The Future Of Westport: Don’t Say You Weren’t Asked

With 2 major planning projects underway — for downtown and the beach — town officials are urging Westporters to make their wishes known.

Sure, you can click on the “Comments” section of “06880.” But nothing beats showing up in public, and opening your mouth.

The Downtown Steering Committee holds a “charrette” this weekend (September 20-21) at Town Hall. Satellite events are set for other downtown locations too.

your-downtown-logoCharrettes are collaborative work sessions in which design professionals, residents, merchants, municipal experts and others discuss and draft solutions to address specific opportunities and challenges.

This weekend’s charrettes follow a kickoff event on Monday. A couple dozen people heard about, and saw visuals of:

  • A park-like walkway along Parker Harding Plaza, with a footbridge leading to the former Save the Children property on Wilton Road.
  • A new 2-story retail shopping center between the relocated Kemper-Gunn House on Elm Street, and Brooks Corner — effectively hiding the Baldwin parking lot.
  • A redesign that cuts Jesup Green in half. All parking would face Matsu Sushi; half of the current lot becomes an expanded green from the river to the police lot (with gazebo and paths). At the top of the green is a new “community arts space.”
  • An area in front of the current Y will force Church Lane traffic heading to Main Street to turn onto the Post Road first.
  • New buildings on the Imperial Avenue upper parking lot.
  • Possible relocation of the police department, and construction of — yes — a new retail shopping complex.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for

The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for

The charrette begins this Saturday at 8:30 a.m., at Town Hall. A “walking tour” of downtown follows at 9 a.m. From 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.  back at Town Hall, there are work sessions, panels and discussions. From 3:30-6 p.m., “open studio workstations” allow discussions with experts about specific ideas and plans.

Sunday features more open studio exhibits and workstations (9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), followed by a closing presentation (1:30-3 p.m.).

JP Vellotti — a longtime Westporter who attended Monday’s kickoff — says, “This is our chance to define how we want our downtown to look, and how we interact with that space.”

The charrette will also include a special aerial video of downtown, produced by Staples freshman Rick Eason. For more information on the charrette, click on

Rick Eason's video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Rick Eason’s video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Then, on Monday, September 29 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee presents its recommended draft master plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Public comment is invited.

The Commission will make formal recommendations to the committee at a future public meeting. “It is important that the commissioners have sufficient time to digest the recommendations of the committee and the public input,” says Parks & Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

The full draft of the master plan is available at

Both downtown and the beach are important, and vital, parts of Westport. The changes to one (or both) may be large (or small).

How close they come to what you want may depend on how clearly (and strongly) you (and your neighbors) express yourselves.

6 responses to “The Future Of Westport: Don’t Say You Weren’t Asked

  1. Who was asked if this committee was necessary? This is yet another attempt to disrupt Westport by imposing the judgments of a few on the many. Addressing this committee at a bread and circuses event is a waste of time. The committee is not accountable to the electorate; the person who appointed it is. His intentions were revealed when the committee was appointed. The only “speaking up” that is effective is done at the ballot box. If you think all of these committees are unwarranted, then remove the people who appointed them. If you favor the disruptions, then vote for office holders who favor them as well. Speaking up at a meeting (diversion), held by a committee with no accountability to the electorate, will change nothing.

    • E. van Dorsten

      Please tell the public first how the town is paying for this, what the budget is and how much the mill rate will increase. The town could take a referendum vote in the November election on each of the beach and downtown proposals. But the voters need to know how much each of these proposed dollar $ expenditures will increase their taxes. Only then can the voters make an informed decision. Otherwise this is an open checkbook of taxpayer dollars.

  2. I have attended a majority of meetings for both the Downtown Steering Committee and the Comp Beach group and while I sympathize with Mr Petrino, the current administration has just been installed and it is therefore even more important for Westporters to attend these events and make their positions known. If we don’t, there is the possibility that both initiatives will become runaway trains, substantial financial burdens and residents nightmares. I am also concerned about a public who may not be educated in the Town’s regulations, prior town plans or previous discussions on issues that will be glossed over if not raised and discussed at these events. Both Committees have shown a proclivity for preconcieved notions that the public has already derided at various times at their meetings and in the press. The Town has spent approximately $300,000 on the consultants supporting these committees. We should understand if that funding has brought any value back to the town or have we wasted funds that could have been used for other town needs such as better maintinace of what we already have..

    • If the new regime were not sympathetic to the missions of these committees, the committees would cease to exist.

      I have lived in Westport for 35 years. Throwing good money after bad has been the SOP during that period. At this point, the $300,000 is just the beginning of a river of taxpayer dollars expended in pursuit of the objectives of a small group of committee members.

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    $300K for consultants! AKA chump change. The more chumps change, the more they stay the same.

  4. I’ve attended some of the Compo Beach group meetings and it was really clear that they had absolutely no interest in listening to the people raising objections and concerns. Somehow they think we need to compete with larger cosmopolitan areas / state facilities. This is a small town, not a major city. I am incensed that our tax dollars are being wasted and we will end up paying even more for amenities / increased maintenance that are neither wanted or necessary.