On Deck For Saugatuck…

A year ago, the Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Committee — the group studying long-term development in and around the Saugatuck train station — and local citizens made it clear to project consultants that 2 ideas were non-starters:

  • No deck parking
  • No 3-story buildings.

This morning — after a year of input and study — a final draft was presented. It included:

A parking deck …

… a 3-story building …

… and, for good measure, substantial new development.

Oh, yeah. When asked what these proposals would mean for traffic in and around Saugatuck, the consultants replied that “any details on lessening the traffic burden” were “outside the scope” of their study.

44 responses to “On Deck For Saugatuck…

  1. thank you, Dan, for highlighting this cockamamie plan which only benefits developers while clogging the narrow roads there even further – especially during rush hour periods. how could the “powers that be” NOT consider the traffic factors?! it is not just a zoning issue.

  2. First we need to declare this the last study ever!
    Secondly we need to ban these stupid, deaf and blind bastards out of town forever.

  3. Christopher Austin

    Before all the gloom and doom naysayers overwhelm the comments (and with the caveat that I haven’t seen the actual proposal): 1) the three story building looks quite nice and in keeping with the neighborhood, so I’m cautiously optimistic, and 2) better parking solutions benefit everyone. Why continue the sprawl or promote people circling around (adding to traffic) looking for a parking spot? Traffic mitigation, and better integrated walking paths will be key. Everyone knows that. But there have been proposals made that will help solve the issue. Reinvigorating Saugatuck will help the community. Traffic issues are more around highway cut throughs and resisting changes to the bridge will be most important way to keep within reason.

  4. Mr. Austin must be new. Saugatuck is almost paralyzed now. Traffic will increase every year, more so with more places to stop in Saugatuck. Any romantic notions about increasing the usability of Saugatuck should be shelved until the train station, highway exit and river can be relocated.

  5. This is EXACTLY what happened with the Downtown Plan. Everybody panned metered parking and parking decks. So what did we get in the Plan?Metered parking and parking decks. And now we have a Downtown Plan Implementation Committee gamely trying to make the Plan’s goofy, consultant-glop into reality. I sure hope that at least Saugatuck will be spared a TOD plan implementation committee.

  6. Overall this survey has to be the dumbest thing I have read yet and a huge waste of money.That being said the lot on 136 could be a parking garage without too much adverse effect as it is next to 95 .Could be used for longterm,employee parking,daytrippers.I t would not ruin the area.Forget three story buildingsAlso useful for the market coming to
    On the old Arrow site. Saugatuck does not need to be glamorized .

  7. Biggest local boondoggle since the Hall ‘n Oates concert.

  8. What did we pay these consultants to arrive at this conclusion?

  9. So who’s on this committee; were they appointed or volunteers; are they local — come on, Dan, spill.

  10. How much did Westport pay for this study?

    I believe we spent money on a 3rd study for signs leading to downtown.

    Can we all agree to stop this nonsense. It’s our money!!

  11. Unfortunately most consultants are hired by groups or politicians afraid or incapable of making decisions. They are either unaware of what the voters want or are simply chicken🇺🇸

  12. This is a disaster of a plan and a total waste of money. Consultants…consultants…damn consultants. More retail…as proposed above? Seriously? Downtown is already dealing with vacancies. No consideration for traffic and a BS excuse that it was “outside their scope?” How do you put together a master plan without incorporating traffic considerations? We need to stop paying for nonsensical consultants and start listening to commonsensical residents who are impacted negatively by such follies.

  13. Who paid them to ignore us?

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  14. Could they be any more unresponsive and arrogant, not to mention incompetent! And they get paid for this garbage!

  15. PS…. who’s “brother in law” to which politician are these consultants?
    Everything wrong with Government is in those renderings!

  16. I was at the meeting and this short post is very negative. I live in Saugatuck. I want us to improve this part of town. I was extremely impressed with the recommendations and truly hope most or all become reality. The parking deck is half underground and opens up land for a park and shops. The three story building is only s few feet taller than is now allowed BUT the design is in keeping with structures recently built by Gault. It sure looks better than that ugly cement square building on Charles St. I left the meeting feeling hopeful.

    • It’s called Suburban sprawl and wait until it takes an hour to drive a quarter mile….raises our taxes…and adds another 15 minutes in travel time to the commute to NYC because these “Pro’s from Dover” did not include traffic flow into their “scope.”

  17. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    Reading the above comments is “just cause” why I support are Untied States Military
    They defend or First Amendment
    Sincerely,
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  18. Why haven’t he stakeholders i.e Downtown Planners Cmte. and the Transit Cmte. among others responded on this thread? Does a website exist that has FAQ’s to this last draft?

    • What could the committee really say? The consultant just delivered exactly what a Transit Oriented DEVELOPMENT Study (TOD) is all about: recommending ways to cram more people into a small area near a transit hub. If you go to bed with TOD, you wake up with density. The consultant didn’t really do anything wrong per se. Rather it is we who messed up when we took the grant to pay for this study. With any luck it will just be quietly put on the shelf with all the others.

  19. What all these comments appear to ignore is that SOMETHING is going to be built in Saugatuck. Property owners WILL develop their property; we can’t build a moat (or a wall) around Westport or Saugatuck. Now, I’m not saying that the consultant’s recommendations are good or bad–frankly, it’s a mixed bag with a bit of each. (Full disclosure, I’m a member of the Saugatuck TOD Committee and have attended all the meetings except one.) So instead of saying no to all development, doesn’t it make sense to plan so that when the development does happen it is as close as possible to what we want?

    • OK, I’ll bite. What is it exactly that “we want”?

    • Peter…I do not think anyone is under the illusion that nothing will get built or property owners do not have the right to develop, but it needs to be done in a thoughtful and respectful manner. This proposal is not comprehensive and seems like a waste of taxpayers money. Yeah…I get it…the State was giving out grants that they cannot afford to and we should take advantage of it because it is available….but then it is the responsibility of those serving on the TOD Committee to look at this comprehensively. Density…not immensity…should be considered in this equation.

    • Peter
      We can’t “plan”with the plan provided thus far by the TOD consultants.
      Their plan is so far removed from the reality that is Saugatuck, it’s painful.
      (Full disclosure, I’m a thirty year resident of Saugatuck and have attended these meetings.)
      Interesting fact, Marpe did all the appointments. I asked to be part of this group and he said no. Obviously he didn’t want honest input from actual, bona-fife residents.

    • Peter,
      You seem to be under the impression that Saugatuck is void of zoning regulations. We in fact have a very comprehensive set of regulations in place which will serve Saugatuck well if the current crop of we will build with greater density proponents are largely ignored and sent on their way. We are in the midst of a wave from our commercial thru our residential districts and on to our recreational facilities of bigger is better and it is dramatically changing our town. Everyone needs to take a breath!

  20. Peter Gold . Are you in favor of the parking garage? How will you deal with traffic? That seems to be the #1 or #2 issue for the area and your Cmte takes a pass on it with the consultants? More parking equals more cars. So whats the point of the study if it doesn’t include all the issues?

  21. It is frustrating for those of us in the public who attend the meetings of the Barton Partners consulting team and work to influence the final plan in concert with the Barton and the TOD Committee members.. The preceding comments began with castigation and only got into some thoughtful substance once John Dodig and Peter Gold expressed views. Almost all in Westport think highly of John.. People should attend meetings, read the information on the website and send your e mail comments to the Mary Young, our excellent P&Z Director who, along with Craig Schiavone, serves as Committee C-Chair. I believe our Downtown Plan Committee, Chaired by Melissa Kane and Dewey Loselle, is doing a fine joy working with the excellent RBA Downtown Plan. We have ample time to make sure the Barton Partners plan will also serve effectively to address the many issues confronting Saugatuck. If we do not want a two level parking deck, Barton should drop the idea. If we want no increases in building heights, the P&Z will not adopt zone changes. Be engaged and be constructive.
    Don Bergmann

    • So Don. Aren’t you the person that wants to ban leafblowers on certain days /hours because of noise, but thinks it’s okay to add 150 -200 housing units and a double level parking garage in someone else’s neighborhood? What about the traffic? What’s your solution to that?

    • Don,

      I think most everyone who has commented here has provided some constructive contributions on various levels…and Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As for engaged…again…most everyone commenting is engaged and aware of the issue. Clearly, you do not have to attend every meeting to see this outcome is not practical when traffic is not even a factor for consideration and a direct tie into the study. That’s just common sense and was not addressed at all. Most people have day jobs and are not retired so it makes attending some of these meetings impractical.
      No one is criticizing Mr. Dodig contribution to Westport, but simply engaging in active debate on a particular issue.

  22. An RTM member at the time, I’d like to point out that the origins of this study stems from a TOD grant from the state which surfaced at 11:35pm (!!) .. as an added agenda item on the 2nd night…which was a Tuesday – of an RTM budget meeting & vote last year. We did not have a chance to read through the thick handout, yet were expected to vote on it because of a Thursday deadline that very same week. The packet we were handed looked scary, the plan we are looking at now is scary. I spoke against it & voted no. I subsequently also voted no on the money for the study. It certainly places Saugatuck in jeopardy on many levels. We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch and no strings attached, which is exactly what I said at the time.

  23. To try and respond to some of these comments–

    Morley, I do not know what “we” want. I have heard what some people say they want but, as those people often differ with each other, it is doubtful that there is any one, fully coherent plan or vision that the greater “we” has actually articulated, much less settled on. Even something like keeping or replacing the Cribari Bridge generates different opinions from different people. The Saugatuck TOD Committee does, however, have a set of guiding design principles that the Committee has agreed upon and that has guided the consultants’ work. Those principles can be found on the Committee’s website http://www.gatewayforwestport.com/. And yes, they include keeping the Cribari Bridge as is.

    Jamie, you explained exactly why this project is being done–the State was giving out money. Hopefully something useful will come out of the consultants’ study but if we (whoever “we” turns out to be) do not like what the consultants propose then we do not have to do anything about it and it still hasn’t cost the town anything. However, it is more than likely that a good idea or two will surface even if the entire plan is deemed objectionable. And yes, the Committee should look at things comprehensively and I believe we are trying to do so. We ask questions regarding density and traffic and make our concerns known about these things, as well as others, at every meeting. As for density versus immensity, a great many people have expressed the desire to see Saugatuck become more of a true village center and not a transit hub. Village centers are denser than non-village centers; they have places for people to live, work and shop. The change the consultants have proposed in building heights (from 2.5 stories to 3 stories) is certainly not immense. Congestion can be controlled by adopting things like maximum parking spots for new developments as opposed to minimum parking spots, building studio and one bedroom apartments suitable for young people and commuters rather than families, requiring public amenities like plazas and parks, etc.

    Carolanne, I think your comments about Jim Marpe’s lack of desire for honest input from Saugatuck residents is wrong. There are actually Saugatuck residents on the Committee and the public, including you and other Saugatuck residents, has always been able to provide input at meetings and via the project’s website. In fact, you have spoken and provided input at several meetings.

    Michael, I’m well aware that Saugatuck has existing zoning regulations, just like the rest of the town. They may, in fact, serve us well but doesn’t it make sense to at least think about if they they can be improved upon? The P & Z changes zoning regulations all the time via text amendments, the adoption of village districts, etc.. If the zoning changes proposed by the consultants or required for the plan or parts of the plan to be implemented do not make sense for the town then I trust the P & Z not to adopt the change. But I do think it makes sense to at least ask if the existing regulations can be improved upon.

    Jesse, yes, more parking equals more cars. But a parking garage does not necessarily equal more parking. It may be a good thing; if it is essentially hidden by the terrain and consolidates and replaces existing parking it would actually reduce traffic. And even if it did increase parking the increase would almost certainly be welcomed by those on the wait list for Railroad Parking permits, the vast majority of whom are Westport residents whose needs must be taken into consideration as well as the needs of Saugatuck residents. Like anything else, a parking garage can not be looked at in a vacuum and competing goals and interests must be weighed and balanced. But for the record, I’m not for increasing the parking at the Saugatuck train station. And, as I mentioned earlier, the Committee has not “taken a pass” on the issues of traffice and parking. We bring it up all the time. However, a good portion of the traffic in Saugatuck, at least in rush hours, is caused by commuters who exit I-95 at Exit 18 or further north in the morning or Exit 17 or further south in the evening to cut through town to avoid traffic on I-95 and hopefully shaving a few minutes off their commute. That sort of traffic can not be realistically solved by any plan focusing just on Saugatuck; a more comprehensive regional solution is required.

    • Peter-
      Thank you for taking the time to explain things from your perspective. While we all may not agree on everything, I do respect your position and view point.

    • Peter, I’m sorry but you’re mistaken in your assertion that the TOD didn’t “cost” Westport anything because it was paid for via a state grant. Whose state income tax dollars do you think underwrote that grant?

      In any event, if this were truly a pure planning effort, then we should not have hired someone via a program (TOD) whose very premise (increased density) comes baked in and thus predetermines the most significant final recommendations.

      There is so much I could say, with respect to your suggestion that congestion can somehow be mitigated with stipulated maximum parking for new developments, I have just one question: where do the extra cars go?

      Of course, it’s all too late now, but if a set of “design principles” were all that “we” wanted, then why didn’t you simply tell the bankrupt State of Connecticut to hang onto to our tax dollars and just lay a Village District designation over Saugatuck?

      We could have, like New Canaan, done that in house. But instead, we now have this frankenplan that appears to be endorsed by the town – one which can be weaponized by any reasonably creative developer or even the state itself.

      Not cool.

    • Hi Peter,
      Thank you for your response.

    • Peter
      Let me respond to you with as much clarity as I can:

      1. Saugatuck is a community, not a commodity.

      2. It is my professional and personal thinking that… on a moral, social, and ethical basis, TOD presents the wrong application of dollars towards the future of this community.
      Perhaps relevant and organic growth for Saugatuck could be considered instead.

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