Alert “06880” reader — and co-chair of Coalition for Westport — Ken Bernhard writes:
As a member of the local political party Coalition For Westport, which focuses on planning and zoning issues, I attended today’s (the last) meeting of the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee.
The Committee was established 14 months ago by First Selectman Jim Marpe to submit a report to the state regarding proposals for the future of the 68 acres called Saugatuck. Having followed the progress of the Committee, I expected there to be some heated exchanges as the final summary was proposed for review and comment.
In earlier meetings, strong personalities had articulated remarkably divergent opinions. Many observers feared that an agreement was unlikely.
To the rescue — after what appeared to be a rocky beginning from one member who wanted to raise anew conflict issues — came the committee’s leadership. Thereafter, with the always steady guidance and direction of the co-chairs (Planning and Zoning director Mary Young and volunteer Craig Schiavone), the meeting continued with the difficult chore of building consensus for the wording of a general summary of goals, discussions, recommendations and findings.
At the end, the committee was successful, and authorized the co-chairs to proceed.
It is important to note that the one consistent variable throughout these past months has been the professionalism of Mary Young and Craig Schiavone.
On more occasions than can be counted, they were patient when being challenged by emotional outbursts from both committee participants and members of the public. They were fair and objective while overseeing the discussions of the stakeholders including neighborhood residents, commercial property owners, commuters, retailers, and a multitude of opinionated citizens promoting different visions for the area’s future.
In the end, they brought the proverbial “herd of cats” to a successful outcome, with most everyone pleased with the collaborative effort. It was a remarkable achievement, and both Mary and Craig deserve great credit for a job well done.
The Coalition For Westport congratulates the Saugatuck Committee on completing its work in a timely fashion. Further, the Coalition hopes that the Planning and Zoning Commission will now begin the task of changing its regulations to accommodate efforts to improve parking, traffic control, sidewalks, streetscapes and more.
Change is inevitable. The question is whether the community will participate in, and lead, those changes.