Y Unveils Building And Sewer Plans

Hard on the heels of the Westport Y’s plan to seek permission to hook up to the town’s sewer, the Y today announced more plans involving construction of its new facility at Mahackeno.

Construction of the new Family Y is scheduled to begin in October. It starts with a 55,000-square foot main building that includes a competitive lap pool and family/teaching pool; a wellness center, gymnasium, 3 fitness studios, “child watch area” and 5 locker rooms.

“As more dollars are given, we’ll be able to expand our new Family Y and add the rest of the features envisioned in the original design for our Mahackeno campus,” says Bonnie Strittmatter, president of the board of directors.

An artist's rendering of the new Westport Y.

The public can view plans and designs for the facility at an informational meeting next Thursday Wednesday (February 23 22, 7 p.m. at the Y).

“While we regret that we can’t construct the whole facility at the same time, we are convinced that it is the most fiscally responsible thing to do,” says Jim Marpe, chairman of the board of trustees.

“Not only does it make sense economically, it also gives us greater flexibility going forward to meet the evolving needs of the community we’ve served for nearly a century.”

Turner Construction — which built the new Staples High School, Bedford Middle Schoo and the Senior Center, and renovated the Westport Country Playhouse — will be the Y’s primary site development and construction partner.

Also involved: Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and Land-Tech Consultants.

And about that sewer: The Y has filed an application with the town to connect the new facility to the municipal sanitary sewer system. The Y previously gained local and state approval to install and operate a septic system to treat wastewater from the new facility on site.

The Board of Selectmen — acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority —  meets in a special session next Monday (February 27, 7 p.m., Town Hall) to discuss the request for a sewer extension to Mahackeno.

47 responses to “Y Unveils Building And Sewer Plans

  1. I hear they need to raise 10 million before they do anything.

  2. Thanks, Dan. A quick note to say that the Family Y’s informational session will now be held on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7 pm at the Y. We’ll have more details about our construction plans, as well as the latest (and correct) information about our fundraising efforts to date and what we need to raise going forward with this first phase of the building project.

  3. The Dude Abides

    The scuttlebutt is there is in-fighting about the Men’s Health Club, racket ball courts and size of the swimming pool. You will have take my steam away from me by the tight grasp of my dying hands!

  4. This project still makes me sick. I still cannot believe the Y is being allowed to ruin that property. People are going to look back in this and wonder “what were they thinking?”

    • Oh Please!

      They property on Sunny Lane (adjacent to the Merritt Parkway) is nothing to write home about. It’s not like they are building down in the small stream valley that connects to Lee’s Pond.

  5. At least with Kabuki Theater the actors wear interesting makeup.

  6. Better Pissed off Than Pissed On?

    I agree with Joffo. Not only did the proposed move piss just about half the population of Westport (what else is new?) but the arrogance of those who won their cause is sickening. I don’t wish the YMCA poorly but it is the only reason I go downtown. And screw that Merritt Parkway traffic debacle. A new fitness center is going into Stamford. I hope they find their way to Westport?

  7. The damn Y should have gone to Winslow. Thanks Dianne. Hope you are enjoying your GOP job at the World Bank.

  8. ‘Just curious about the implications of moving the Blue Line (and the Y connecting to the town sewer)…

    • 8-30g applications all over town (or at least along the path of any newer sewer connection) could be one implication. As having a sewer connection is usually considered a requirement for a successful 8-30g application.

  9. How much do you think they’ll increase the fees?

  10. I still recall Dick Foot’s telling me, when he hired me as Development Director in 1997, “We need to get robust fundraising software as we may be starting a capital campaign for the new building soon!” Only 15 years ago! I look forward to the new Y. I’m glad it’s underway at last.
    Catherine Onyemelukwe

  11. “The Board of Selectmen — acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority – meets in a special session next Monday (February 27, 7 p.m., Town Hall) to discuss the request for a sewer extension to Mahackeno.”

    Meeting cancelled

  12. Gordo has totally lost contact with the citizens. It is a travesty that this wonderful Town is being torn apart due to Diane Farrell (you nailed it bRA), the “Farrellettes” and Gordo. And Shelly, too, I’m afraid.
    The Y is FAB. They deserved far better treatment and were FORCED into a decision even they didn’t want. The Y started Y DOWNTOWN.
    It’s not over… Gordo will be gonzo, smarter thinkers will prevail. Keep the faith.

    • With Godo going bye-bye, will his ego stroking nursing home go with him?
      One can only hope!
      Where I might add is the opposition party in all of this? Hello, McFly?
      Here we have huge opposition to both the Y relocating outside of downtown and this taxpayer funded nursing home from both dems and repubs, and I haven’t heard anything from the repubs gathering support to oppose either.

  13. Ms. Farrell’s decision not to sell a town asset to the YMCA – a private entity – was a sound one at time. Only in hindsight, in light of Mr. Josoloff’s ridiculous plans for Barron’s South does it seem like a mistake now.

    Had the planning and zoning process/regulatory not failed via the issuance of the special permit, it is more than likely a private solution would haven been found to the Y’s downtown facilities needs.

  14. If you compare the Y’s new “Phase One” plan to the original floor plans – all online – you’ll see that they will now only build the pools, wellness/fitness center, locker rooms, a babysitting room, library, meeting room and some offices. They’ve ditched their entire childcare center, gymnasium and group fitness classrooms.

    They are also still short $6M needed just to complete Phase One! Talk about taking a huge risk. $6M will be a real stretch to raise. And if they don’t raise enough to complete Phase One, then what is the town left with? A torn-up, unfinished building site next to the river? Great. And it would be on sewer, so just about any commercial entity could take it over.

    The Greenwich YMCA was also only $6M short of completing their new Y, and they’re now in foreclosure and may lose their entire building to JP Morgan Chase. They couldn’t reach a settlement, so they’re headed for court. What the Westport Y is planning to do now, I’m sure with Joseloff’s blessings, could be an absolute debacle.

    • “And if they don’t raise enough to complete Phase One, then what is the town left with? A torn-up, unfinished building site next to the river? Great. And it would be on sewer, so just about any commercial entity could take it over. ”

      Here we go!

      Another “Chicken Little”!!

      Why would they even start building if they were $6 Million short of the money needed to build phase 1 in the 1st place?

      Stop with the theatrics.

  15. Veteran – Read the latest article on Westport Now. Robert Reeves of the Y is quoted as saying they are $6 million short of what they need to build Phase One.

  16. Yo Nut Beach,
    Read reluctantly Gordo’s WN photo news blog. Where all the goody-goodies compliment each other with meaningless thoughts. Looks like even the money has voted about the absurd location. What we need is a psyco ward next to the Senior Center where Gordo can be caged till he learns voters (not me) elected him to REPRESENT THEM.

  17. The Dude Abides

    About 5,500 YMCA members at the present and half are youths (with discounted membership). They better raise the 10 million for no way they are going to afford the option to lease come 12/14. Seems like a lack of vision here and not real friendly with the current members’ requests. Me thinks they are envisoning a county Y with easy access from the Merritt? Westport’s answer to everything: attract out of towners!

  18. Proud supporter of the Y

    I don’t usually post on this site or any site for that matter but reading these comments has compelled me to do so. My family is a member of the Y and I have 2 children that swim on the Water Rat Swim team. Over the years I have been privileged to see first hand what the Y does for our community and I have realized it is so much more than a swim team. It is difficult to understand why anyone in Westport would not want a Y here. I wonder whether some of the commentators on this site realize the Y is a not for profit organization. It exists to enhance the life of the community through its programs. Do they know how many kids in our area are provided scholarships to participate in programs at the Y that would not otherwise be able to? Do they see how many seniors are there every day at 7am participating in aquafit or exercise programs? Do they know what the Y’s men and women do? I find it very hard to find fault in an organization whose goal is to promote healthy living and is open to anyone. Exercise is and always has been important to my family and I feel honored to support an organization that opens its doors to provide anyone in the area with the opportunity to partake in physical activity. Old, young, competitive, not competitive, able or challenged – there is something at the Y for everyone- not many places in town can say that. Even those that do not use the Y should appreciate what it offers our community. The Westport Y needs our support right now and I think we owe it to our community to give it.

    • How much have you given??? If Westport was a true supporter of the YMCA, there would far more than 5,500 members. Your cheer is heartfelt but the proposed move and antiquated facilities have alienated many who have been living here far longer than you and remember when, in fact, the YMCA was the main hub of downtown with countless more activities than you mention. Perhaps the lack of funding is more of an indicator that the YMCA, as we know it, has had its day.

    • I don’t think anyone wishes the Y ill, and I’m sure most Westporters (including those who are unhappy with the plans for Mahackeno) are grateful for much of what the nonprofit does. I think what’s been so frustrating for many of us is the special treatment the Y has received from the town, almost as if it’s a branch of Parks & Rec rather than a private, religious organization. Selling the Bedford building before securing building rights and threatening “Mahackeno or bust” wasn’t a very neighborly tactic. And the Y’s apparent disdain for traffic issues, environmental concerns, history (what’s happened when other regional Ys enlarged), or fairness (think blue line) has led many of us to wonder about the depth of the Y’s concern for the Westport community.

      • I totally agree Uh. Sort of like a precious commodity that folks have screwed up. I love the Y. It is a huge part of my life here growing up here and I still go every day. But I am afraid the pols or the do gooders or the nosey-bodies have wrecked it. They don’t listen and now, all they really want his your check.

  19. Dude,
    Ya got that right. EXIT 41 is a SNAFU moving towards a FUBAR. County Y will attract all the commuters…why not exercise, then drive home later when the traffic slows. So Westporters finance the tax free land, the new sewer, and absorb the increased congestion.
    Such a deal. If the Y is such an integral part of the Town, why put it in left field? Makes NO SENSE.

  20. The Dude Abides

    VET: Agreed. The plans, according to the assistant director, are to widen both the entrance and exit ramps to Exit 41 but NO plans to widen the road leading to the Camp-Y. Jeez, I went there in the 50’s and my son in the 70’s and it was a traffic mess then. But the access now on Church Street could not be any worse. I just don’t think they are going to raise the money. The 9 1/2 house at Longshore and the football lights at Staples are experiencing problems raising bucks in today’s economy so who knows?

  21. As an avid 06880 reader, longtime Member of the Y and for the past year its Communications Director, it pains me to see all the misinformation displayed in these comments. It’s long been Y policy to communicate its news and views through our website, press releases, our blog on Westport News, public presentations and through newsletters and emails to Y Members and others in the community — rather than engaging in comment threads with largely anonymous posters. It’s a sound policy. But I can’t resist responding here — and imploring you to come to the Y’s informational meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 pm for the latest, accurate information from the devoted volunteer community leaders that guide our operations. Heck, I invite the the Dude, CAS and other Y members (or any other poster) to come to my office on the second floor of the old Bedford Building after your workouts to say hello. You’d find, among other things, that we’re not a “private religious organization” but a nonprofit charitable organization governed by your fellow neighbors. We receive no government funds and certainly no special treatment from the town (rather, last year we provided $130,000 to local residents identified by Westport’s Human Services Dept. as in need, giving them free memberships and their kids scholarships for camp and other youth programs). The new Y will not be some “County Y” but a modern new and easily accessible facility for residents of Westport and Weston (there are fine Y’s in virtually every community surrounding our two towns). The entrance road to Mahackeno will be widened to four lanes at Exit 41 and the new “Allen Raymond Lane” leading to the facility will be completely rebuilt (all at the Y’s expense). We’ve raised millions for our beautiful new and environmentally sensitive home at Mahackeno in the past six months, and have far less than $10 million to go before we begin construction in the fall (more like $6 million, though we are continually trying to “value engineer” that amount further down). Space doesn’t allow me to begin to address the long-settled argument of whether our current facility downtown is capable of allowing us to continue to serve our members and the community as a whole. It isn’t.
    So come to our public informational session next Wednesday evening and find out why Y is so important to our community and how close we are to creating a wonderful new facility that our 5,500 members and the entire community will be proud of for generations to come.
    And, Dude, I’m also happy to report that the Halfway House at Longshore has been fully funded with community support (I’m a part of that effort, too) and groundbreaking will be next month.
    When the community comes together in support of worthwhile projects that benefit its residents, you see, we can build things that matter.

    • Scott,
      I’m going to brave the wrath of many again, but some of your statements are slightly disingenous. I know you’re “new to the game,” and your job is to spin everything in favor of your employer, but having been involved in the Mahackeno debacle a lot longer than you, I’m afraid your statement above that the Y “receives no government funds and certainly no special treatment from the town” is really stretching the truth. Since you’ve put it out there, I feel compelled to set the record straight – if only for the people of Westport and the taxpayers.

      As background, you should be aware that the Westport Y and their agents SWORE up and down, many times to the Planning & Zoning Commission that the rebuild of Exit 41 of the Merritt Parkway would be at no expense to the town or the taxpayers. It’s on the record over and over. They claimed that in a total manipulation to have their special permit application approved. Those of us who opposed the Mahackeno project knew it then, and can prove it now.

      Yet soon after their special permit approval and the end of the legal appeals between the Y, the town, YDowntown and Arthur Cohen, the
      Westport Y hired James Amann, former Speaker of the CT House of Representatives and now a powerful lobbyist in Hartford, to help them get state funding for the Exit 41 rebuild.

      The Y and their representatives then met with CT House Rep. Betty Boukus, Chairman of the State Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee. They also met with Benjamin Barnes, Secretary of the Office of Policy & Management (OPM) and member of the State Bond Commission (SBC), as well as Governor Malloy himself, who chairs the State Bond Commission, all
      in an effort to “fast-track” it, and get approval for state (read: TAXPAYER) funding to rebuild Exit 41 for their Mahackeno project. I believe it was in April 2011 that the official request for approval of funds, which was actually written by the Y but signed by others in government, was submitted to Rep. Boukus for consideration. However, the Y’s request was (a) submitted after her committee had already closed funding requests for the year, so it couldn’t be considered, and (b) Rob Reeves, CEO of the Westport Y,
      withdrew the request because the Y wasn’t ready to begin construction in calendar year 2011.

      I have yet to check with the state as to whether there’s been a new request for state funding for 2012, but it’s on my “to do” list. Maybe you would like to tell us, Scott, and save me the time.

      When I talked to Rob Reeves last week about this matter and the Y’s two-timing, double-talking claim to the P&Z that the Exit 41 rebuild would be completely at the Y’s expense and not a penny of taxpayer money would be used, Mr. Reeves admitted to me that they had sought state funding last year and that ” we’re going to look for funding anywhere and everywhere we can get it.” Mr. Reeves also incredulously claimed that “getting money from the state isn’t asking or taking anything from the town of Westport,” to which I had to remind Mr. Reeves that the people of Westport ARE the taxpayers from whom the state gets its money! Econ 101.

      So, your statement that the Y “receives no government funds” is questionable at best. It may not have received state funding for Mahackeno yet, but requesting it and receiving it this year is certainly not ruled out. (Plus, the Y has always received state funds for its daycare – which it’s abandoning to build Mahackeno – and for certain programs – but that fact belabors the point.)

      I also think that any person in Westport who has ever gone before the P&Z, Flood & Erosion Board, Conservation Commission, or ZBA, or tried to get a private meeting with the First Selectman would seriously beg to differ that the “Y has received no special treatment from the town.” The granting of their special permit and attendant variances to build at Mahackeno by every one of those commissions, as well as the blessings of Mr. Joseloff, was special treatment at its worst and most flagrant! So is the Y’s current request for a public sewer, after they voraciously insisted their FAST septic system was top-notch and would work like a charm and never, ever pollute the river. So are their behind-the-door meetings with Mr. Joseloff, Steve Edwards at Public Works, Mark Cooper at WWHD and whoever else they’ve conspired with. If that isn’t special treatment from the town, I don’t know what is!

      Really, Scott, you should know better than to put this sort of drivel and drek in writing and in a public forum where it can be challenged by people who know the truth and aren’t afraid to tell it. I have nothing against the Westport YMCA. The institution does good things for people, and particularly for people in need. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing.

      But I have plenty against any organization and its leadership that games the system and then lies about it, that violates the public trust, that demands special treatment and then treats those who disagree with them like human excrement, and releases their attack dogs to quiet them. That I have a really big problem with, and so do a great many others in this town who have experienced the Westport Y’s complete and utter disrespect.
      “Caring, honesty, respect and responsibility” are touted as the YMCA’s “core values” and have been plastered all over their building and website. But in order to get what they want at any cost, their leadership and management can unfortunately only talk the talk and not walk the walk. Hypocrisy at its worst.

      But all things considered, I do look forward to the public meeting on Wednesday night and encourage everyone who’s available to come, see and hear for themselves. I, for one, can’t wait to learn how the Y is going to cram two swimming pools, a Wellness Center, a gymnasium, 3 fitness studios, a Child Watch area, 5 locker rooms and other amenities into the 55,000 square feet of Phase One. I have a feeling we’re still spinning the truth, but I’ll reserve judgment until Wednesday night.

  22. Scott – exit 41 is traffic nightmare right now. Hundreds/thousands of workers from the Merritt 7 complex snake their way through back roads to get on the Merritt at exit 41 so they can head home/north (there is no entrance to the Merritt north from the Rt 7 Connector). The traffic jam starts at around 3 and does not clear until after 7. Throwing the Y’s 5500 members into the mix during both the morning and evening rush hour is an insulting joke to the those of us who live in this part of town,

    So, all the wonderful stuff the Y does (a nonprofit charitable organization – who somehow is only the Christian organization in America that likes to obscure its Christian roots) gets lost in the mix to those who believe the Mahackeno retail boondoggle will negatively impact our quality of life. I do not think the Y is special enough to qualify for a “zoning laws don’t matter to us” special permit.

    • I absolutely can’t wait until we reach critical mass when it comes to seeing through reasonable-sounding P.R. communiqués that cleverly dance around legitimate criticisms and use (admittedly, very good) rhetoric to obscure the downsides of development. In my experience, “informational [sic] sessions” run by people holding all the cards are a waste of time.

  23. The Y has just sent this information, regarding a revised focus of the meeting this Wednesday (Feb. 22, 7 pm at the Y):

    “The purpose of this meeting is to provide additional information regarding the Family Y’s recent application to connect its planned new Y facility at Mahackeno Outdoor Center to the Town of Westport’s municipal sanitary sewer system. The Family Y will address an audience of homeowners in the neighborhoods adjacent to the Family Y’s 32-acre Mahackeno campus.

    “The Family Y will hold informational sessions for Y members and the general public regarding its current construction plans at dates to be scheduled in coming weeks. Due to time constraints and the availability of our development partners, the meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22 will focus on the Family Y’s application to connect to the Town sewer system. This application will be reviewed by The Town’s Board of Selectmen, acting in its capacity as the Water Pollution Control Authority, at a public hearing to be scheduled by the Town.”