Hope Langer: “Those Trees Were Part Of My Roots”

Hope Klein Langer is an “06880” fan. She likes the stories of “experiences that resonate with all generations of Westporters,” and the “healthy dialogue about community issues” that follows.

Hope has a community issue of her own. It concerns trees: those on private property, which affect neighbors and neighborhoods. She writes:

The beauty of Westport is that it is a place where people come to plant their roots and build their family. Unlike many towns, people come back year after year because there is a community feel that simply can’t be matched or replaced.

Both of my daughters are Staples graduates. I became a grandmother to a baby boy just a few months ago. There are little things that I look forward to doing with my grandson: playing at Compo Beach, walking along Main Street, and taking him for a milkshake at the Sherwood Diner!

Trees once framed Hope Langer's back yard -- a view she loved. (Photo/Granite Studios)

Trees once framed Hope Langer’s back yard — a view she loved. (Photo/Granite Studios)

However, there is no ignoring the many changes that our beautiful little town has faced throughout the years—for better and worse.

A few weeks ago, without any prior notice, the developer of property next door to my home ripped out all of the trees that divided our properties for 50 years.   These evergreens stood probably 40-50 feet tall. and were there long before we arrived 23 years ago. There were at least 25 to 35 of them.

The view now, after the trees were removed.

The view now, after the trees were removed.

Yes, these trees are technically on the developer’s land (by mere inches). And yes, they are just trees.

But having lived in this home at 163 Bayberry Lane for over 20 years, these trees and this home are part of my roots. I am devastated to see them torn down, with little regard for the way it might affect me and my family.

The trees were almost on my property line. Taking into consideration the setback laws, they were not in the developer’s’ building envelope. Though not important to him, they contributed greatly to our privacy and sense of security.

When I called the builder, his response was, “I don’t really care about your property. I am here to make money.” I have been a Realtor in this town for 23 years, but I am appalled at his disregard for our neighborhood and my home.

All that remains of the trees on Hope Langer's property line.

All that remains of the trees on Hope Langer’s property line.

It’s hard to ignore the silent tug-of-war between the new Westport and the old. If nothing else, I hope my story will plant a seed of compassion in those who are in the business of overhauling our sweet town. I hope we can find a way to meet in the middle, and preserve the community that has been such a magnificent place to call home. For example, our laws should be discussed and re-evaluated before Westport loses all of its charm and beautiful mature trees.

I am passionate about the preservation of this incredible town. I will make changing the town’s regulations one of my daily jobs. Laws must be put into place to prevent builders from cutting down mature greenery that has nothing to do with construction of the next soulless McMansion.

Many towns have such rules. It’s high time for our government to protect the character of our neighborhoods — and for developers to display common respect, before clear-cutting nature out of what we hold dear.

Hope Langer now sees the street from her house. And passersby can see her house from the road.

Hope Langer now sees the street from her back yard. And passersby see her property from the road.

71 responses to “Hope Langer: “Those Trees Were Part Of My Roots”

  1. Of course one can take part of their land and put trees on it for their own privacy

  2. That has been an “unaddressed problem” since McMansions and dirtbag developers came to Westport. Write up a proposed ordinance, get 20+ signatures, and ask your RTM representatives to place it on the docket.
    Good luck.

  3. Jamie Walsh

    As a former contractor who has been involved in numerous developments, both commercial and residential, and having been involved in a long drawn out legal battle with a developer in my own backyard, it continues to amaze me when local builders fail to respect the privacy and the natural visual sight lines of neighbors without any dialogue. Maybe there might have been a reason, but at least have the courtesy to engage the neighbors in a straight forward manner! Clear cutting on a day with no notice or dialog is cowardly and just rude and not very neighborly, even if your just in it for a few bucks…courtesy developers…courtesy… We live on a small place for so many tears own and development opportunities…so watch your reputations developers because in the end…you only get to take that with you, not your money! Be considerate and start an open dialog before pulling a bone head sneaky maneuver that impact the Langer’s, well deserved privacy.

  4. Ruth Donohue

    Some towns in Westchester County have laws requiring approval before the removal of “significant” trees, usually determined by their dbh, diameter at breast height. The trees must be surveyed before a developer can touch them. Seems to me we need a similar law in Westport.

  5. Mark Demmerle

    Old growth trees add value to a building site. Cutting them not only infuriates neighbors and depreciates the site but also, costs money to cut them down and grind them up.
    So much for ‘ I’m here to make money’ comment.

    Much be said about the positive value of old growth trees before added monetary and psychic value.

  6. Sorry for my grammatical and spelling riddled response…just a little jet lagged… We should, however, be thankful we live in a place that has zoning! China could learn a thing or to about that! Ok to have a dump, next to a nice house, next to 40 skyscrapers and then throw in a smoke billowing factory next to a large farm and well…that’s the neighborhood!

  7. Peter Hannan

    I was involved in a similar situation many years ago. An Attorney who lived in town was experiencing the same circumstance with trees being cut along his property line. Coincidentally it was the backdrop of his pool area also. He halted the operation with threats of lawsuit. I thought it was farfetched at the time as I am not an advocate of litigation. His reasoning to his neighbor was that the neighbor could do anything he wanted to his own property as long as it did not take away someone else’s enjoyment of their property. He was recovering from a serious operation and the serene environment and views of his pool were critical to his recovery. Whether you agree or disagree, the neighbor in this case opted to forgo the planned removals.

  8. Michelle Lieberson

    Is that you? Or your sister/sister in law?

    Thats horrible. I don’t know why they couldn’t leave the trees there. Seriously!   Michelle

  9. This house has not been around for 20 years! It also is new construction….saying that, I don’t think it is right that the property owners were not notified that those trees were coming down.

    • Larry Langer

      Wrong. We have been living at 163 for more than 20 years. True, that we upgraded the home 10 years ago but we bought the property because of the specimen trees and mature growth trees that gave us a sense of living in an (sub) urban forest. Our environment was magical to us and when Andy Frank decided to clear cut one whole side or our property, he stole our sense of privacy……without notice or even common decency. We’ll never be able to enjoy our home the way we used to. He stole that from us.

      Andy Frank also eliminated the sense of privacy his eventual home buyers would have enjoyed. And this travesty was in the name of “just money”. What an “dirtbag developer” as one of the other comments above states!

      • Mark Demmerle

        He should have sedimentation and erosion control devices set up. He may be entitled to cut trees but he can’t divert runoff water or mud to your property.

        It appears from your pix that the trees played an important role in controlling erosion and drinking hundreds of gallons of runoff water.

  10. One of the great charms of living in Westport is that rare sense of living in a forested area adjacent to a beautiful beach. Tree removal is something that should be addressed in a fair and intelligent manner through our regulations. Developers should have to get approval from Conservation before being allowed to destroy nature and Conservation should have to notify neighbors and get their input before granting approvals.

  11. Jack Whittle

    While I am always sympathetic to these types of issues, notice that the complaining homeowner has NO trees in HER yard but instead had maximized her property for a lawn right to the property line and a pool (as is most definitely her right); but when the adjoining landowner sought to do likewise (i.e. maximize the lawn area of the adjoining parcel in just the same way) this homeowner took great offense, and a blog post was even written.

    This is how land use rules often play out, in this town and others: I want rules (setbacks, height, coverage) enforced against my neighbors, but at the same time I wouldn’t like to abide by these rules on my property and think the P&Z Dept. is being tough on me when they enforce these rules when I am remodeling my house, or adding a deck, or a pool, or a much-needed new addition. I’ll admit to having been on both sides myself – I remodeled my house and had to confront setback and coverage rules (very frustrating, the town was out to get me!), and yet I kept a very close eye on what was going on next door, and these very same “frustrating” rules, when THEY wanted to rebuild.

    • Great insights, jack. This could be the most objective comment ever posted on “06880”!

      • Bobbi Essagof

        I feel for Hope because I have seen developers rip out beautiful natural landscaping, but on the other hand I am the neighbor who owns all the trees and has to care for them, even getting permission to tend to the side facing the neighbor. When they fall in a storm or die, I replace the shared boundary and privacy screen. My choice but always feels like I’ve been had! Oh well, first world problem. Could be a lot worse.

      • Larry Langer

        Dan, you may think Jack has great insight, however, he apparently has no actual “sight”. Go to 163 and look at the 50 foot high mature trees in our front yard. This is all that is left after the town cut one down which overhang the street and we lost two other major trees to weather related events. Also, we paid for the annual maintenance of the trees (by Almstead Tree care) that Andy Frank cut down, not caring whether they were on our property or our neighbor’s property. Always protecting them as our own because they gave us such a sense of privacy.

        They were like the security blanket torn away from us in the middle of the night. Andy Frank…dirtbag developer indeed.

        • Jack Whittle

          My comments regarding the fact that the trees you enjoyed were all located on your neighbor’s property, while you enjoyed the benefit of a lawn right to the property line, bare of any trees, were informed by the pictures of the area that accompany Dan’s story above – the facts are plainly visibly. You can do what I did – plant some trees on your OWN property (I’ve had a total of 18 trees planted adjacent to the property line at my property myself) – yes, you do have to give up some of your own lawn, but you control the trees that way, and you will have added to the forrestation of Westport yourself, rather than seeking to force others to do so – which is tricky to accomplish via regulation.

          • jerrymacdaid

            Exactly! It amazes me when people who have clear cut (or benefit from prior owners clear cutting) to their own property line object to their neighbors doing the same.

            We once lived next to an undeveloped, treed building lot. Knew it was there when we bought out house. Luckily there were still trees on our lot as well. Neighbor on other side of the lot, however, clear cut to their lot line, enjoying the benefit of the “woods” on adjacent lot. Years later, someone bought the lot and cut trees to build house. Actually left trees along the lot line with neighbor. Neighbor was pissed, however, because they lost the forest next to them as if the owner did not have the right to do what they had done with their own property. Un-friggen-believable.

  12. Norma Waski

    Sadly this is the new entitled Westport! This town has changed: For better… more money entering, I guess. For worse … then entitlement with McMansions, lose of generations of local businesses due to high rents and the old scenic New England that was once Westport. I feel for Hope as she will notice the monster we live next to on Compo Road South. Gone are the trees and history next door after the death of Father Poley and his family, in came a home that is far too large for the property and totally out of place in the neighborhood … along with the entitled residence.

  13. The law states he has to stay one foot away from your property line. Did he? The photos seems to show land disturbance right up to the line. Also, when fences are erected the usual practice is to place posts “12 inches WITHIN the property line”. So your property may actually extend one foot into what this builder thinks is his land.

  14. A. David Wunsch

    Could Ms. Langer tell us the name of this “developer” ? He might not welcome the publicity .
    A. David Wunsch
    Staples 1956

    • Larry Langer

      Andy Frank.

      • I don’t know Andy but would suggest that he join the conversation lest be maligned by it. On perception it appears to have been a callous and so-not-green approach. The neighborly thing to do would have been to have a conversation. My grandmother built her house in Westport in 1951 and my family owned it when a neighbor “topped” many trees they thought were theirs ( I believe them ) for more sun on their pool and were apologetic. But my question then is my question now: these are your neighbors (or your buyers neighbors); shouldn’t we give the courtesy of a conversation regardless of your “rights”. If not, the digital age with blogging and viral messaging offers easier than legal and very powerful enforcement through “SHAMING”, which is how this is shaping up. Andy?

  15. Sandy Soennichsen

    Its one thing for the town to get involved with permits and P&Z approvals, that’s part of town government, but lets keep it there.If there was an issue with the trees that needed to be addressed then that builder would have had to go to the proper department for authorization, and if there was a request to alter the setbacks, fence lines, etc. then they would have notified the neighbors. But if everything meets the requirements, the builder/owner can do what they choose. Why then should he have to seek a neighbors approval for anything. What would be next? The size of my house OK with you….the color of my house meet your approval….is it OK to put my pool in…, do my cars meet your elitist attitude….is the color of my skin OK with you….is my religious affiliation OK with you?????? What if that new neighbor now complains about the noise emanating from the pool of the people enjoying themselves, should you have to limit when you can use your pool and control your noise limits? You wouldn’t like that, would you? Hey, you don’t like what’s going up next to your house, you now have an option, stay or move.

    • bobbi essagof

      I have to agree with Sandy. If you think back the generation before you said the same thing about you! Nothing is ever as good as it was. Just plant some trees that are your own and enjoy your beautiful new grandchild. Again, First World Problem! If you lived in Gaza…

  16. Chip Stephens

    Over past and present most of the Westport P and Z commissioners (even JW at times) have long been an advocates of saving trees and it has been painful to see most if not all developers take advantage of the lack of regulation to clear cut land for their developments.
    BUT folks this all comes down to not local regulation which we would all embrace in a microsecond, this is another Connecticut state regulation which does not allow us to regulate local property and allows this sad behavior to continue. We tried, we were told it will not hold up in court get the CT legislature fix it,,,,,, GOOD LUCK

    • Larry Langer

      Passing the buck Chip? If you want to get serious about this, please get in touch with me. It’s time we took some real action.

      • jerrymacdaid

        Yes. Take action. Plant some trees on your property. Problem solved. Easy-peasy.

  17. Karen, I have lived on the property for over 20 years sharing the maintenance and care of those trees with my neighbor. I spent thousands of dollars maintaining them. We had an understanding that they were great for both of our privacy. I rebuilt the house 8 years ago and did not remove any of the mature trees that existed . Thanks for your comment.

  18. Robert R Mills IV

    I understand how you feel. It was rude for the developer not to consider the way neighbors feel about properties that abut their own. The real root of the problem starts with the Town. The Town of Westport is letting all of the local builders, and even investors from out of state come in and change the landscape, build the home that is too large for the existing property, sell it, make their money, and move on. With all of the new real estate taxes generated from all of these new homes under construction, I wonder if the existing Town of Westport residential tax payers will get a break on their new assessments when the Town reassesses their properties?

  19. I would do all I can to sabotage the construction of the F@@kers property..probably some noveau rich unmitigated prick..sorry for the language..just can’t help myself..it just make me sick that our hometown is being sold down the river!

  20. Mitch Spencer

    Ms. Langer,
    You say you have been a real estate broker in Westport for 23 years. How many teardowns have you sold to “dirtbag” developers? How many McMansions have you sold to the “noveau rich?” Now that the development is not convenient to you or that you are not receiving a commission it’s a travesty? A true case of NIMBY.

    • Hope Langer

      You are so absolutely wrong. I have actually worked with very few builders and the ones I worked with preserved the property. This has nothing to do with money ! It has to do with my privacy. The trees only served one purpose, that was privacy for myself and my neighbor. There was no reason to take down these trees. He can’t use the land for anything. Anyone buying this new house if given the choice would have voted to keep the trees for privacy. Don’t try to take the focus off what really happened here.

    • Peter Gambaccini

      You always leap to presume to know things about people that you in fact do not know?

  21. Britt E Anderson

    This is one of the more depressing posts I’ve read since 06880 began. I don’t live in Westport anymore, but it is sad to see these kinds of changes.

  22. Lawrence Ivan

    Larry – I have lived in this neighborhood. I didn’t think you lived in the house anymore? I know the people living there right now are not Langer so I am curious as to what house you are referring to.

    • Larry Langer

      Dear Ivan, the home in question is in fact 163 Bayberry Lane. We tried downsizing as we are now empty nesters but will be moving back to our home in June of 2015. Downsizing is not all its cracked up to be and having a grandchild and the possibility of at least some the kids moving back is very exciting. However, one of my daughters said it won’t feel like home anymore so will not be joining us. Andy Frank destroyed that. Thanks for your concern.

  23. Warren Zabransky

    @Lawrence Ivan – Larry doesn’t actually live in this property. It is a rental property for him

    • Mitch Spencer

      Ms. Langer- Can you please clarify the situation? Does it impede on your privacy or your tenants? Because as you stated that “this has nothing to do with money.”

    • Larry Langer

      Dear Warren, Mitch, Trevor and Trevor, or should we say friends of Andy, please read my response to Lawrence Ivan above for clarification. The short story is that this action has disturbed both our enjoyment of the house we will be moving back into and that of our current tenants. When Andy Frank cut down the trees, our tenant was hysterical along with my wife. I won’t lose one dime of rental income but the property has had a 6 figure loss of value. Thank you for your concern.

      • jerrymacdaid

        Why do you think your neighbor should be subsidizing the value of your property for rental purposes or otherwise? Did you pay them something for that benefit and get contractual property rights? If so, you have a valid complaint. Otherwise, did you think you were somehow entitled to a gift of that “six figure” higher value pre-development?

  24. Trevor Rodman


  25. Geez, why all the anger and name-calling? Me thinks the point was that the developer could have, should have, had a discussion with the abutter to describe what he had in mind before executing what he had in mind. It couldn’t have hurt, and perhaps common ground could have been found. Alas, common sense consideration is in short supply these days. It has happened so much here in Darien that the Select Board not long ago recommended that neighbors (yes, contractors are neighbors too, if only briefly) talk about major changes, including tree work, before exercising their property rights. It’s just common sense, and we are much the poorer when we forget that. DLS (ex-Weston and Staples)

  26. To everyone who has commented on my blog:
    Thank you for the many who agree and understand my frustration and for those who do not agree, you’re entitled to your opinion.

    I wrote this blog after much consideration. I waited until my anger had subsided to look at both sides of the equation. After much thought, my reason for writing this was because I wanted to open a dialogue with other Westporters and our town officials. I would like the discussion to begin and find a way we can preserve this town as other towns have done.

    I never wrote it to incite anger. Anger is not what makes change. As we all know this world is full of anger and rage. It gets us nowhere. We are now watching Israel, Hammas, Russia, Ukraine and many more engage in cycles of rage and retribution. Let’s be better than that.

    I am hoping we can stay on the topic and move towards consideration of our fellow neighbors. We have become a society that’s moving so fast we never stop to consider how our actions impact others. We are a sophisticated town with very smart ambitious individuals. I hope we can start a constructive, positive conversation.

    This is my home. My discussion is about preserving nature, being respectful of your fellow neighbor and about doing the right thing in life. Common Courtesy.

    Lets work together to keep Westport the beautiful rural town that we all love.


  27. jerrymacdaid

    Bob – since you didn’t use your full name, some chance Dan will feel obliged to delete your post. Given the worthwhile points it makes, I reproduce it here under my name:

    “As a Westport resident of seven years or so, I think the really appalling aspect of this whole discussion is the willingness of so many Westport residents, particularly the Langers (who I guess technically are Norwalk residents), to single out a member of our community in a very public forum and use highly offensive language against him like “dirtbag.” I don’t know this builder, but I can imagine he is probably a decent human being making a living like any of us, and probably has a family, perhaps in the community. Nothing is more common in suburban life than disagreements over trees and property lines. We have all experienced these with our neighbors. I think the really egregious behavior is getting on a community website and throwing language around as if this individual committed some heinous crime (when in fact by their own admission he is simply doing what he is entitled to do under the law.) I would submit that the really entitled people in town are not the dreaded newcomers with their young families and willingness to pay high property taxes and convert what are typically dilapidated ranch houses into viable new homes in which families can raise their children for decades to come. Rather, the entitled people are the ones who have lived here for a decade or two, think they can get on this blog and use whatever language they want about anyone in our community simply because they got into a routine dispute about trees along the property line, and generally act like they are somehow better than anyone who might move here because they’ve lived here longer. This cranky self-righteous attitude should be called out when it surfaces as it only undermines the welcoming, tolerant reputation that Westporters are supposed to have… at least the ones who actually live in Westport.”

    • I did have to delete Bob’s comment, because he did not use his full name. As noted above, Jerry is reposting a comment from a reader who identified himself only as Bob.

  28. brad french

    I know Andy and he is a good family guy. Plant some Green Giant arborvitae behind the pool house. They’ll grow fast no maintenance no deer problems and a better privacy screen. Enough with the drama. It wasn’t your property.

  29. Philip Ross

    A builders motivation in removing the trees is to raise the house up even higher and making the property higher than the road with a perfect flat lawn.. These motivations are understandable as long as the house height is set by the original property line and they replace mature trees they removed over a certain diameter. The builder should be required to get a site survey before demolishing a house to document the existing grades and mature trees especially if in wetlands.. The pre-demolition survey should be what future roof heights are measured from not the artificial heights the builders create by bring in tons of soil that raise the house up higher into the sky. If you take away the incentive to bring in fill they will build less McMansions and remove fewer trees…

  30. Nick Blaikie

    Same builder did the EXACT same thing to a property adjacent to my house with very similar results. We called the builder, not necessarily to complain but simply to ask what the entire plan for the lot was. Left a message – no response. Oh well.

    As it happens, that new property is also putting in a pool which necessitates a fence and landscaping. Judging by similar houses in the area and the nature of how the new house and property is situated, we are hopeful that a tall fence and trees will replace those that were removed, re-establishing some of the privacy that was lost.

    We’ve removed and re-planted ‘privacy’ trees on our own property over the course of our 15 years there, and while the initial reaction is the shock of the bare space, the new trees do grow and as has been written above, once they are on your own property, they are yours to control.

    • emily blaikie

      Yes my husband is much kinder in his words than I am. I have made several attempts to contact Andy Frank and he could care less. Not only did he decimate beautiful trees but his equipment and machinery topples over onto our property. We have a builder from Southport that we have used for many projects and before he begins a project goes to all the neighbors and introduces himself and tells them if there are questions or concerns please fell free to call. Wouldn’t that of been nice Andy Frank??? What a jerk.

  31. Ray Blaylock

    I just love how this article was written by someone who does not even live in Westport. They use the property as a rental while living in Norwalk. So clearly, this is not affecting the family first hand…they are just taking the opportunity to single out a developer because he did not do exactly what they said.

    The fact remains: The Langers do not live in the house that they are complaining about. Now Hope is attempting to cop pleas, trying to compare this to “Israel, Hammas, Russia, Ukraine and many more engage in cycles of rage and retribution.” Is that a joke? We are talking about trees here. Not humans…but trees.

    If it’s truly not about the money as Bob claims, why not just go buy your own trees? Oh i guess that would cost something. It’s much easier to waste time on an online blog trying to slander someone. This mob mentality is a disgrace. We can elaborate more about why The Langers do not live in Westport anymore, but unlike them, I am not trying to bring personal matters to a public forum.

  32. James Holmes

    Did the Langers alert their neighbors when they turned their house into a rental property? Of course not. But who wants to live next to a bunch of renters who have no financial investment in the community. I wouldn’t.

    The trees weren’t on your property, quit your whining and plant your own d*&^ trees.

    • James this is useless chatter! We pay our taxes to the town of Westport. We are going back to our property. Its our home. Again, disregarding the reason why I wrote this from the beginning.

      • James Holmes

        See it’s not though.

        You started this process because your neighbors did something to their property that affected you – without seeking your input or approval. They acted 100% within their rights, doesn’t mean you’re happy about it, and clearly you’re not.

        Yet you did exactly the same thing when you decided to turn your house into a rental property. Who knows who you might rent the property to. Might be some wealthy family waiting for their McMansion to be finished, or it might be a band of ruffians who can’t afford Westport real estate and want to take advantage of our schools and beaches without paying the high cost of entry. Really not your neighbors business, kind of like whatever they do with their trees isn’t yours.

        • Simon Finkelstein

          THANK YOU JAMES! I don’t think Hope realizes how hypocritical she is sounding throughout all of her comments. I really don’t know what she set to accomplish by writing this, but all it did was expose that she doesn’t even live in a home where they cut the trees down.

          They claim to be moving back in june 2015? Who knows if this is even true. if this were truly the case, they can plant some new trees now and get some decent growth by then. I figure that would be more productive than bickering and trying to slander a builder. This is what happens when entitled people get what they want by complaining in life…they being to think this will solve all of their problems! I am enjoying the irony that they don’t even live in Westport currently, yet chose to write on the 06880 blog. I wonder if Dan could add a NORWALK section of his blog, that way a Norwalk resident like Hope will have a better place to complain.

  33. Lauren Saums Grosner

    My husband and I moved away from Westport one year ago. We had talked about moving for years, but it was a difficult decision, as my family came to Westport in 1968. I graduated from Staples, Class of ’74, and my sons are Class of ‘01 and ‘05. The family has been involved with the Town of Westport for 46 years…the list is too long to mention here. I still have friends and family members that live in town. We could not wait to purchase a home in town to raise a family. We knew our boys would receive an excellent education.

    We had an unfortunate situation with a contractor eight years ago when this builder purchased the property behind our house. A beautiful, huge old tree was removed. The tree had roots that went into our yard, and while ripping out the stump, sections of our fence were broken and my recently planted perennial garden was demolished. In addition, this contractor placed building material on our property, and after advice from the Westport Police Department, “No Trespassing” signs were staked in place. The contractor proceeded to remove the signs, and the police were contacted again. This same contractor completely ignored the noise ordinance, and the police were called numerous times by myself and many neighbors.

    We had another issue with the dumpster, as it was placed two feet away from our property line. After contacting the Planning and Zoning office, I was asked how I knew this without being on the contractor’s property. I told the town employee that I used a tape measure while standing in my yard and questioned why the building regulations are not being monitored by the town. The answer was that there were not enough town employees.

    The following little story left me with a complete feeling of disgust. While I was tending to one of my gardens in the backyard, I heard a stream of water. It was not a hose. The contractor decided not to use the “port o potty”, and proceeded to relieve himself behind our fence. What I witnessed…eight feet away mind you…were two feet firmly placed in the ground with a stream of urine trickling down. I don’t think this “gentleman” meant to water the grass. I no longer gardened in the backyard while the house was under construction.

    After living in our home for 29 years, my husband felt it was time to evacuate the Town of Westport. That was my husband’s term to describe our decision to move. He is a veteran, and I guess he felt we were living in a war zone. I wholeheartedly agreed. We tolerated at least 20 teardowns for 12 years within a mile radius of our home. The noise, dirt, inconvenience and frustration of construction seven days a week for months on end was driving me out of my mind.

    I will not get into the lack of respect or concern for homeowners by Westport’s politicians regarding communication and monetary requirements for sewer systems. That is another story in itself, but in our case it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Aware that it is not impressive enough to live in a split level in Westport, we sold the property to a contractor. The contractor has an excellent reputation, builds beautiful homes and was extremely pleasant to work with. We knew the house was considered a teardown. Given that reality, we did not bother to list the property with a realtor.

    Please do not refer to me as cranky and self-righteous. Residents have been complaining about contractors and teardowns for years, myself included. Do not expect the town to address the situation, because the politicians…from the Board of Selectmen to the RTM…will do nothing. For those of you who are trying to make a difference, do not waste your time. I tried for years.

    We have no intentions of re-establishing our roots in Westport. Remember “Hit the Road Jack?” Well… we hit the road, and won’t come back no more. We now live in another state, where the beaches are gorgeous, the environment is closely monitored, and homeowners are only allowed to paint their houses certain colors for historical purposes. We truly love, love, love where we now live.

    Why does it matter if Mr. and Mrs. Langer live in the home they own? They pay taxes to the town. I truly sympathize with Hope Langer. Their property is/was beautiful, and the view and sense of privacy has been ruined no matter who lives in the house. Enough said.

  34. Does the developer think that homebuyers don’t want shade and trees on their property? As a prospective buyer, one of the worst aspects of a lot of new construction is the complete lack of shade on the property.

  35. Marion Howard

    A friend just alerted me to this thread. Putting aside the back-and-forth invective above, I will add that the unregulated removal of mature trees by profit-driven builders has far-reaching outcomes for residents not yet discussed. In my case, the property adjacent to my home was sold to a builder who removed not only the home, but every mature tree up to my property line. While the loss of screening trees (also along a pool line) was significant both financially and aesthetically, the larger issue is one not yet addressed here: Safety.

    The builder’s quick approach to yanking out decades-old mature trees and gardens was a backhoe in a scorched-earth fashion. While I was away at work – and with no prior notice – his team dug 5-7 foot deep holes along the property line which not only removed the mature trees on his side of the line (up to the property line) but more importantly, he cut the stabililzing roots of my trees that grew on my property line. Remember, trees and their root systems often straddle property lines but there’s no regulation in place for these cases. Two days later a slightly windy day brought four tress crashing down onto my property….crushing my pool fence, breaking my pump and housing, and requiring expensive removal. Certainly I was concerned about loss of beauty when those trees came down, but the most troubling aspect was this: Those trees fell WHERE MY CHILDREN PLAY. I shudder to imagine what might have happened had my children been outside, how easily they might have been struck by any of those four trees. I called the builder and received a similar response as the one cited above, “This is my property and I can do whatever I want with it.” To which I responded that his rights as a builder should NOT PUT MY CHILDREN IN PERIL.

    I called the town Westport town engineers who failed to respond. (I don’t know if there are two few personnel or this is too weakly governed.) I also called a tree expert who confirmed that the roots were cut…but who also was candid in sharing that, in his experience, making a case in court could be very difficult and expensive. I’m not a McMansion owner and don’t have the appetite or funds for longterm litigation, just a civic-minded Westport resident who has volunteered in the community, and has children in the school system. And yet, my rights as a homeowner, and the health and safety rights of my children have been made subordinate to the profit-driven interests of builders who exploit Westport for their gain, and leave the mess behind for residents to clean up.

    It’s time for the town of Westport to wake up and take a serious look at what its laissez-faire approach to bulider interests is doing….to the town’s character, to the rights of existing homeowners, and – not insignificantly – to the health and safety of its citizens.

    • Lauren Saums Grosner

      Marion- I was horrified after reading your posting regarding the safety of your children. Thank the heavens above nothing happened to your family. Your situation was obviously much more dangerous than what we had to contend with regarding our experience with a teardown. Please accept my apologies for making an issue out of losing a few plants. A perennial garden can be replaced. Beautiful children cannot. LSG

  36. Linda Smith

    This is the most upsetting thread I’ve read, Dan, and I agree with your deleting “Bob’s” comment (we all have to give our full names) and then a friend of his goes through the back door to post what “Bob” wrote. From what Andy Frank has said, I do think he is NOT a decent human being. And my heart goes out to Hope and Larry Langer for their calm sharing of what happened to them. We rented out our house for 11 years before we moved back to Westport, and we were AS concerned as when we became residents again. We paid to take care of the two acre property so that our tenants didn’t have to (and we had four good tenants over the those years). I do hope that someone starts a petition about trees right on the property line because it certainly looks (from photos) like the builder went ahead and did what he wanted as an F-U attitude. (“It’s all about the money, and what are you going to do when I’ve ripped out the trees?”) Dan, I wish you’d deleted Jerry McDade’s sleazy attempt of getting around your rule of no-anonymous-comments that has made 06880 so much more civil. His pseudonym of “Jerrymacdaid” is another attempt to NOT give his real name so no wonder he wanted to stand up for “Bob”.

  37. Christie Suppan

    Andy Frank IS a decent human being, Linda. Andy and his family are some of the kindest people i have known in the 12 plus years my family has lived here. I do not make a habit of commenting online, but do not want to be a bystander in the midst of these harsh comments and judgements. Plant some trees, Hope, and you will have control of what is on your property.

  38. Sharon Paulsen

    Wow, wow and … Wow. I’m blown away by all the fist-to-cuffs going on here. Holy moly.
    Been reading, and re-reading, and reading once again, all of the comments. I felt all the range of emotions expressed here, all of the anger, all of the open mindedness, all the “neutrals”, and all the mixed “in between’s” and “on the fence’s” opinions.
    Geez, and all I can say, when I circle back to the original post, is “Damn, what a gorgeous line of majestic trees, gone in a blink”. I’m not necessarily the tree hugger type (because if I say I’m concerned about our planet, it doesn’t mean I fall into a radical minded “at any cost” group-thought), but sh – t, one last hug of those gorgeous sky-born pines might have been warranted here.
    A sad post to be sure. If one didn’t weep for trees before (synonym for nature, our planet), would one consider it now, even if just for one plot of land?

  39. Suzanne Zarrilli

    As home building has increased, so has the loss of trees. Home developers apparently think that trees are unattractive. I think that homes without trees are unattractive.

    Local builders built 3 new homes in the back of my house on
    High Point Road, removing all the trees which protected noise & visual screening from my home.

    On Monday night until 11:00pm I had to turn up the music in order to sit in my own backyard to enjoy the beautiful summer setting on
    Moss Ledge Road. They are about to build another new home right next door to me, as well as 3 new homes in progress on the most gorgeous tree lied street in Westport. The trees have all come down on all 3 of the homes.

    If someone can tell me why towns like Darien, New Cannan, and Greenwich all have new homes but maintain their trees and we can’t protect ours, I’d like to know about it.

    Our town can prevent the use of plastic bags at the grocery store but cannot prevent builders from cutting down 100 year old trees.

    I have been a citizen of Westport for 20 years. Trees add to the charm of our town. It is what attracts people to this town as it doesn’t have the urban suburban feeling. It has a country like New England setting. Let’s keep it that way!

    Suzanne Zarrilli