I wasn’t at last Friday’s meeting about the Kemper-Gunn House, and its possible move from 35 Church Lane to the Elm Street parking lot.
Don Bergmann, an RTM member who serves on its Planning & Zoning Committee, was. For a while.
But he walked out — protesting what he called First Selectman Gordon Joseloff’s “indecisiveness” — and said he would not longer work on the project.
The other meeting participants — Joseloff, members of his staff, RTM P&Z Committee chair Matthew Mandell, Historic District Commission chair Francis Henkels, and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg — stayed.
In a press release, Bergmann said he was “frustrated by the lack of support of the project by the First Selectman, including an unwillingness to go on record in support of, and actively work for, the success of the project.”
According to Bergmann, the house will be moved across the street to the Baldwin lot, with all costs borne by Bedford Square Associates (the firm redeveloping Church Lane). “Once moved, the house will be renovated by a developer and then made available for commercial rentals, including obligations to provide for ‘mom and pop’ occupancies and to exclude ‘chain’ stores,” Bergmann says. He adds:
The Town will lease a portion of the Baldwin parking lot for the new site and will receive payments under that lease. The Town will also benefit by the real estate taxes that will result from the change of use of the site from parking to an historic commercial usage. The Town will not take title to the Kemper-Gunn house and will have no responsibility for the renovation….
The Kemper-Gunn house will be preserved, the new site on Elm Street is part of a transitional zone that “softens” the shift from downtown commercial to residential structures and our Town will receive lease payments and additional tax revenues.
Bergmann “loves the project,” his press release says, and he hopes to continue working on it.
However, he notes,
the efforts to date to get the First Selectman to support, drive and take ‘ownership’ of the project have been unsuccessful. Hopefully, the public and others will now convince the First Selectman to take the leadership which this project demands. Without that leadership, the Kemper-Gunn house may go the way of the wrecking ball.
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff was asked yesterday morning to comment. He did not respond.
However, at last night’s Board of Finance meeting — where several Westporters and RTM members spoke in favor of moving the house — Joseloff was less than enthusiastic.
“There’s some concern that the town, even if we lock in all the ifs, ands and buts in the lease, there is some potential exposure to the town for taking care of this house down the line,” Joseloff said, according to the Westport News.