UPDATE: 180 Cross Highway: Important Meeting Moved To November 17

Last month, “06880” highlighted the efforts of Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie to preserve their 1700s property on Cross Highway. The couple — who spent years restoring a home and barn — are asking the Planning & Zoning Commission for a waiver. It would allow them to live in the barn but sell the other structure, so it can be loved, cared for and maintained in perpetuity.

Nearly 100 people supported Mark and Wendy in the “Comments” section, or via personal emails and letters.

Part of the Cross Highway property.

Part of the Cross Highway property.

Now it’s time to put our money where our mouths are. Tonight (Thursday, November 3, On Thursday, November 17 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the P&Z hears the waiver request. An attorney for one set of neighbors — who oppose the request — will argue against it.

Mark and Wendy have — very quietly, and with an eye toward history — enhanced their historic neighborhood. They don’t like speaking in public.

But they hope that their presence later this month — and that of other concerned Westporters — will speak volumes about the value of preservation.

25 responses to “UPDATE: 180 Cross Highway: Important Meeting Moved To November 17

  1. This is a very important meeting for the people of the town to preserve the history and historical architecture of what remains of Westport. It is also important to be heard, support, and challenge the personal invective and spurious attacks made by local mega-mansion resident, Robert Yules. His ugly display at the last P&Z meeting, documented in town archives, is available to see. You may also see the substantive facts and very detailed, historically accurate presentation made by Wendy and Mark. Not only must town residents help to preserve the character and history of Westport, but we must stand up to self-serving, money grubbing residents who only look out for their own interests.

  2. The town residents are owed an explanation as to why the town attorney has decided to postpone the meeting on the day of the meeting, once again creating a hardship for the Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie, as well as the residents who support historic preservation. Why wasn’t this announced before?

  3. As the owner of an historic 1764 house on Cross highway that I had designated a landmark and and as Vice Chair of the Historic District Commission, I strongly support Wendy and Mark in their efforts to preserve their two historic buildings !

    (custodians and current residents of BANKS TAVERN circa. 1730)

  5. We support will try and be there

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Jerry MacDaid

    Aside from perhaps Mr Yule, I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone trying to prevent the Mark and Wendy from preserving their historical property. Indeed, if the P&Z rejects the request, that will not prevent Mark and Wendy from preserving their property at all, though they might have fewer financial resources to do so. If anything, a P&Z rejection preserves a historical property intact, the way it historically was.

    What this seems to be about is, like most things related to real estate, money. Let’s face it, Mark and Wendy will be enriched by a positive P&Z decision as the value of the two individual properties will almost certainly exceed its value as a single parcel even if the sold parcel is subject to deed restrictions. By subdividing the property, they will get an inflow of cash which they may or may not use to further preserve the parcel they keep but, in any event, reducing their financial burden. Perhaps it is, but I don’t recall financial hardship being a valid reason for granting subdivisions.

    That might not be a bad trade if the request is within the existing rules encouraging preservation. If it is outside the rules, it is not entirely clear how or why the P&Z could support the enrichment of Mark and Wendy versus any other Westporter that wanted to subdivide their property in violation of zoning regs. Maybe if within the spirit of the preservation rules but…

    It strikes me that one thing that might make this more fair to everyone while encouraging preservation in town is if Mark and Wendy gave the town all or part of the value created by the P&Z overriding their regs. For example, if the property is worth $1.5MM as the current single parcel and $2MM (i.e. two $1MM parcels) subdivided, donating the difference to the town to pay down debt would seem fair. Mark and Wendy would still get an inflow of cash to support their preservation efforts from sale of one parcel while not being unjustly enriched versus other Westporters who might like to subdivide but are prevented from doing so due to zoning restrictions.

    Just a thought.

    • This concludes the low information portion of today’s programming.

      • Jerry MacDaid

        Low information presumably only because it is factually accurate and obvious so there should be no need to point it out. Unfortunately, others have chosen to spin this as purely a preservation vs anti-preservation narrative. Something tells me, Morley, that if this involved a 1960’s split and a developer was suggesting subdivision, you would be out in front of the opposition defending the zoning regs and decrying the greed of the developer.

        I have no issue with preservation, by the way. If that is what people want to do with their property, or if that is what the town chooses to subsidize, that’s fine with me. Only, in the latter case, everybody should understand the economics of the decision they are making rather than the emotional spin. I appreciate, however, that it is easier to play on emotion and obfuscate the economic reality.

        An alternative, I suppose, would be for the town to just give Mark and Wendy $1MM out of town coffers to support their preservation efforts and allow them to keep the historic property intact which, from a preservation perspective, would be a better outcome. However, that the similar value transfer via allowing subdivision of the property appears to be “free” does negate the enrichment of Mark and Wendy relative to other taxpayers in Westport.

        • My unsolicited advice: stop digging.

          • In some places, that might be considered a threat. Should I expect to find a horse’s head in my bed? 😳

            • The low information assessment was a bit too kind it seems. Evidently you’ve never heard the (common) expression “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” So you can come out now, Besides, I only use the horse heads on developers.


              • Jerry MacDaid

                Thanks for the condescension Morley. Personally, I think cutting through the emotional surface layer of any issue and understanding the underlying cold, hard economic reality is helpful to the discussion. And adds information that is otherwise ignored if not obfuscated. Actually trying to correct the low information approach.


                • While you’re selflessly cutting through stuff for the benefit of those less informed, I suggest you ponder this: somebody must have written the original draft of Sec.32-18. That act would have, of course, required more than emotion. See if you can work out who that person was.

                  • Jerry MacDaid

                    Though I have not read them, I’m quite aware of who wrote the preservation regs. As I noted in my comment on Dan’s previous post on this subject and (admittedly less clearly) above, if this is squarely within 32-18, it’s not clear why there is any angst over this. Rightly or wrongly, the town has already made its decision in support of preservation by permitting this subdivision and P&Z approval should largely be ministerial.

                    Indeed, if it is squarely within 32-18, that information probably should have been in Dan’s post and, since it wasn’t, would have been a more helpful and informative response from you rather than your initial condescending comment.

                    It would also be a helpful response from you now if that is true and the debate can be over, Dan can close these comments and no one needs to write anything to anyone in support of the request. Easy peasy.

                    However, that there is all of this gnashing of teeth and call for folks to write to the P&Z in support of Mark and Wendy’s waiver request suggests that this is not squarely within 32-18 and, therefore, further deliberation, debate and support is needed. If that is the case, then all of the participants should have all of the facts and background to make an informed decision to support or not hence my humble contribution to the discussion.

                    • Thanks for the confession. Perhaps you might want to read the reg. before further lecturing its author.

                    • Jerry MacDaid

                      Why don’t you just use your vast superiority over us mere mortals and answer the question of whether or not this request is squarely within 32-18 such that no debate (and, accordingly, no further information or analysis) is necessary? A simple yes or no would do.

          • Bart Shuldman

            Jerry. Thanks for explaining the ‘facts’, something Morley seems to avoid.

  7. I knew the day would come that historic houses would become out of character with their neighborhoods. Only in Westport…

  8. I wish them the best. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for their success.

  9. Yes, I believe this application meets the standards set forth in Sec. 32-18, as amended.

    • Jerry MacDaid

      Thank you. In that case, my earlier comments regarding the underlying economics, while accurate, are irrelevant to the P&Z decision which should fly through without issue.

      Good luck and Godspeed to Mark and Wendy in their preservation efforts.

      • I agree, your earlier comments, on their own, were well articulated and perfectly sound. The only problem was that they flowed from the premise that equity of outcomes across all classes of structures, historic or otherwise is the general objective. But that isn’t really the case. As the preamble and the text of Sec. 32-18 makes plain, this is a special zoning incentive designed to address a very particular problem and encourage something which the town has determined to be in the public interest.

  10. Maybe it would help if Jerry and Morley would just speak English rather than Minion?