Y Seeks Clarification Of “Membership Cap”

During the many long months years decades it took for the Y to move from downtown, I thought the result would be a traffic disaster.

I envisioned lines of cars backed up and down Wilton Road, all the way to the Post Road. I’ve seen bad traffic there; I could not imagine it wouldn’t get worse.

Well, the Y has been out there next to Exit 41 for more than 2 years. And — you could blow me over with a feather — the traffic is not only not worse. It may even be better.

Maybe the lights have been rejiggered. Maybe everyone hops onto the Merritt and gets off at Exit 42. Maybe everyone jogs there.

Whatever the case, the traffic apocalypse never happened.

And next Thursday (March 2, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission may discuss a membership cap for the Y.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

According to an email sent to members, in 2008 — when the Y sought approval to build — the P&Z established certain conditions. One was a “membership cap” of 8,000.

The Y says they’ll ask the P&Z to clarify that the 8,000 “pertains to individuals that are of driving age.”

That makes sense. The fire marshal should care how many people are in the building. The P&Z should concern itself with the number of cars.

The Y did not ask me to write this. They don’t know I’m doing it.

But as someone who spent years imagining gridlock — and hailed the cap when it was first announced — I might as well admit how wrong I was.

10 responses to “Y Seeks Clarification Of “Membership Cap”

  1. Chip Stephens. Staples 73

    Let’s remember this was a rather contentious issue with a lot of passion on both sides in town. When the Y finally got its approval it was through negotiation and agreements that allowed both parties to move forward.
    Remember that the P and Z not only follows the regulations that are set out but also listens very carefully to all sides and issues like this. My hope, as a member of this commission, is that both sides come out say their piece (peace) and give a reason of ruling one way or the other when this issue Is in public session this week.

  2. Michael Calise

    It would be important to know the Y’s current membership numbers as it relates to the current traffic situation. I am sure that the current cap took into account the anticipated membership age range and resultant traffic impact.
    In spite of the controversy surrounding the Y move I think most will admit that they have done an admirable job with the project and its continued operation. However, we must not lose site of the fact that it is in a residential neighborhood treasured and enjoyed by the many families who reside there.

  3. Are children included in the count? Seems wrong….

  4. I agree. I am continually surprised how little traffic is near the YMCA. I go there 2-3 times per week in the early evening which is normally higher traffi around town. I get to the Y so quickly now. Well said Dan.

  5. The membership cap was clearly meant to apply to the number of members, the Special Permit makes no mention to anything less, and this was tortured, debated and carefully written. For the Y to subsequently claim that the P&Z Commission really meant this membership cap, with annual reporting, to actually mean a “membership unit” (one version of their new story) or “only those members of driving age” (their most recent version) is beyond merely “stretching the truth” – it’s a lie they concocted when they finally supplied the annual membership info to the P&Z and, Lo and behold, they were well beyond the cap mandated by the condition.

    Also, the membership cap condition was put into the Special Permit for more than just traffic generation reasons – the load placed on the experimental septic treatment system the Y installed also directly relates to the number of members (of whatever age) that use the facility. By the way, the Soecial Permit also contains conditions relating to pollutants observed at test wells; these pollutant levels are not to exceed thresholds set by the Conservation Commission. Guess what? Just like the membership cap, the pollutant levels observed at the monitoring wells routinely (always?) exceed the maximum levels. Maybe because the experimental septic system is overstressed by more members . . . What I CAN tell you is Lees Pond, the body of water into which these pollutants migrate, is in a state of failure.

    This wasn’t supposed to happen. Of course, the Y’s members who enjoy the new facility but don’t live near the Pond or don’t have reason to know about the negative impact on the Pond and the Saugatuck River are sympathetic to the Y – but now that you know, perhaps you’ll see it differently.

    I look forward to hearing what the Y has to say at the P&Z meeting this Thursday, March 2nd.

  6. I think they should have a cap
    On their membership fee! It has become much less affordable for those who just want to pop in for an occasional class or workout.
    Too inconvenient for the price they charge!

  7. Don L. Bergmann

    Clearly the Y’s proposal needs to be fully understood and vetted. All terms of any Special Permit are important, with a cap on the number of members being especially important. Also important is an understanding of the process to alter in any significant manner a Special Permit issued by the P&Z Comm. I hope the Y is not trying to avoid the rules by characterizing this as a “clarification”.. If the Y is doing that, that in itself could possibly be a reason for the Commission to reject this effort. I have been involved in the past and will continue to be so.
    Don Bergmann

  8. Good points, Jack and Don. THANKS for bringing them up!

  9. Is the Y running all the programs they did at the old location? Have they added back the Gymnastics and the childcare yet. I don’t know all the details but those were two of the reasons I feared so much traffic. If they haven’t added those back yet then of course it’s not as busy. If they have then, never mind!

  10. We live close to the Y. There is no noticeable change to traffic once the Y opened. This includes all hours of the day as I use Exit 41 to go to and from work.