Developing News: White Barn Preserve Under Attack

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.

The White Barn Theatre.

The White Barn Theatre.

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.”

The original low-impact plan for the "green school."

The original low-impact plan for the “green school” (pink building near center).

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.”

Save Cranbury - logo

7 responses to “Developing News: White Barn Preserve Under Attack

  1. Stephanie Bass

    I was under the impression that part of the acreage was in Westport and part in Norwalk. If this is true, don’t both towns have to ok any use of the property?

  2. Stephanie Bass

    Reread the article and see that my remark was naive; but still confused: are the 5 areas in Westport or Norwalk? are decisions made based on 15 acres or is the fact that it is in 2 towns factor in?

  3. We had a terrible experience with the fieber group

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  4. To stay current on this issue, feel free to LIKE our Facebook page for Save Cranbury: http://www.facebook.com/SavingCranbury

  5. What a shame that we have let most of the open space in lower Fairfield County be paved over. I have walked this property on the corner of Newtown Ave and Cranbury Road and suggest everyone do the same. I have encountered barred owls, blue heron, broad shouldered hawks, river otters and eastern box turtles. This is an issue for Westport as well because the Stony Brook runs through this property and then on down through town past Gilberties and into the Saugatuck. There are already flooding issues near Partrick Road and below. This proposed increase of coverage (80,000 sq ft + pavement) will create a much larger catch basin to flood this already vulnerable waterway. Let’s stop this…

  6. janet coughenour

    We all must take a stand on this all pervasive greed in Westport and Norwalk concerning open land. I for one will attend the meeting even if I don’t have a say, my presence will count.

  7. Cherie, care to elaborate about your bad experience with the Fieber Group? Thinking to build with them, and heard only very positive experiences.