Consultants Plan. Candidates And Readers: Respond!

On Monday, “06880” gave a nod to the Westport Historical Society’s “06880 + 50” exhibit. It’s an intriguing look forward, at how our town might look and act 5 decades from now.

Yesterday, Saugatuck Center Transit Oriented Design consultants unveiled their latest master plan.

Looking forward themselves — but only 5 to 10 years — they presented a vision for the area bounded by the train station, Saugatuck Avenue and Riverside Avenue.

The landscape looks beautiful — filled with trees, sidewalks, a realigned park and improved lighting.

There are also over 200 new residential units. Plus more than 40,000 additional square feet of retail space. And new deck parking.

Colored areas show possible development of Saugatuck over the next 7-10 years, based on a presentation by the Transit Oriented Design group.The railroad station is at the bottom; the intersection of Riverside and Saugatuck Avenues is at the top.

The development of Saugatuck is exciting. It’s also challenging and controversial.

It comes at a time when downtown Westport grapples too with new development — on both sides of the river.

Many plans for the future look great. Many blend our town’s history and heritage with the reality of today, and the promise of tomorrow.

Sometimes they miss things. Traffic — as anyone who has crawled through Saugatuck or sat on the Post Road can tell you — is central to all aspects of life here.

Our infrastructure is aging. Our public services are stretched thin.

The future of the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is key to any discussion of the future of Saugatuck. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

This November, voters will elect a first selectman — and 3 Planning & Zoning Commission members.

Four Westporters are vying to be chief executive. Five are running for the P&Z spots.

All will face issues involving preservation of historic structures and open space. They’ll weigh in on amorphous subjects like town image and character, and concrete ones like personal property rights versus property development.

All candidates are invited to chime in on those topics right now, in the “06880” “Comments” section. Of course, readers can pipe up too.

But here’s something we can all agree on: Let’s keep it civil. Discuss the issues in a positive way. Don’t bash others; no ad hominem attacks.

After all, this is Westport, not Washington.

Our future is in our hands.

(Click here for the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design website. As of yesterday evening, the most recent presentation had not yet been added to the site.)

71 responses to “Consultants Plan. Candidates And Readers: Respond!

  1. Carl Addison Swanson

    By 2050, the sociologists tells us that there will be a 100 million more Americans in this country with the big cities being Atlanta, Dallas and Denver because of the weather and housing affordability. As such, I don’t see the big boom coming to Westport as it did during the Wonder Years here. That said, I have always maintained the downtown area should take advantage of the water more with shops instead of asphalt along Parker-Harding Plaza and a car free zone north of the Post Road along Main Street. With the current trend of inequality in this country, I see the return of huge estates here with a diminishing population and with technology, who needs the stores, schools and dinner out? All will come to you at your home.

  2. Carl Addison Swanson

    P.S. And hopefully, with any plans, they will include facilities and things to do for the kids of this town. Growing up here, we had movie theaters, a bowling alley, hockey rink, driving golf ranges, trampoline center and a short drive to Port Chester? Now? Condos.

  3. Matthew Mandell

    Two things on the Plan and the election
    1. What the consultants offered was their vision. The committee decides what makes it into the plan. So while there were to some interesting and also far reaching concepts, there still is a ways to go on this.

    2. Election – The Chamber of Commerce will be holding a First Selectman’s Debate on Thursday October 12th at Noon at the Library. More on this as it approaches.

  4. This consultant’s report is a put-up job for developers, and is best described as a “Field of Dreams” fantasy – if you build it, they will come. The population of Westport has been essentially stable for 50 years, yet traffic density has exploded. Access to the train station during morning and evening rush hours is a nightmare, and there have been numerous posts about the traffic at Compo Beach this summer. Furthermore, there are tens of empty retail locations (including some eyesores such as the former AJ Farm Stand) and hundreds of houses languishing on the market, completely undercutting any contention that we need more commercial, retail or housing units. In the face of these realities, the consultants deliver a report that promises to increase pressures on every single aspect of living in Westport. The Town leaders should reject this kind of fact-denial and produce a report that addresses real problems, not cater to developers’ dreams. We neither need nor want more pressures on the Town’s services and amenities. And we especially do not need more traffic, an inevitable sequelae to more people.

  5. Thanks, Mark, for the sensible post….let us hope the right folks pay attention.

  6. Thanks for writing this Dan.

    I’ve carefully reviewed the proposed plans – and given it a lot of thought. Stepping back, I think that our real problem is that we do our planning backwards. We hire consultants to tell us what we want. They come up with grand plans for redevelopment that never consider the long-term impact on infrastructure, taxes or community character. Before we let the consultants loose, we should be having a conversation, as a town, as to what we want. Do we need or want greater density downtown or in Saugatuck? What problem are we trying to solve by building parking garages on Elm Street, Charles Street and Ferry Lane? What are the unintended consequences of all this new development for traffic, future mill rates and quality of life?

    When I look at Saugatuck Center, I see a train station that serves local commuters, historic narrow roads and mostly one or two story buildings, Mom and Pop businesses, a quiet residential area, and of course the Cribari Bridge, which is both iconic and a deterrent to truck through traffic. Frankly, the suggestions I’ve heard the TOD consultants propose for Saugatuck would hurt every one of these elements that define Saugatuck’s character. There is always room for improvement. For example, it would be nice to have a grocery store in Saugatuck. But do we really need to realign roads and build huge new structures to get one (and might that be counterproductive, since rents will be too high to support a grocery?) It would be nice to have bike lanes, but do we need to snarl commuter traffic even more to build bike lanes on every road? These are the sorts of discussions that Westporters should be having, openly and frankly, with all voices heard (including the commuters, who have no voice on the Saugatuck planning committee) BEFORE consultants are hired. Consultants can’t be expected to manage the difficult work of clarifying our towns competing hopes for Saugatuck into a single, unifying vision. That is the responsibility of our town’s elected leadership and why I am running for First Selectman.

    • I think John’s approach is inherently logical. As someone who lived in Westport for over 37 years, I don’t remember any significant project for which the town had not had a fairly well fleshed out set of parameters before engaging outside resources. As for any plans advanced by consultants from afar, I would recommend you follow the money. Finally, given the financial chaos that now reigns in Hartford, I wonder why the town of Westport, when making plans for the future, would assume that it would not be affected by that chaos which has lead to a decline in statewide population for almost three years running.

  7. David J. Loffredo

    Until the State of CT pulls out of its fiscal death spiral I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time, energy, and money building more residential and retail capacity.

  8. Don L. Bergmann

    I am pleased that First Selectman Candidate Suggs has expressed views on the Barton Partners proposals for Saugatuck. Unlike John, I believe consultants can be a driving catalyst for improvement and Barton has done a good job. Much discussion and finalization remains to occur. I expect Jim Marpe and Melissa Kane, the major party candidates for First Selectman, will express their thinking. I believe that Westport is continuing to benefit from the consultancy work of RBA for Downtown, with that effort being led by Melissa Kane and Dewey Loselle as co-chairs of the Downtown Committee. I expect similar benefits for Saugatuck and will be making my thinking known. Most of the near term concepts of Barton Partners are good, as are changes to Ferry Lane. The biggest issues to me are (i) the cost benefit analysis of an open air parking deck and (ii) making sure that new or modified structures do not create density problems, most notably traffic issues beyond that which already exist during rush hours. The overall aesthetic and public space changes proposed by Barton are excellent.
    Don Bergmann

  9. I tend to agree with what John Suggs wrote above. The future of Saugatuck should not be driven by Philadelphia-based consultants who don’t live here but, nevertheless, have been hired to do our towns planning. They have no skin in the game. This has not worked, so why do it again? We will be the ones who will have to live with the result of their work.

    I remember months ago, at their town information mtg virtually every resident who came said “no parking garages at the train station. This is a safety issue!” Yet here is their “deck parking” still prominently in their plans. I am not sure where the disconnect is.

    John keep up the yeomans work!

  10. Andrew Colabella

    Westporters should be building, designing and creating westport…not an outside firm that does not benefit from its work, doesn’t serve them, and do not have to deal or face the reprocussions. We spend a lot of money on development for our facilities and land, which is 97% occupied with a building that serves retail or residential. The population of the town has stayed steady. The traffic we cannot blame on population within town, but those commuting to westport train station, a major hub to the surrounding neck of the woods towns. I feel we need to take a step back and really analyze what’s trending now but also design to KEEP the heritage, asethetics, and milieu of our one of a kind, revolutionary, town we call home.

  11. Without taking away from the work of the resident volunteers on the TOD Committee, I would have generally preferred that we hadn’t accepted the grant money for the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development Study. The purpose of any TOD study is mainly to supersize density around a transit hub in towns that aren’t yet built out. I’m sure that’s a worthy and appropriate objective in many less developed places across the state but Westport is fully built out and poor Saugatuck needs more traffic like a screen door on a submarine.

  12. Dan – Thanks for the opportunity to answer your question about planning for Westport’s future.

    The process can indeed be a sticky one. As you mentioned, we have to carefully weigh everything: from the preservation of Westport’s historical and physical character, to the protection of and, hopefully, addition to, our open and green spaces, to mitigation of traffic, to ease of use, accessibility and functioning of our assets and, perhaps most importantly, to our sustainability – both our environmental resilience and our economic vibrancy.

    These are not necessarily goals that can be accomplished harmoniously unless the answers are innovative and very well thought out. They are also goals that cannot realistically be met unless we are open to thoughtful compromise that results from good, open, consensus building. Compromise is often where solid, positive progress happens.

    Well chosen experts and consultants can certainly be helpful in the process of mapping out Westport’s future. But it is the voice of the town that is most important to me.

    I worked hard to listen to the town in creating the Downtown Plan and engaged over 3000 Westport residents in our planning process. It will come as no surprise that as Westporters we are not a monolith, but certain themes arose from the public input that hold up today and are central to me as I think about all aspects Westport’s future:

    – We are a small town and we must maintain that character however we grow. It is an asset.
    – We need to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible when we consider any solutions to our challenges and have our sustainability at the heart of any initiative.
    – We must always first consider the needs of our residents. We as a municipality, in our actions, interactions, and future planning, must be more focused on better representing our citizens.

    Whether it is the future of Saugatuck, the better functioning and improvement of our downtown, the creation of senior housing, the care and upkeep of Longshore, our beaches, our Cribari Bridge (or any other bridge), our general infrastructure, planning of public transportation or creating policy to ensure we are keeping Westport competitive, vibrant and economically stable, I will have these values in mind.

    I will make sure to include the voice of the largest number of Westport residents in the process to make sure their interests and expertise are reflected in any planning directive or policy.

    I also firmly believe we should not discount any idea until its merits are fully vetted.

    This Town deserves leadership that will work hard and speak out to represent the interests of as many Westporters as possible.

    • Catherine Walsh, Chair of the P&Z Commission

      YOU did not create the downtown plan, RBA did. The Planning and Zoning commission began the process under Ron Corwin in 2009/2010. Our subcommittee morphed into the Downtown 2020 and was headed by Lou Gagliano in 2011. The Planning and Zoning Commission was involved and in a public hearing, under my Chairmanship, agreed to support our first selectman, Gordon Joseloff in securing the funding. We, P&Z, supported doing a plan because we saw the need for new sidewalks, lights, landscaping and knew that public financing would be available only if we had a plan. The town invested $200000 to finance a plan which has resulted in well over $1.1M in grant money being secured by our fantastic employees, including Dewey Loselle and Steve Edwards. I made the presentations to BOF in 20112012 on behalf of the P&Z commission. YOU were later appointed by Jim Marpe, in a show of his bi-partisanship nature, to be co-chair of HIS committee along with Dewey Loselle. You work for Jim, who because of his graciousness and against the advice of many of us, has allowed you to continue on, despite your vicious attacks on him via your surrogates.

      • Robert Harrington

        So many positive comments from all sides here… but surprise surprise Cathy Walsh makes a series of political and negative comments. The town needs to change the way it does business – and this type of inward looking “this is my club” comments need to stop. You need to watch some of the video streams of the P&Z meetings. Your treat some of the apolitical residents like they are dogs. Congratulations to everyone else on here who is discussing the issues. Cathy Walsh is delivering more of the same. I really hope the tone of the P&Z changes. It needs to. And I am a NOT a Democrat. The blog on this issue (until Cathy Walsh got involved) was a good debate and constructive. Cathy likes to rush things through with not enough public discussion – and all of Westport will soon get to see her legacy in the next few years opposite Westport’s best education asset – Staples High School – after she waved through the construction of two massive 33-38ft water towers on North Avenue. Her legacy will be the “Cathy Walsh Water Towers” on North Avenue. Congratulations to everyone else for a good debate.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Robert. Care to post your last name?

          • Robert Harrington

            Of course. Harrington.
            Wasn’t trying to hide from my comments…just a simple error.
            Bart I always enjoy and fully respect your candor

            • Bart Shuldman

              Thanks Robert. You clearly show your support of Melissa with your many posts. Unfortunately some of your posts on different media sources seem to reflect your feelings not the facts. But I understand this is probably due to election season.

              • Robert Harrington

                Will be supporting candidates from ALL parties – based on their views – not party colors. Kindly point out which facts are inaccurate – I will amend if wrong. All my posts have been removed from the Marpe/Tooker even though they were factually accurate and most were just questions of our elected officials. Where do you stand on the water towers? Why didn’t you take a clear view on education funding debate ahead of important May 17 vote etc? Several residents have had their posts removed from the Marpe/Tooker site. We are trying to get a bigger debate going in town on certain issues – but I appreciate that sensorship and the abilty to delete debate / comments is every politicians right. I will be supporting many people running in his party.

                • Bart Shuldman

                  Robert. When an organization has a $100,000,000+ budget I do believe you can find a $1 or $2 million savings as the town of Westport had to absorb millions of dollars of lost payments from the state. I do not believe any of the potential savings would have caused the issues the schools superintendent decried. “Low hanging fruit”.

                  Our seniors in Westport deserved it.

                  • Robert Harrington

                    So Bart – now you are just criticizing the new Superintendent of Westport Public Schools? ….”She decried” ….. I agree every organization can and should cut $1-2MM from an original budget – and that why the Superintendent cut meaningfully more than $1MM from her original request. Furthermore they underspend by more than $700k for the prior year – and just handed back the restoration amount they requested from the next year. I celebrate the Superintendent of Schools – you want to criticize her. Please don’t try and put me against any Seniors in Westport.

                    • Bart Shuldman

                      Robert the fear tactic used by the superintendent was sad and wrong. To tell Westport she would cut freshman sports and other programs was ‘over the top’.

                      It is my opinion that anytime property taxes rise in Westport hurts our seniors. In addition as property taxes rise some seniors might leave Westport and if a family of 4 or 5 replaces them our town costs increase. The family replaces tax paying seniors that do not use our schools and therefore keep thentown costs lower.

                      You continue to say you are a one topic resident in a westport-schools, schools and schools. The impaCT of higher school costs can hurt our seniors and there should be a balance. We lost funding from the state and again, it is my belief the school budget could have been adjusted without the scare tactics. Without hurting our seniors.

                    • Robert Harrington

                      i will leave you to speak out against the Superintendent of Schools – I don’t want to do that.

                      The restoration vote for education in 2017 did not hurt seniors. Our petition campaign was focussed on restoring the school budget. It also succeeded in getting more people involved in the discussion (that typically don’t attend BoF or RTM meetings) – we are proud of that. It was also critical to avoid headlines of School Budget cuts to the Superintendent’s School budget – and we achieved that. This gets tougher going forward – but given how precarious the real estate market is in Westport right now – we cannot afford to take a risk with our schools.

                      School budget AND the Tax Rate are important for real estate market.

    • Melissa, firstly thank you for your service to the town; serving on any board, commission or committee is a thankless task.

      With respect to your three takeaways about the Downtown Westport Master Plan, I having the following observations:

      1. “We are a small town and we must maintain that character however we grow”. I fully agree. I’m just not sure how the Downtown Westport Master Plan’s recommendation to install even more signage throughout the town furthers that worthy goal.

      2. “We need to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible when we consider any solutions to our challenges and have our sustainability at the heart of any initiative.” As we speak, contractors working for the Town of Westport (in violation of the permit issued by the Historic District Commission) have torn apart an ancient and beautiful stone wall that frames the south side of Veterans Green in order to install a sidewalk and stairway to this park. Veterans Green is a registered historic property on account of the fact that it is a sensitive archaeological site. No one knows what became of the soil that’s already been removed from the excavation area, but my main point is that no one actually asked for this sidewalk (there’s a perfectly good on on the other side) and nobody asked for the staircase either (there is a park entry just a few feet away – and it’s handicap compliant). Moreover, there is no recommendation for these items in the Downtown Westport Master Plan – yet it was the Downtown Westport Master Plan Implementation Committee that brought this project forward. Watching heavy earth moving equipment driving around a sensitive archaeological site in the furtherance of a very expensive sidewalk and staircase to nowhere is upsetting to me both as a preservationist and a taxpayer.

      3. “We must always first consider the needs of our residents. We as a municipality, in our actions, interactions, and future planning, must be more focused on better representing our citizens.” I agree with you that listening to residents is a very important consideration when it comes to planning. What troubles me though, is that there are many things in the Downtown Westport Master Plan that residents specifically said they DID NOT want. Such as parking meters and a parking garage on Elm Street. How did things like this end up in the Plan as specific recommendations after they were rejected by the residents who would be expected to pay for them?

    • Melissa-the town has leadership that has represented the interests of Westport residents. Your political noise has no facts. And it is quite funny how you keep saying you are going to improve traffic in town without any specifics. Who is responsible for the major roads in town? And how
      much money has been poured into public transportation only to find lack of ridership. Your post has many words but no details. I wonder why.

  13. Valerie Seiling Jacobs

    In my capacity as a concerned commuter and resident, and as a Co-Chair of Save Westport Now, I have attended almost every presentation by these consultants. While some of their ideas are no-brainers (better sidewalks, better lighting, and more landscaping), most of their ideas present problems for residents and especially for commuters.
    Their idea to add 200 apartments to Saugatuck and to build parking garages at the RR station are just two examples. Just think what traffic will be like when we add 200 new residents (and hence, 200+ new cars) to that already congested area—or when hundreds of commuters are lined up at rush hour, trying to get in or out of a garage. Funneling hundreds of cars into buildings with limited ingress and egress will likely make a long commute even longer. (And no one has done an analysis of the extra costs to the town of building OR policing such garages, which present recognized safety issues.) Moreover, adding parking at the station is likely to invite more out-of-towners to use the station, which will also increase congestion. (Westporters cannot be given priority for parking.) 
    For all those reasons, Save Westport Now is continuing to monitor and comment on the plan. If you agree with our views, we hope that you will vote for our P&Z candidates (Michael Cammeyer, Danielle Dobin, and Greg Rutstein) on Nov. 7. They are committed to protecting residents and preserving our quality of life.
    Valerie Seiling Jacobs
    Co-Chair, Save Westport Now

  14. Clarissa Moore

    Thank you Cathy Walsh, P&Z Chair, for setting the record straight and ‘telling it like it is’. YOU, Jim Marpe, and many other elected officials have worked tirelessly to improve Westport. It is just wrong for Melissa, who is very nice, but totally unqualified, to lie about her role. I served with Melissa on the RTM and NEVER saw her do any heavy listing. She would be a DISASTER. Let’s give credit where it is due.

    • This is a really unhelpful comment.

    • Dick Lowenstein

      Hi Clarissa, I haven’t seen much of you online since Mike Petrino, your husband and still a frequent poster, and you moved to Sarasota in the summer of 2016, where “the weather is better and the taxes are lower.”

      As for your time on the RTM (from March 2013 to November 2015), you and Melissa Kane overlapped for just 8 months. As I was on the RTM during that overlap period, I recall that Melissa — like you, a freshman member — at least listened. And please, repeating Walsh’s charges doesn’t make them true.

    • Wow. A “DISASTER” defines what is happening in and around Mexico City today, not to mention Puerto Rico and surroundings.
      No person should ever be labeled as a “disaster”.

    • Robert Harrington

      I am not an elected official – merely a Dad of four that campaigned earlier this year for full funding for our Westport Schools. I have hands on experience of her role on that issue and that vote. I saw Melissa – and a handful of other RTM members – including Andrea Moore, Jen Johnson, John Suggs, Jim Izzo etc all go out of their way to move the debate forward and see serious heavy lifting. I saw it up close and personal and we achieved over 2000 names to our town wide education petition & we achieved our intended result. Melissa’s help – along with several others was huge. The restoration of school funding achieved would NOT have occurred without her input. What does that have to do with the downtown plan? fair point – but it shows how hard she was prepared to lead and fight in the open – and the drive she gave me and others behind the scenes on that issue – we we were desperate for leadership. I would bet that person would show up for other fights too.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Robert. Only one person was able to help keep our property taxes from rising while the Board of Education refused to find ways to lower their expenses and that was JIM MARPE.

        Seniors in Westport who help to pay for our school costs clearly benefited from Jim’s work to cut town expenses so property taxes remained relatively flat.

        One thing you seem to miss is Westport is about all RESIDENTS.

        • Robert Harrington

          Thanks Bart. There were many items in the town budget that went up my more than 5pct for the comparable period. The school budget is not one of them. In the Edication budget – over $700k was underspent in the prior year that just finished and the equivalent requested restoration increase from the RTM was handed back to the town for the prior year period. My question in the last few weeks and at the time – was not suggesting that Marpe was anti-schools or edication. That is ridiculous. All Westporters are pro schools. It’s just some didn’t vote in favor of the budget or take a clear view. My question was more – for someone like Marpe that has a rich background on committees like the BOE etc – why didn’t he take a clearer position on the education debate in April/May 27? “I fully support the restoration”…. or “I don’t support it and want to see the BOE cut more aggressively” etc. Certain people like Melissa – but republicans too like Andrea Moore, Jimmy Izzo, Jeanie Smith took a very clear view – and voted accordingly.

          Just because I supported full funding of the schools in the April/May 2017 BOE/BoF & RTM votes – and Jim Marpe didn’t make his view clear – doesn’t mean I and others don’t support all resident in the town.

          • Bart Shuldman

            Everyone should know that Jim Marpe stepped up and cut HIS budget to help save some of the budget cuts for schools. There is no better sign of HIS support of the schools and education in Westport.

            I have lived in Westport for many many years and have dealt with many many increases in our property taxes. Everyone in Westport should thank Jim Marpe for his leadership and management in keeping property taxes basically flat over FOUR years!!!! 4 YEARS!!!!!

            • Robert Harrington

              That is NOT what happened during the April and May BoF and RTM votes. Go and listen to his April speech at the BoF in April of this year – it’s all there in the archives. The REASON the budget was largely restored was because of the actions and votes of the 26 RTM members. Without that vote the budget for 2017/18 would be smaller. That campaign and RTM vote occurred INSPITE of Jim Marpe’s leadership. Getting a 2/3s majority on the RTM to achieve restoration was a tough battle and we could have done with a loud voice – or any voice of support from Jim Marpe. That didn’t come. Others running this time from ALL parties were MUCH clearer. Yes Melissa was one of the most important leaders – at the education /finance committee meetings but also behind the scenes helping us every step of the way. But to be clear – so too were MANY other key players like Andrea Moore (R), Jenny Johnson (I), Jimmy Izzo (R), John Suggs (I), Candi Savin (D) etc. I couldn’t care less what party they came from. We cared about their actions, words and votes. I am pleased the BoF and Jim Marpe have held taxes flat – I truly am. We got over 2000 Westport signatures to support Education Budget Restoration for a Westport Schools and we were hoping Jim Marpe would stand up and support us. That didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean he’s not pro schools. We have never said that. What we am saying – and let me be very clearly – a louder and clearer statement or voice from our First Selectman could have boosted our chances. We had to win without his help in that particular process.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Robert-Melissa’s no vote in the contract is why she should NOT be elected First Selectman. This contract corrects the imbalance of the benefits compared to the private sector. Melissa’s no vote shows she cannot be trusted to protect the Westport tax payers and she will bring Hartford to Westport.

        The State of CT is broke due to the huge benefits costs. Westport should and must not become Hartford. Melissa just demonstrated her intents.

        • Robert Harrington

          I support candidates from any party for a whole range of reasons. However – and without question – the top reason EVERYTIME is always – and will always be – Education & the Westport Schools.

          We might disagree on that – but I am being fully transparent on what drives my thinking. I support all of Westport and all residents. However, Education will always be my top priority. Everyday of the week. Every month. Every season.

          • Bart Shuldman

            Everything in government is about cost and how to get the revenue. Right?

            Melissa votes to stop the new benefit agreement in Westport that is needed to stop the bleeding with the benefit programs. Eventually they would crowd out the spending for education in Westport-just like what is now happening in Hartford.

            So, if I take you at face value, with Melissa’s vote, you should be posting your concern. RIGHT?

            • Robert Harrington

              Bart you asked – “Everything in government is about cost and how to get the revenue?”. I will leave political theory to you. I support the BoF and the BoE working much more closely together to get ahead of things like this so we don’t have an intense budget fight every year. But if we need to have one – we will. I fully support giving the Superintendent space to bring about faster but appropriate partnerships between the town and the schools – to get savings without affecting specific programs and the classrooms. This should have happened more quickly in the past. It didn’t. I am confident in the signs that players from both parties are moving to get ahead of this for future years. The First Selectman can play a major role in this. I am proud we helped to restore the budget for Westport Public Schools – and we avoided headlines of “School Cuts” when neighboring towns like Darien and New Canaan were not reacting in the same way. I celebrate the RTM and all those members that helped to restore the schools budget. It seems you didn’t want it restored.

              • Bart Shuldman

                Westport property taxes have been held steady with the leadership by Jim Marpe. I have lived in westport ans watched as thentown accumulated a lots of debt and high town worker benefit costs. It was not that long ago when a westport found out that OPEB was not only underfunded but the town under counted the amount of town employees that received the benefit.

                Now Westport has paid down the debt and added a lot of money to the pension liability and OPEB. And now Westport has negotiated a much more fair benefit package for the town employees that unfortunately Melissa voted against. This clearly shows the she would create a Hartford in Westport

                Those are just the facts.

                • Robert Harrington

                  Bart – do you know why Jim didn’t speak up more in April and May during the education debate? That is a fact. No one on his campaign seems to want to discuss that. I was banned for asking the question from his social media page. The Marpe campaign is banning too many people from debate, deleting comments or suppressing opinions of residents. Not once has he explained the quiet stance he took during the restoration debate when we needed leadership.

                  Education is my top priority – and you are telling me that isn’t the case for you. You are attacking me for stating clearly that it is. That seems to be a fact. You are openly criticizing the new Superintendent of Public Schools. That is a fact.

                  There were many items in the Westport town budget that went up more than >3% and the school budget wasn’t one of them. How do you feel about all of them?

                  You may criticize me putting schools first. I on the other hand would like to celebrate your support of the seniors in the town.

  15. There is something to be said for deciding upon goals toprovide a context within which consultants should work. On the other hand, it is helpful to have access to real-world data and suggestions that might not have occurred to others before conjuring up a vision for the future. That’s what planning is all about.
    What troubles me as I read these comments is a subtle leit motif that planning for the future is an exercise in futility. This is and has always been the guiding principle of those such as SNW who like to pretend that the status quo is sufficient and that change, growth, development – whatever you choose to call it – can and should be resisted at all costs. That unrealistic approach is what led to the formation of the Coalition which advocates for greater emphasis on the planning process and attention to a realistic view of the future.
    Westport has conducted study after study at substantial cost, only to have most of them wind up in a drawer because they weren’t perfect in the eyes of those who speak loudest. There will always be things to criticize in any plan, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t plan or that nothing short of perfection is helpful or desirable.
    The Saugatuck Study Steering Committee has done an admirable job thanks to the leadership of Mary Young, the efforts of volunteer citizens, and the work of a team of responsive consultants – and it has done its work in public. It is to be congratulated, not criticized for providing a draft document which, in terms of substance, clarity and transparency, puts the POCD to shame.

    • Catherine Walsh, Chair of the P&Z Commission


      You forgot to mention Craig Schiavone as the co-chair. I will refrain from commenting on your political dig. It was wonderful seeing you the Library the other night. You are to be commended for all of your efforts on that town project.

  16. Jennifer Johnson

    I am the Coalition for Westport’s candidate for P& Z in this fall’s election. Because of my longstanding interest in such issues, I have attended every meeting of the Saugatuck steering committee. I write to express my disagreement with the comments made by John Suggs. Although Mr Suggs asserts that he has conducted a “detailed review”, it did not include attending the committee’s several public sessions, and as a result, Mr. Suggs has reached conclusions which are both unhelpful and inaccurate and do an injustice to the conscientious volunteers on the committee.

    The study, which is ongoing, was funded by a $450,000 state grant which runs out in December. Much of that money was used to retain a team of consultants who did an outstanding job of incorporating the comments of many interested citizens into a Draft Report which will undergo further revision.

    While the Draft is not perfect, it is an excellent first step toward improving bicycle and pedestrian safety, managing traffic flow, preserving historic buildings, providing for access to the river, and screening parking from public view. This is a real plan, a vision for the future which, once adopted, will have the collateral effect of positioning Westport to attract funding from state and federal sources to implement the recommended improvements. I look forward to being a part of these and other worthy improvements if I am elected to serve on the P&Z.

  17. Matthew Mandell

    Let me way back in on one issue here for clarificatio. Jen talks about screening parking from public view.” AKA a parking garage, not trees. Their concept is to build liner buildings in front of a two level structure on Lot #1 next to Luciano park. This lot would not increase the number of spaces globally in Saguatuck, but consolidate. These buildings could offer retail, office and possible housing.

  18. WAY back in, Matt?

  19. CATHERINE WALSH Chair of the P&Z Commission

    You’re not wrong…but I’m going to clarify a few things for the folks who read this blog.

    Barton Partners presented multiple possible CONCEPTS for the near, medium and long term. There are 1508 parking spaces currently and 1665 proposed, both of which DO NOT include the 15 spaces being added now or the possible underground parking when or if the Railroad Place rebuild ever occur or the private lots. The consultants are doing a good job in presenting concepts . There will be a lot of input into any plan and tweaking to do along the way, but there will be a starting point with a direction that COULD be followed to improve traffic, parking and safety for pedestrians and commuters in Saugatuck. This document will assist the town in securing possible Federal or State funding for projects in the public realm (infrastructure, parks , side walks and river walks).

    • Matthew Mandell

      Thanks. The private spots should not be part of the commuter parking calc. If RR Place moves forward, replacement of the Morton’s spots would need to be part of that calc etc etc, as not additional… I’ll have to relook at their parking numbers. It’s clearly a moving target based on the different scenarios.

      Bottom line though, screening was new buildings, not landscaping.

  20. Thanks to Cathy Walsh for the kind words. It is most generous of you. It’s good to have friends in high places.

  21. I can’t believe some of the viscous attacks I am reading. Where is the respectful dialog we all should want on this and other important issues? Shame on you Kathy Walsh.

    • Richard. Why is it wrong to pint out false statements?

      • Dick Lowenstein

        Dan already edited out Walsh’s personal attack.

        • Dick–maybe the tone of Cathy’s response was wrong, but it is also wrong to post misleading information. No doubt Melissa used Dan’s post as a political ad that had false statements. Hopefully Dan will allow people to point out anymore that happen as the campaign gets closer to election time.

          • Dick Lowenstein

            False statements only if you accept Walsh’s pronouncements as truths and not misleading.

  22. “Save Westport Now”? Uncanny.

  23. As a candidate for the Planning and Zoning Commission, I support the idea of improving traffic, parking and pedestrian safety in Saugatuck. In fact, I would love to see these improvements throughout the entire town! There are a lot of talented people in town working on this project and I’m interested to see it latest draft evolve over time. As we move forward, though, we must protect the property rights of the residents of Saugatuck and use caution to avoid unintended consequences.

    Jon Olefson

  24. As a resident and regular commuter, I am troubled by this proposal. It is likely to worsen the existing congestion. The recommendation of additional angled parking on Riverside is, in and of itself, evidence of the imprudence of this plan. Can you imagine what the traffic would be like as drivers try to back out of these parking spaces during the bumper to bumper rush hour.? If we are not careful, we will make the commute intolerable and drive down our property values. We need to put our trust in organizations like Save Westport Now — people who do their homework, who are not beholden to developers, and, most important, who are willing to put residents first.

  25. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    A small town that thinks big may develop more problems than its trying to solve. Perhaps that war was lost in Westport years ago.

    • It’s always easier to say no than to say yes. Once you say no you’re done, but when you say yes there’s work to do. Curb your negativity and roll up your sleeves.

      • Are you kidding, Larry? It’s easy to play Santa Claus. I fully expect P&Z to say NO to stuff to safeguard our town. And I don’t spend a second thinking about whether that’s negative or positive. Just whether or not it’s good for Westport.

        • I guess it depends on your point of view about what’s good for Westport.

          • Exactly – and reasonable people can differ about what’s best for Westport. So let’s retire the “no is negative and yes is positive” meme. Our P&Z commissioners’ job is difficult enough without putting something that seems slightly manipulative on them too.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

        Larry, you obviously define negativity as disagreement. However, I do like your statement: “Once you say no you’re done.” Equally true when you say “Yes” because its easy to destroy the character of a town and almost impossible to reclaim it once its gone. If I still lived in Westport I’d definitely be “rolling up my sleeves.” And I doubt you’d like it, so be careful what you tell me to do 😉

  26. The take away from reading the comments above is there is no middle road to Saugatucks development. The fact is it can barley handle the growth it has had as of recent.. These consultants with there …somewhat disconnected Disney layout will for ever change the vibe that make this are of town special. Think before we leap and we must remind ourselves about the comments that have been made by some of the candidates running for office and truly examine there experience and not just their commitment .

  27. I’m either missing something or speaking a different language than my responders, or this kind of forum inherently invites misunderstanding.
    Mr. Buchroeder suggests that “perhaps the war in Westport was lost years ago” (war?), and I respond by saying, in effect, that we shouldn’t stop trying. For reasons that escape me, that provokes snide and hostile responses from Messrs. Boyd and Buchroeder who apparently find my persistent optimism and advocacy for planning offensive and take them personally, and who presume to know my views on other issues.
    These exchanges are not at all enlightening and are no substitute for real dialogue. I may be late in realizing that, but having done so, I will refrain in future from participating. So reply away; I’ll save my comments for other forums.

    • Larry, please don’t take my comments to be personal in nature. That would bother me. I always enjoy our conversations – besides, anyone who has a passion for antique typewriters is OK in my book. So don’t refrain from commenting. BTW, one of your CFW peeps just took a bat to me on the 06880 story about the Westport Historical Society’s bizarre imperious surface vision of the future exhibit. I don’t mind the criticism. I know it’s nothing personal. Just as I know you genuinely care about Westport.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      Its called a metaphor, Larry. Hostile response? “Curb your negativity and roll up your sleeves.” Is that your definition of warmth, Larry? Hold your breath and count to ten next time. Better yet, make it ten thousand.

    • Actually, all you’re missing is being a member of the 06880 club, a forum that purposely invites misunderstanding re issues surrounding/submerging the place. Better to travel elsewhere.

  28. The outcome of the future of Saugatuck is only interesting to me in an existential way. I have no dog in this fight and will never live in Westport again. However, as a Connecticut resident whatever happens here impacts us all in one way or another.

    In one comment Jennifer Jones states “The study… was funded by a $450,000 state grant…” What? Went back several times to this, believing it must be a typo, soon to be corrected, or perhaps a further comment would correct it – but, no. Really? REALLY? $450,000? – and for “Philadelphia consultants,” who, however skilled and diligent surely cannot grasp the complexity, nuances, needs and reality of Westport? Throw in the current financial disaster facing Connecticut and this beggars the imagination, and reason. And, why would the state gift one of it’s wealthiest towns, filled with successful, intelligent, experienced problem-solvers, wlth an enormous windfall like this? Westport became what it is because WESTPORTERS built it. I can’t believe they cannot sustain and/or “fix” it themselves.

    How about giving a $450,000 grant to the Bridgeport schools instead?

    For what it’s worth, as usual I agree with the experienced and intelligent opinions of Morley Boyd.

  29. Sorry, Jennifer…. I meant to write “Johnson” of course..