As Westporters in 2 corners of town — Post Road East near the Southport border, and Saugatuck by I-95 Exit 17 — battle high-density housing, a 3rd neighborhood is also girding for a fight.
Since early 2003, Cranbury Road residents have worked to protect the former Lucille Lortel White Barn Theater property, on the Westport/Norwalk border. Nearby neighborhoods include Newtown Turnpike, and Partrick and Stonybrook Roads.
According to RTM member Matthew Mandell, then-Governor Jodi Rell secured 5+ acres of open space of the 15-acre property. The rest was to be taken over by the Connecticut Friends School. They would restore the historic theater and build a low-impact green school, instead of 18 houses that had been proposed.
Recently, the school decided not to go forward with its plans. The property now reverts to the Fieber Group — a New Canaan developer — which has applied for a special permit to build at least 21 homes on 7 acres. The theater would be demolished.
A new group called Save Cranbury – Again says that the proposed “conservation development” will include filling in wetlands elsewhere on the property. This may damage “the very drinking water and wildlife resources the easement was meant to protect.”
Mandell says that the Fieber Group is using “a specific Norwalk zone where the houses are clustered and the number is determined by the amount of acreage. They are including the open space land in their calculations.”
Mandell adds: “This developer was paid by the state, by you and me, for the land to keep as open with public access. Now they are trying to double dip — on top of destroying 3000+ square feet of wetlands and building houses in the wetland setback.” He calls it “a very unsavory plan.”
Mandell says that Norwalk zoning regulations are not as tight as Westport’s — and the city moves quickly. The first planning meeting is Thursday night at Norwalk City Hall (no public comment allowed).
Mandell’s bottom line: “Over-development and its impacts do not observe town lines.”