Next Round Set For RTM/Baron’s South

Earlier this month, the RTM’s P&Z Committee met for 5 hours. Most of the time was spent hearing from 4 petitions against the P&Z’s vote to declare all 22 acres of the Baron’s South property as open space, and 1 in support. The committee also heard from the P&Z and town officials. Public comment began at 11 p.m., and only a few citizens spoke.

Tomorrow (Monday, April 20, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the committee will hear much more public comment. There will also be summations by the P&Z, and the petitioners. Then the committee goes to work, making its recommendation to the full RTM.

On Wednesday (April 22, 9 a.m., Senior Center parking lot), RTM members make a site visit to the property. The public is invited on the 30-minute walk, but is requested to not ask questions or make comments. The time to talk is tomorrow night.

The South Compo entrance to the Baron's South property.

The South Compo entrance to the Baron’s South property.

The following Tuesday (April 28, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the full RTM will decide the Baron’s South issue.

RTM member Matthew Mandell — who provided the above information — has
created a website with relevant information. It’s available to the RTM and the public. Click here — and keep following this important discussion.

34 responses to “Next Round Set For RTM/Baron’s South

  1. Chip Stephens - Staples 73

    In advance of Mondays meeting, on the proposed reversal of the Open Space Designation of Barons South, I ask and urge all those who will attend this or the full RTM meeting to please review the PRE APPLICATION presentation to the P and Z on March 12

    the Link is :

    play by pressing the forward arrow on the picture or click on archive tab fast forward or reverse with slide below the picture

    go to time 41:30 to 1:10:00, and later if you want to hear all the comments in the following DOSRD proposal.

    Please listen so you can decide if the statements you hear at the meetings made go along with what is on the record, archived tape, on both sides of the issue.

    Does Rose Guarantee or can they prefer Westport residents or do they say Federal Fair Housing rules probably do not allow this?
    Do they explain where the parking for 250-300 employees and 75 -150 renters will go or say we have not figured that out yet?
    Do they explain why in this newest “concept” they will request Westport float tax free and low income bonding?
    Do they explain how the proposal is 25 affordable, 25 moderate and 25 market independent units and 90 market rate Assisted units, translates into 60 percent affordable ?
    Does Rose propose to pay for cleaning up the park or do they say they will help the town “look at it”?

    I thank you all for your patience, your participation, and keeping a fair open mind throughout these hearings


    Chip Stephens
    Chair Westport P and Z Commission

  2. “The public is invited on the 30-minute walk, but is requested from asking questions or making comments. The time to talk is tomorrow night.”

    Maybe the public is being asked *to refrain* from asking questions or making comments. And if that’s the case, for whatever reason, such an attempt to regulate the circumstances of a citizen’s speech in a PUBLIC place about a PUBLIC issue is appalling. RTM members can simply refuse to answer.

  3. The proposal is called a Senior Affordable Housing Complex, and everyone assumes that because it is in Westport it is for Westport residents. On the contrary, when asked at the P&Z meeting whether Westport residents would be guaranteed a residential unit, a member from the Rose Group said no such guarantee can be promised because it would violate Federal Regulations. This immediately nullifies the proposal. It is a real estate deal between the developer and the town, not a development that will secure the future in town for Westport residents.

  4. As Ken Bernhard said in his letter: “the developer has proposed to include a Westport priority in the leasing of the apartments. However, a proposal does not mean any more than putting forth an idea for something to be done. It does not “mitigate the concerns of some that a lease of town land should serve the local community needs,” as Ken further clarifies. I can propose ferry service from Westport and other waterfront towns in Fairfield County to various harbors around Manhattan. This would be a perfect and necessary method to relieve the congestion on I-95. It would be an excellent way to preserve the environment and enjoy the beauty of the trip to and from work, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will happen.

  5. Secondly, the proposal is incomplete on the part of the town, and no lease should be granted until the town clarifies:

    1. How people will be chosen to reside in these units and who will decide who is chosen because this immediately opens the town to challenges and lawsuits. No one will accept being turned down.

    2. Who is a Westport resident:
    a. Someone who currently resides here? But for how long?
    b. Someone who has lived in Westport before, moved away, and would like to return to retire?
    c. Someone who has and continues to pay local taxes in Westport?
    d. Someone who is on the invisible waiting list for The Saugatuck at Bridge St., or other affordable housing in town?

    3. How a Westporter or any other applicant will qualify according to age:
    a. According to current arbitrary age status for seniors between 55, 62 and 65—membership in AARP, Social Security, or acceptance for Medicare, for example?

    4. How income and need will be determined:
    a. By current income or employment and federal tax forms?
    b. By savings, real estate value of current home, investments, pensions, etc.?
    c. By Social Security benefits and a pension, or Medicare, exclusive of (b) above.
    d. By health and doctor’s recommendation?

  6. In addition:
    5. Imperial Road cannot handle the amount of traffic that will be created by the Senior Affordable Housing Complex and will create traffic congestion at the intersection of the Post Road because of the caretakers, staff, and workers necessary to run the complex, in addition to residents who will continue to drive, as most seniors do (again we are back to the definition of “age” and health), and their visitors.

    6. As result, an access road will be necessary on Compo Road South, the main route to the beach, Longshore, golf, tennis, family pool, ice skating, etc. The Rose Group claims this will be unnecessary.

    7. If the lease is granted and in several years it is determined that the complex is encroaching beyond the allowed space and need more land, it will be very difficult to deny it once the complex is in place for “seniors.” What will happen if a Senior resident can no longer afford the rent? Evict that person?

  7. 8. I am a person who qualifies as a “senior.” I have also had a great deal of experience taking care of parents and grandparents who needed special care; therefore, I believe a lease cannot be granted without knowing how the residential units will be designed. For example:
    a. What kind of bathtub will be in each unit and how will it be accessed?
    b. How high, low, and deep, will kitchen and bathroom cabinets be, as well as closets in other rooms?
    c. Does each unit have a washer and dryer?
    d. How is the garbage collected and where will the trash receptacles be located?
    e. What emergency precautions and other measures will be available in each unit?

    These few points, among others that need to be perfectly clear, may be taken for granted, but until you have to take care of an elderly person or a parent who is seriously ill or has special needs, you cannot imagine how
    essential they are: One stumble and the manner in which care is given and its costs change dramatically.

  8. The town should not be allowed to consider parceling off land from Baron’s South for proposed senior housing without a plan that is clearly defined, outlined, and accessible to all Westport residents with complete information for their consideration and approval.

    To meet the requirements for affordable housing in Westport and reduce the threat of another developer coming in and overriding town rules with federal laws, senior housing can be built in other areas of town because this proposal is not site specific. It is also true that the land on Baron’s South is under-utilized and with a good reason: for many years no one knew that it was there or that it was open to the public. Even now, after two town Selectmen and administrations, there is no sign or plaque denoting it or showing access to this park-like land. Neither is there adequate parking for residents to explore and appreciate it. Why not?

    Once we give up land that is very precious and beautiful in the middle of town, it is never coming back. Senior Affordable Housing, however, can be located in other places.

  9. >>It is also true that the land on Baron’s South is under-utilized and with a good reason: for many years no one knew that it was there or that it was open to the public. Even now, after two town Selectmen and administrations, there is no sign or plaque denoting it or showing access to this park-like land. Neither is there adequate parking for residents to explore and appreciate it. Why not?<<

    Good point. This and the past administration have failed to make this public land accessible for recreation. A prime need for senior citizens is recreation. Why has this land not been made accessible?

    • This beautiful forested land has been kept under wraps for the most cynical of reasons: our temporary leaders don’t want any of us to develop an affinity for it in its natural state. You’d never know it, but there are actually supposed to be dedicated parking spaces for Barons South at the Senior Center. See any signs? Nope. Most politicians just can’t resist the siren song of open space – a place where they can put their name on a building – and this property has been harassed and stalked by them from the get go. There’s only one problem: beyond a narrow band of insiders, elites and other interested parties, almost nobody wants what’s being sold. And who would? A sprawling, private facility to warehouse humans – from all over the region? In our town forest? Get real.

  10. I am not really sure why our town leadership did not examine other more appropriate locations such as The Westport Inn. Rose could have done a wonderful job there and the reuse of the property would be far more appropriate in lieu of decimating the last open space in Westport! I agree 100% that not enough effort has been made to create an attractive and visible entrance for use as passive recreation space, aside from the many questions as to how will such a senior care facility, in general, benefits Westport Seniors. No one I have asked who supports this proposal can answer this question definitively! That is enough of a red flag for me!

  11. A 30 minute walk to ascertain the value of a 22 acre parcel of heavily wooded town owned open space to the health and welfare of present and future generations of Westport residents? That’s unserious – but I’m not surprised.

  12. Sharon Horowitz

    I agree with you Werner–Yesterday, out of curiousity, I went for a walk/hike through Barron’s south with my kids and mom. First we had trouble finding the entrance -then we could not find out where to park. But we persevered -and I’m glad we did. We had a delightful time -and my kids discovered the play area by golden shadows and were bitterly disappoined to find the poor condition it was in. Soon as we walked the paths we forgot we were in Westport. The experience is different from walking along compo because you are actually immersed in nature-in that you do not see cars and a lot of houses. It’s a true feeling of solitude. We love to hike -and often go to surrounding towns for their trails, –and we were thrilled to learn we have these trails and all it’s potential in Westport. Surely this natural beauty is the future –and should be protected. Why does the town want to give any of it away to developers for them to make a profit? I understand and support the need for senior housing, but surely there are other locations for developers to actually buy the land and build a housing complex. Why does it need to be on Barron’s south? And-I strongly encourage all families and all generations who live in Westport to go explore Barron’s south for yourself. You will see it for the treasure that it is.

  13. Oh now you’ve done it Sharon, you’ve told other Westporters about the beautiful forest they own at Barons South. The grandees on the Barons South Committee are probably on their way to your house at this moment in their black Lincoln Towncar to help you get your mind right about a few things. You see Sharon, you and your children need to “share” the forest with a massive amount of new construction because this will, quite obviously, “save” it. I’m so glad we had the chance to have this chat – now go make sure all your pets are indoors.

  14. Let’s face it…nothing personal…Rose would be the most qualified. I want to congratulate the Baron’s South Committee for their excellent service and diligence and sincere commitment to seniors….but you are not helping Westport Seniors. You did a great job selecting the appropriate developer…if only it was another piece of land in Westport! This will be a travesty if this piece of land is developed for the benefit of one specific group of Westporters….many who I know support it…who seem not to understand that this is not going to be some miracle solution for age in place housing needs here in Westport. Want a pool…go to LongShore in the summer….Human Services…work out a deal with the Y… I say…let’s age around town…not just one place. Let’s not add to the increased traffic downtown and realistically anticipate what the Bedford Square Project will draw alone…not to mention the Downtown Plan….as that unfolds. Hopefully, when the public gets to comment at the RTM meeting… our a Town Representatives will be listening!

    • Per usual, the public testimony at last night’s RTM P&Z meeting was overwhelmingly and passionately in favor of open space. On the other side: a grim, grinding, airless, slog of scripted talking points by insiders, elected officials. Naturally, the RTM P&Z Committee voted to recommend overturning the open space designation. Nobody was surprised. No matter what clever phrase is deployed, the take away is that it was a vote for senior housing and a vote against open space.

      Our stewardship over the past 20 years could be summed up like this:

      How about now?
      Okay, what about now?
      Fine, fine, fine, now?
      Right, got it, now?
      Well, what about now?

      See a pattern?

      • Carol Buffinton

        I was saddened to see the way this meeting was run. It was extremely uncomfortable and bordered on harassment when the planning and zoning commission people were being questioned. Is this the face Westport wants to show the world?

        • If you listened carefully last night, it was clear that even the supporters of senior housing don’t think it has a chance should an application ever come. Which it won’t. Makes you wonder what the five hour hearing was actually about. I know it wasn’t really about “process” as some are fond of saying. I know it’s not about senior housing – and it’s certainly not about open space. At this point it looks like it’s just about getting even.

          • Morley, you and others have made a fundamental error. You are discussing the merits of the P&Z decision when it is clear that the merits are irrelevant. The “process” is driven by the desire on the part of the RTM P&Z Committee, and other political office holders, to give away public resources to a favored private profit making entity. It has happened before in Westport and it will happen again.

            As a senior citizen who has lived in Westport for over 36 years, it is apparent to me that Westport seniors are being played for fools once again. The housing project will provide little or no benefit to either the Westport community at large or senior citizens, arguments to the contrary are not sustainable. However, the Developer and his entourage will benefit substantially.Among the entourage is Ken Bernhard and his law firm, Cohen and Wolf. It is Mr. Bernhard’s good fortune that one of his law partners, Eileen Flug, is the moderator of the RTM. So, when you assess the probability that a real estate development proposed by Mr, Berhard’s client might have a hard time getting past the RTM, you might want to think again.

            • Mike I agree with you about the likely underlying desire of some who are closely involved in this matter. It’s what so many have been talking about; it’s ugly, and you’re right, it’s not new. But there is, to my point above, something else that is going on as well. I could be wrong, but I sense that for a certain few, it really has nothing whatsoever to do with money.

            • OK, I’ll bite. Are you saying that attorney Bernard, a political appointee on the Barons South Committee, also represents Rose?

              • No. But Ken is advocating their position, and I wonder why.

                • I’m not sure what it means, but I see that an attorney by the name of Peter A. Arturi from Mr. Bernard’s firm of Cohen & Wolf is listed as the “correspondent” for Jewish Senior Services’ trademark. Jewish Senior Services is mentioned in the latest proposal from Rose.

                  • If Mr. Arturi does represent the Jewish Senior Services, and he is a partner in Cohen and Wolf, then it seems that both Mr. Bernhard and Ms. Flug might have more than the appearance of a conflict of interest, and Ms Flug should step down as moderator for the April 28 RTM meeting.

                  • Fascinating. This “Baron’s South” drama could surpass that of “Downton Abbey” with such hand-wringing, teeth-clenching, secrets and betrayal… perhaps insider trading, as well? Truly fascinating.

  15. Bart Shuldman

    We should demand that the newspaper or some source publish the vote by every RTM member. This way we will know how they voted and can use that to decide our votes if and when the run for reelection. It was also allow us all to know who was responsible for giving away town land to people outside of Westport. This potential disaster that will challenge our town with costs and very little benefits (less than .3% will potentially benefit) can be held to those that voted to overturn the P&Z decision.

    I hope Dan Woog published their names and votes.

    • Last night’s vote by the RTM’s P&Z Subcommittee was unanimous. The final RTM vote has not yet been taken.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Dan. The coming vote is one of the most crucial and important votes our RTM will make. Giving away town land for the promise that CANNOT happen could be a travesty.

        What we need to do is show every RTM member and how they vote next week. This way those that are against the ‘mis leading’ promise and the lose of the land can hold accountable the people that vote this project in, during the next election.

        • Mr. Bernhard’s partner will be “moderating” the RTM meeting. I think he will be happy to see Ms. Flug’s friendly face.

          • Bart Shuldman

            It appears this project has become one that our leaders just want to ‘win’ despite all the issues and the fact it might help less than .3% of Westport residents. That’s .003 of all residents.

            I am surprised that Ken Bernard after what appears to be a good public record has put so much of his name behind this. Without real details to understand the true impact on Westport and all the future costs and non resident issues he continued to go forward. But maybe it should not surprise anyone-given how Hartford has overspent for decades and given away so much the state had over $100 billion in liabilities we cannot pay. So Mugabe his record holds-give away things and forget the details.

            I will continue to stay positive that our RTM members will look at this objectively and come to the conclusion this is bad-not only for the 99.7% of Westport residents but also for seniors, who are made to believe they have a chance at this housing.

  16. Bart Shuldman

    Before anyone jumps to any conclusion, Eileen Flug needs to let Westport know what involvement her law firm has-or does not have. We all need to hear from her so this is either cleared or not. Nobody should come to any conclusion until we hear from her. She deserves our respect and patience until she comments.

    These are very serious allegations and clearly could cast a cloud on this project. Of course, Eileen Flug should recuse herself immediately from voting and being involved as a RTM member if her law firm has any indication of interest in this project or if her law firm is involved in anyway with an entity that can benefit from this project. I am sure she knows that.

    Unfortunately now that this has been raised, it needs to be addressed. Wow.

  17. Is someone going to let Marpe or whoever know that there is a problem?
    As I use attorneys in my business all the time, they (the attorneys) always check to see if they have a conflict prior to taking whatever business I am referring to them..if they do they say thanks but no thanks.

  18. Eileen Lavigne Flug


    I will indeed be recusing myself from running the meeting on Tuesday. While Cohen and Wolf does not represent Jonathan Rose Companies, it has come to my attention that Cohen and Wolf represents the nonprofit Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield County, Inc. on certain matters, although not on the proposal for senior housing at Baron’s South. While I myself have no connection with the Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield County, Inc., and while I believe the connection to be attenuated since the matter before us is a zoning issue and not directly related to the proposed senior housing project, in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict and any concerns about the RTM’s process and deliberations, our Deputy Moderator Velma Heller will be running the meeting.

    Eileen Lavigne Flug
    Moderator, Westport Representative Town Meeting

  19. TAXES could rise-seniors be careful–you could see higher tax bills.

    Let me explain. An offering by Ken Bernard as noted in a recent Westport article would be to use the $1 million that the developer will pay Westport towards buying open space. What open space we can buy for $1 million–who knows. But this is where the issue comes in—as presented by our Westport leaders, the money we will get from the developer will ‘help cover the costs’ Westport would experience due to this project. We will not make money from this project–just cover the costs (and who knows if it will cover all the costs).

    So if we use the $1 million for buying open land (or the downtown project), then Westport will see our costs rise by at least $1 million. If costs in Westport go up, then taxes have to go up. There is no way to avoid that. Costs increase, taxes go up.

    So many seniors will never get into the Barons South housing. But they could face higher taxes if this new ‘offering’ by Ken Bernard is approved.

    This seems to be somewhat of a desperate move to get everyone to accept losing the open space at Baron’s South. Be careful os what is being offered.

    From the article……”it’s not legally binding, that the up front payment from (proposed senior housing developer) Jonathan Rose of $1 million would supplement open space purchases or to fund some of the recommendations of the Downtown Steering Committee, which is what the Planning and Zoning Commission should be buying on to as well,” Bernhard said today.