP RUNNING AWAY!

    • Amy I understand your feelings about anonymous postings but one does get an opportunity to see the underbelly of the subject matter. Balancing candor and censorship is tricky if even possible. The cheap shot comments are just that. I try to think of them as humorous rather than mean spirited and in most cases another anomous poster will rag at the nasty poster.
      Keep up the good work and keep us posted. You and Dan are doing the Town a real service with your vigilance. 🙂

      • Thanks, Tom. You’ve expressed my “balancing act” feelings quite well. I have heard from a number of commenters — including some town officials and other prominent folks — that allowing anonymous comments enables them to weigh in in a (thoughtful) manner, on important subjects, that they would not feel comfortable talking about if they had to post using their names. Other commenters, of course, use anonymity as a license to throw (verbal) stones, and sling (verbal) mud, in ways they might not feel comfortable doing if they had to use their names.

        Ultimately, I figure, if anonymity was good enough for the Federalist Papers, it’s good enough for “06880.” Not that I’m comparing the two media outlets…

        • regarding ‘anonymity’, this blog and the Federalist Papers, others have enthusiastically made the comparison for you, i.e., enjoy the success; every donation-investment you receive for this blog is well worth it (though I doubt it buys nearly enough headache relief 😉

    • Amy – as a neighbor, I appreciate your hard work on all of our behalf, but I gotta tell ya, you are way off the mark on the anonymous comment thing. While you feelings on this matter are understandable since you appear to take a lot of personal hits, the robustness of the dialogue on the blog has been stimulating. It has also been depressing in that the biggots and haters have come to play too – but they have always been around and unfortunately will always be around. Killing anonymity on 06880 will not end the hate and nastiness, it will only keep it hidden from view where it can’t be shamed.

      I expect Dan, as a town/BOE employee gets a lot of pressure to kill the anonymous commenting on his blog. The political class of Westport hates dealing with the public because it’s messy and cumbersome . 06880 is an outlet where the cumbersome messiness thrives.

      • I would love to see Dan go to requiring names, pseudonyms or real. Multiple “Anonymous” postings certainly doesn’t help create a sense of community or allow for easy reading of comments. But I don’t think requiring real names is the answer. Disqus did some research on how pseudonyms leads to more posting and more vibrant online communities. http://disqus.com/research/pseudonyms/
        So who wants to claim “AngryRTMer” or “P&Z4Ever” or “WaldmanRules” ?

        • John, I agree completely on some form of pseudonym. All the ANONS merge into one Mad Hatter. That is a very interesting link and the % are surprising. I would have guessed the reverse.

        • I too am frustrated by multiple “Anonymouses” (anonymi?). I’ll check with WordPress to see if there’s a way to not let anyone use the default “Anonymous” handle.

  69. Frederick G. Sanford

    I think one of you anonymous, big dummies should be Elizabeth!

    Fred

  70. I just had a lengthy and delightful phone conversation with Amy Ancel. There have been misunderstandings on both sides, and those will be put away.

    Amy is looking forward to meeting Rabbi Kantor and Dina, and the Rabbi and Dina are looking forward to meeting Amy again.

    If they end up being neighbors in the long run, I suspect they’ll become very close – just like with the country store and the nursery.

    We live in such an amazing community that is made that way by volunteers like Amy and the myriad of public service organizations like Chabad of Westport.

    Once the formal application is filed and the open house is held (I know Matt Mandel is helping to coordinate a date), I hope Dan can write a followup.

    And please – no more comments until then, as our hard drives are filling up!

  71. Wow, Chabad must be really optimistic about their application…sounds like they are already using it as a synagogue…
    https://chabadofwestportcom.clhosting.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/1430735/jewish/Purim-In-The-60s/lang/en

  72. Why Hem See Ay