Thanksgiving Balloons

Many Westporters enjoyed Macy’s 91st annual Thanksgiving Day parade yesterday. Some ventured into New York. Most watched from the comfort of their homes. The main attractions — as always — were huge balloons.

Others headed to North Avenue, for the annual Staples-Greenwich football game.

Along the way, they were treated to balloons that looked nothing like Superman, Snoopy and Scrat.

This balloon shows the location and 38-foot height of 2 proposed water towers Aquarion hopes to build opposite the high school. A smaller tank now sits on the property.

Accompanying the balloons were signs opposing the project. Among them: “If you think traffic is bad now, 5 years of industrial park construction across from Staples HS.”

32 responses to “Thanksgiving Balloons

  1. From 2000 miles distant, I hope the towers, the industrial/executive/office park do not happen. I recall taking a photo of the Saugatuck R. bridge before electric lines cluttered the blue sky background. True, the past cannot be reclaimed (nor should it be) but it can teach lessons. Remember what was while enjoying what is…and planning what will be.

  2. Thirty-eight feet is tall and would be a blight on North Ave. The traffic in that area easily gets congested. Construction on that road would only make the congestion worse.

  3. we welcome smaller water tanks, but 38 feet is way too high. A blight, an eye sore, a permanent and prominent defacement on our town.

  4. Stefanie Lemcke

    Thanks Dan for posting! We are for a better water solution for Westport. The current tank is clearly at the end of its life cycle. Luckily there are alternatives that can be be built that wouldn’t be so damaging for the neighborhood and for the traffic going in and out of Staples . By now we have had many meetings with town officials, our town state representatives and the P + Z and we are hopeful that Eversource/Aquarion will be open to looking into our suggestions. To support our initiative please go to look up “Westport Alert” and join the 800+ residents that are demanding a smart water solution for our town.

  5. The scope of this project needs to be greatly reduced. As those of us who have students at Staples or Bedford know, the commute on North Avenue isn’t great even on an average day. Imagine one lane traffic on North Avenue for five years! And that would be the minimum. While the residents of Wesport would benefit from this project, Aquarion also benefits because they don’t have to scope out another location for their water towers. The area around the current tower was nowhere near as busy when it was installed. But times have changed, and we need to be mindful of the impact that such a huge project would make on this
    Area. I am sure there is an acceptable
    Compromise that can be made.

  6. I still don’t get how our town P&Z is letting a utility company who is accused of scamming $3.2 billion from their customers put in a regional water system into our town for the benefit of others.

    The P&Z certainly does not seem to be protecting Westport on this one. I suppose it’s pretty easy for the water company to use scare tactics (fire!) and false numbers (which they know the P&Z won’t verify) to put one over on the town. – Chris Woods

    • Chris, thank you for this critical information. I will be sure to forward it to the elected officials with whom we have been working: State Senator Tony Hwang (who communicated this issue to State Senator Toni Boucher), State Rep Jonathan Steinberg and State Rep Gail Lavielle.

    • I may be mistaken, but I remember a case when I was on the ZBA in 1993-2001 that stated public utilities have priority over Town ordinances. This involved the phone company, but maybe it applies to water as well.

  7. Dick Lowenstein

    For comparison purposes, hHow tall is Staples High School at its highest point?

  8. Stefanie Lemcke

    Dick: Not sure about the height of Staples, but for comparison purposes, these tanks are being built across from Staples, not on Staples grounds, between Terhun Drive and North Ave. The surrounding houses are all 2 stories, so maybe 20 feet max. The current tank was perfectly shielded by evergreens – the problem with 2 tanks 38 feet high? no tree will ever shield these….and the proposed construction period of 5 years is just crazy on a street like North Ave with kids going to 3 different schools along the road.

  9. Jennifer Johnson

    Everyone agrees that we need to maintain our water system, and plan for the future. But that doesn’t mean that one residential neighborhood should bear the brunt of supplying all the water that Westport AND surrounding towns could need for the foreseeable future. This project should not have been approved at the current 38’ double tank scope. Westport should both applaud and support the efforts of the residents of North Avenue who working hard to bring this project down to size.

  10. Michele Deitch

    This issue brings up serious concerns about the future of Westport. I believe our town is at a crossroads. The town faces looming budget threats due to the state’s budget crisis, the commute to NYC is getting progressively longer, the population of the town is shrinking. And now we see that at any time, a corporation can sail stealthily through channels meant to protect the interests of town and do long-term damage. A two to three year building project of obscenely tall water towers at a site where about 2000 kids go to school, in a highly populated area with many of Westport’s most beautiful and well-maintained homes is not in Westport’s best interest. (As I understand it, the site of the water towers was zoned in the 1950’s when North Ave was sparsely populated and before Staples and BMS built.) In addition to the water tower issue, a similar zoning catastrophe is pending involving a family
    who may have a cell tower built right next to their home.

    If the water towers are built on North Ave. as planned, this shows that the P&Z process is broken — and that buying a home in Westport is no longer a safe investment. We need our elected officials to do an in-depth review of this decision, stand up for it’s constituents interests, to be forward-thinking and find a smart solution to this issue – such as an alternative location and building design. In the big picture, the future of our town is at a vulnerable crossroads. Very important decisions like the water towers will have a far-reaching effect on Westport’s future.

  11. Hi Westporters, if you are concerned about the issues of SAFETY, TRAFFIC and TOWN AESTHETICS, pls read and sign the petition: here.

    The petition organizers not against having new water tanks on North Avenue. We oppose the scale of the project, the material to be used (concrete) and the lack of transparency while working with Aquarion. We are working with State Senator Tony Hwang and State Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle (and communicate with Senator Toni Boucher) to discuss with Aquarion other options that will provide a better solution for our town. Planning to spend 5 years to build two monstrous concrete tanks in the middle of a residential neighborhood and across from our crown jewell, SHS, is no solution at all.

  12. Aquarion needs to work with the town & neighbors to amend their plan for 63-69 North Ave. We do not oppose having new tanks. What we need is a comprehensive and smart water plan for our town, including:

    (a) Prefabricated carbon-fiber tanks — 2-3 months installation time vs. 2-5 years of pouring concrete to build heavy tanks that jeopardize the surrounding wetlands.

    (b) Lower proposed heights of tank to 20-24 ft (current tank is 12ft. above ground) and use pumps and substations to ensure water pressure for our fire department.

    (c) Landscaping that would completely shield the tanks in 2 years & require Aquarion to maintain it for 5-10 years afterward. Some of the plantings that Aquarion put in September 2017 died by mid Oct. Apparently, the water company couldn’t access water to keep its own plants alive, right at the base of its new pumping station.

  13. We all want clean water, a new water tank and good water pressure for our fire department and for our neighbors in far from the water storage site. These are given, no questions about that, obviously. We should also consider these issues that affect the town at large:

    (1) Safety of Westporters during construction — The site across from SHS will be a huge construction site for up to 5 years. Imagine heavy machinery on North Ave where we drive, where our teenagers learn how to drive and where our kids walk and bike. Not safe.

    (2) Safety of SHS area after construction — Two large CONCRETE tanks containing 4.4 million gallons of water in the middle of a residential neighborhood — that’s a lot of water and potential water damage. A neighbor asked our P&Z Director Mary Young for the geotechnical survey and soil sample analysis, and Mary replied “I am unaware of the existence of the materials you are seeking and therefore cannot provide.” I am surprised that Aquarion did not provide such critical safety information to the town and actually got away with it. If the new tanks experienced tremors and rupture, where would all that water go? More importantly, the proposed cement towers will have an impact on the wetlands. We need Aquarion to show it has addressed ALL safety concerns.

    (3) Traffic — Town traffic (esp on North Ave) is already unbearable. A 5-year construction permit for these tanks — need I say more?

  14. Michael Alpert

    It is such a shame that in an era of divisiveness, where our country faces truly complex issues, we cannot all come together to solve what would appear to be a simple one.

    I am certainly not an aquatic engineer, and I believe most interested parties recognize that more water is necessary and something must be done–but dual 38′ towers in a residential, highly trafficked area would seem to fail the basic test of common sense and reasonableness.

    As a town resident for nearly 7 years, I would be bitterly disappointed if all sides cannot find a better solution (smaller towers?…more landscaping?…quicker fabrication?) that meets the town’s needs but it fair/reasonable to residents.


  15. Houses in that zone can be 40′ tall so guess it’s not inconsistent with the local height restriction.

  16. Robert Harrington

    This blog is fantastic. It shows Westport at its best: coming together to solve a problem together. There is a lot of work ahead. This is NOT about going after the P&Z for their decision. It’s about town politicians and state officials all coming together to get a better deal for Westport.

    We all agree we need new tanks and more water. As a resident I am disappointed that it’s taken Aquarion so long to update Westport’s water system that is long over due. One single 60 year old tank !!!!

    We need more water. We can’t rely on just one old tank. However – the tone of this blog is right – it’s about the scale and size of the approved P&Z decision. The solution to this problem is using an old playbook and old technology. Westport is a leader in CT – and it should lead in this too.

    It’s clear during this process that Westport does not have a lot of water expertise. This solution is putting an old style technology inside two giant tanks and placing them in the heart of a residential / school community. It relies on the physics of gravity and not much else. Westport can do better.

    I agree with the tone of this blog.
    I agree with the comments of Michael Alpert about coming together.

    We can all do better. We can do this.

    I am excited that so many elected officials are all joining together to push for a better deal for Westport and working closely with concerned neighbors and residents. Over 800 residents have now signed a petition asking for a second look. Unity is the way forward. I am delighted that at the town level – Jim Marpe and Melissa Kane are working together for the best interests of Westporters. Both will be sitting side by side in a meeting with Aquarion. Jen Johnson didn’t get elected to the P&Z but she is continuing to show leadership and rolling up her sleeves for a better Westport. I am pleased with our RTM support too.

    I am delighted that despite the appeal against the P&Z 7-0 decision – Cathy Walsh has been constructive and helpful to residents in recent weeks. She voted yes I Sept – but it’s clear that she doesn’t like the decision one bit – and her email/letter to Aquarion in summer shows that. We appreciate her help. I was wrong to attack her – it’s clear her and her colleagues on the P&Z don’t really like what they voted for. It seems everyone on the P&Z voted yes to the giant industrial water tower while holding their noses. Danielle Dobin’s letter earlier this year also shows she didn’t want the towers either. After her letter and before the vote – the proprosed height of the towers was reduced by 1.5ft. That clearly doesn’t answer the significant concerns she had raised in her letter. The real reason for the 1.5ft reduction in height was due to the condition attached to this which will only allow 2 day a week irrigation in Westport (starting 2018). We know none of them really want dual 38ft towers opposite Staples High School. Or 5 years of construction either. We are helping Westport find a way out of this unfortunate situation. A way out is possible if we all act together.

    We are very pleased that all four state officials are working together to help get a better solution for Westport. All four of them want to be in the meeting with Aquarion. We applaud both State Senators – Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang & both State Represtatives – Jonathan Steinberg & Gail Lavielle for there efforts for Westport. We are all working together for a better Westport and showing Aquarion that we will fight hard to protect our town.

  17. I understand the need for upgrading the current water situation but this is a very crucial section of town with several schools in the immediate vicinity. More information and dialogue is necessary. In particular, if it is possible to do shorter tanks that hold the appropriate amount of water, I would like to hear more about why we are opting for the taller ones.

  18. If you want water you need a water tower… or, build a mountain.

    • Stefanie Lemcke

      Hi Nancy: Yes one needs water towers, but we are discussing the HEIGHT and the WAY they will be constructed. Thanks to new water tank and pump technologies, the necessary water pressure can be created by adding additional pump stations – keeping tanks lower and minimizing construction times. The North Avenue alliance and the 800+ supporters have alternative plans that we want to discuss with Aquarion. This would definitely bring the required amount of water to town. The two huge proposed towers are NOT the only solution.

      • Wouldn’t more tanks mean more energy to run them?
        Interesting to hear about new tech that doesn’t use gravity.

      • Don’t feed the troll. Nancy lived in Westport as a dependent only; has never owned a home nor paid taxes. Not only does she not live in in Westport–and hasn’t for 40+ years, but she isn’t even a US resident. (No one is sure why she finds her opinion to Westport town matters relevant.) Don’t engage and maybe she’ll go away.

        • For heaven’s sake, Petra, please know that I am truly interested in, curious about, how communities everywhere today are trying to solve such crucial problems as water supply, infrastructure, environmental issues, restoration/preservation and the like. Westport happens to be socially and economically identical to where I live now, although with a different historical background. We actually share the same concerns and have the same ability to not only improve our own communities, but those around us (and those very far away).
          Please don’t blame me for my on-going interest in my home town, not far from where family and friends still live.
          I apologize for any of my past argumentative comments, those directed to others’ flip remarks, which don’t help to solve anything.

          • I am stunned by your assertion that you are in a position of power to make changes in Westport. Your current home’s similarity in any measurable way is irrelevant. On going interest is great. Opinions of what we do and how we do it is not interesting, relevant, or desired.

            • “position of power”? Hardly.
              If you prefer not to share ideas from anyone, anywhere, that’s fine.
              Thank you, Petra. I’ll learn about new water tank technology elsewhere.
              Thanks to Stefanie above for her information.
              Also, thanks to those Westporters living in Europe who have explained how best to build/use bike lanes, etc.

              • Nancy — you seem compelled to respond to every post and many of the responses on this blog, to the annoyance of practically everyone, and especially Dan. Well, I shouldn’t say “practically everyone,” because I don’t know “everyone’s” thoughts, but I have seen enough negative comments to your responses to know that you are annoying many, many people. Dan has tried tactfully, and sometimes not so tactfully, to ask you to go away. So have others. I add my name to the list.

  19. The congestion of traffic (for the 5 years required for building the water towers) in this vital street connecting the 3 schools that serve this part of town will be disruptive and painful. This project will also pose risk of harm to our kids who walk to school.

  20. The proposed water tank solution in terms of both size and location is NOT a viable solution. There are better alternatives to be examined, including those proposed by the North Avenue neighbors. The 5-year construction timeline would be highly disruptive to the town as a whole, and particularly hard on the neighborhood. We should not accept a 38 foot tower in our neighborhood.

  21. Peoples first concern is the height, time for construction,and the way this looks. Eversource or Acquarion is only concerned about the bottom line…and although this is to be expected think of this…

    Acquarion should be concerned about height as this makes a good cooperator but they are only concerned about profits and if they were good neighbors the would reduce the size to the height no more than the houses that surround the towers…. reasonable…. not to their pockets… I guess being a good neighbor is deep pockets and the amount of green paper you can shouvel into the pockets

    Do you want to hear a train horn going off multiple times a week …as it does now …. this can be heard for miles… Acquarion is aware and has done little to prevent this from continuing… all due to the pump they installed without any proper sound proofing.

    Does this affect you… well Yesssss … What happens when they place more pumps in your neighborhood….Acquarion will have every bit of support for this as you can only keep water pressure continuous by distributing pumps… what happens when new pumps Are installed in your neighborhood? Will this happen after this project???? Be aware That you can not keep proper water pressure by installing on the same location… pumps will have to be strategically distributed….. getting involved to place proper soundproofing is critical to everyone’s neighborhood.

    What happens to ground when you dig multiple feet in the ground and apply tons of cement impervious to water resulting in a disruption to traffic …does this affect you…. Yes if you do not get involved with their plans. … Acquarion won’t deviate from their plans although they have been provided a much better solution using prefab which will have less disruptions..quicker to build … lower profile and less weight…. Acquarion does not understand the technology and therefore continue to make incorrect statements to build a reasonable doubt…. This is available and will be less construction time and costs….

    The site has tremendous wetlands issues …Acquarion can’t even use most of their land due to wetlands…according to what they have stated…. do you think this affects the neighborhood… a change to underground water flow can result in huge property damage… not only to the site but all surrounding areas…. it is up to taxpayers to fix any issue that may occur to Staples,,, that will affect everyone….

    You may think that this is good for the town and is needed (maybe)…however how this is done affects everyone… therefore be involved and protect our neighborhood schools and appeal to Westport

    Everyone in the tour deserves a voice in making sure that we all gain the bennifit but make sure Acquarion is a good neighbor

  22. The planned 39 foot water towers if implemented as proposed by Aquarian/Eversouce will have an enormous effect on Westport. We will now have what looks like an industrial complex accross the street from Staples High School our town gem. We are know for our top rated schools. Twenty years ago, we bought our home knowing we could leave our NYC private schools for an equally exceptional public School system. Anyone buying a home in Westport visits our schools. The visual impact of 39 foot water tanks will affect the image of Westport as a theater, arts & beach community hence affecting everyone’s home value.

    We need modernization and expansion of the Aquarian/Eversouce water tanks on North Avenue. The current tank was built in the 50’s. We are in uncharted territory as no one working on the new plan was involve 60 plus years ago.
    Safety issues-What will be done to ensure the safety for our school children? This project has been approve as a five year construction project. Without construction, North Ave. is not safe for students to walk or bike to school; it is also a commuter/ traffic nightmare. Will all possible tank related problems for near by properties (including North Ave.) be covered by Aquarian?
    Changing image and Home values-Sunken towers (as we currently have), shorter towers and lesser capacity could all diminish the negative visual impact on our town. Is the addition water need for Westport or for other Aquarian/ Eversouce use? Will they benefit from increased capacity by supplying water to other town or for bottling use? Will Aquarian/Eversource pay triple their taxes for triple water capacity?
    What are the positive benefits for Westport. How will they gaurentee safety? This must be done responsibly addressing the interests of current and future Westport residents.