[OPINION] Daybreak Traffic Pattern Won’t Work

RTM member Mark Friedman’s District 3 includes the former Daybreak property, where a new 9-home development has been proposed. He writes: 

I am in favor of smart development in Westport. However, with its horrific new traffic pattern, the proposed development at 500 Main Street is not smart.  Having attended P&Z meetings and spoken with dozens of Westporters about this proposal, I have concluded that the proposed new traffic pattern adds significant danger to the lives of residents but fails to benefit the town.

Given the wide discretion afforded the P&Z in considering applications for Special Permits, the additional hazards presented by the proposed new traffic pattern serve as a moral imperative to deny this application.

The developer’s proposed traffic pattern poses new and additional threats to public safety — at an intersection haunted by dozens of accidents over the last few years and given the lowest possible grade by the town’s traffic consultant: an F.

To this clear and present danger, the developer suggests adding a new road that connects Weston Road to Main Street, roughly parallel to Daybreak Lane.  In its current iteration, the new street would flow one way, southbound, from Weston Road to Main Street.

Unfortunately, this configuration would pose new safety issues on both Weston Road and Main Street.

Looking south on Weston Road. Easton Road is to the left; Main Street to the right. The proposed development is at the former Daybreak property, bordered by Weston Road and Main Street.

On Weston Road, the danger would be acute for those taking a left turn into the new road because cars accelerate in the other direction from the 4-way stop sign at Easton/Weston Roads.

The peril for cars exiting onto Main Street from the new throughway could be even greater when they try to turn left, towards town. This results from the blind corner and terrible sight lines for cars heading around the bend on Weston Road/Main Street.

An estimated 30,000 cars traverse this route daily at an average speed of 41 miles per hour; approximately half, or 15,000 cars, thus travel in excess of 41 mph, making the limited sight lines — and stopping distances — all the more perilous.

Moreover, cars exiting the proposed new road may have their own sight lines restricted further by northbound traffic on Main Street. A “no left turn” sign on the new road, while perhaps theoretically appealing, would likely be disregarded regularly, given the apparent convenience of a left turn when heading towards town.

Main Street, looking east at the Weston Road intersection.

Switching the flow of traffic to the opposite direction — which the developer originally contemplated — on the new proposed street creates new and different hazards.

There would be significant peril for cars turning left from the new street on to Weston Road, as there could be limited opportunities to enter this congested road Cars accelerating from the 4-way stop could t-bone a turning car.

The possibility of a car turning left inching onto Weston Road, thus backing up traffic to the 4-way stop and beyond, is high during peak traffic times.

Worse, if traffic flowed northbound on the new street, from Main Street towards Weston Road, then cars heading southbound on Main Street  that want to enter the new road would frequently have to come to a full stop on that busy thoroughfare — immediately after a blind turn with extremely limited sight lines.

In a best case scenario, this increases traffic dramatically. In a worst case scenario, the stopped car gets rear-ended by one of the 15,000 cars a day that travels in excess of 41 mph around this blind turn.

Cost benefit analysis requires that the P&Z reject this special permit, and they have wide discretion to do so.

In the fall elections, voters resoundingly demanded that the town address traffic and safety concerns.  Further, hundreds of residents have signed a petition protesting the traffic hazards that this proposed development presents with its new traffic pattern.

A 9-home development has been proposed for the former Daybreak Nursery property.

Town officials have a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of its citizens and a duty to listen to voters.

This is especially pertinent when the suggested benefits of a Special Permit application are so meager. The prospect of each Westport household “benefiting” from the 50 cents a month of incremental tax revenue this project might yield does nothing to change the calculation.

Nor does the suggestion that this proposed 55 and up development somehow qualifies as senior housing. While the town does need to consider senior housing alternatives, age 55 is hardly senior.  Moreover, the perils of the proposed new traffic pattern are especially significant for actual seniors.

Finally, given the current real estate slump and overabundance of houses on the market, adding new supply — especially high density housing that is out of character of its neighborhood — actually damages the finances of every homeowner in Westport.

As citizens, we all know that the intersection of Main Street, Easton and Weston Road presents a clear and present danger.  As a town, we cannot afford to approve a new traffic pattern that creates new perils.

24 responses to “[OPINION] Daybreak Traffic Pattern Won’t Work

  1. Janette Kinnally

    We need to redo that whole intersection and then we can have a housing development or retail establishment that is safe.
    This should have been fixed by our town years ago. Traffic has increased, accidents have increased and near misses happen every day! I try not to go that direction to the parkway now. I avoid it and that should not be what needs to happen. We need to change it now.

  2. Where is Jim Marpe’s Leadership on this? The current developer’s proposal is a traffic and safety nightmare. Does the town and the state want to make a horrendous intersection worse? Ideally, the state and/or town acquire this parcel and fix the intersection or only the 4 houses that meet the original zoning requirements should be allowed. This is a horrible area to increase density and add another road.

  3. Arline Gertzoff

    This intersection is one of the worst in the entire state.It should have been fixed many years ago.It always went under the radar .People are generally afraid of it so they tend to slow down .Any permits to build along that stretch should be denied until the intersection is redesigned for safety first.Nothing has changed except the volume of traffic in the 60 plus years I have lived nearby.
    Furthermore 55 is absurd for senior housingMinimum should be 62-65 .I hope the Pand Z will be rational and say no.The developer’s Plan is worse than the current plan
    Thanks Mark for getting it out there Deny is the
    Only sane option

  4. Thank you, Mark for pointing out the obvious. This special permit and site plan should be denied for safety concerns. I can’t picture anyone, let alone seniors, walking around there. This development has no upside for the town while truly going against a uniformity of housing in the Coleytown area. A dense development would be unsafe and out of character for our neighborhood.

  5. Mark wrote this entire letter without offering a better solution? And then suggested that a 55 and up development does not qualify as senior housing? So this is an opinion piece offering no solutions and little fact about how it “damages the finances of every homeowner in Westport.” OOOk. This type of housing is exactly the type that is in high demand actually. What a waste of words.

  6. Another point. This “senior housing” will be $1.2 million 2,000 sq ft duplexes. I can’t believe seniors would choose to downsize to these homes, particularly given the indisputable traffic concerns at this location. Walking is not practical in this area so all would need to drive to get to any services or amenities.

  7. Ann Marie Flynn

    Mark…thank you very much. Hope all of Westport gets to read your article.
    It’s right on…and presents the many dangers/accidents that can happen.

  8. J. Gottschalk

    Of course the intersection should be fixed no matter what goes into the Daybreak property. I, for one, who live in this area would love a small retail establishment with a green grocer, pizza joint and maybe a gas station. Would be much preferred to more housing. A few choice retail stores would be very welcomed in this neighborhood where the closest gas is Weston Market area or across from Playhouse.

  9. I agree that the State-controlled intersection is horrendous and must be modified by the State. We should do everything in our power to make that happen ASAP. HOWEVER, there’s another side to this argument that must be made:

    1) the use is a small fraction of the previous use – an active nursery with not only customers driving in (and of course walking around) but also large trucks making deliveries. It is grossly incorrect to state that this proposed use (nine small homes for seniors) would be worse than what was in terms of traffic.

    2) housing for seniors (whether affordable or market) is required in Westport, and is consistent with Westport’s Plan of Conservation and Development. Empty nesters would like to stay in Westport but may no longer need their larger homes. Unfortunately, seniors are not as proficient in using computers to actively follow and comment on this blog and elsewhere on social media.

    3) we have seen the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome as it relates to senior housing elsewhere in Westport. Senior housing adjacent to the Senior Center was objected to by its neighbors forcing the P&Z to change zoning to prohibit senior housing there. More recently, senior housing off exit 17 was objected to by its neighbors. It is our responsibility as a community to take care of both our children and our seniors. We will all become seniors eventually.

  10. Stacy Prince

    Puh-lease. If we’re going to keep making concessions to developers, can we at least loosen regulations on residents? I have a whole acre of land here, with only one (2,800-square foot) house on it! Let’s change our zoning laws so I can build a small, 1-bedroom unit for my father-in-law to live in; future owners of my property could rent it out to other seniors.

    If it’s too much to ask for a whole zoning change, maybe I can just get a variance. Think of it as a kindness to me as a “senior.” (I’m 59.) 😉

  11. Phillip Perri

    If the sole “real” reason is the traffic and intersection, put the burden on the developer to install a State-approved traffic circle. If they pay for it you won’t need an act of God to get it done and 25 years of debate and budget arguments. Traffic would be less than a retail use or the nursery for sure, but, more importantly, the intersection becomes less of a disaster and a great deal safer. Developers put in traffic lights, turning lanes, off-site improvements, etc. every day. If this is just an excuse to remain the Town of “No”, then this won’t help. I know there are seniors looking to downsize but stay in Town. Guess who replaces them? Younger families with kids who pay full taxes and keep our Town family-strong. Use the developers, don’t just force them to go elsewhere.

  12. Stacy Prince

    Let’s be honest: This is “senior” housing in name only. It’s a way to maximize profit by adding density all out of proportion to the surrounding properties and jumping on a legal bandwagon (“Senior Housing”!) to do it. The numbers don’t lie: These are $1.2 million homes. Again: These are $1.2 million homes! Are we really going to pretend that seniors downsize only because they have too much space? The bigger consideration is living on a fixed income and wanting to keep expenses under control.

    Further proof that this is about as un-senior as senior housing can get is the siting itself: Can you think of a worse intersection for seniors to be navigating? (And no one seems to mention that we haven’t had particularly active businesses at the site for years, which makes all these “the nursery was worse” statements seem a bit disingenuous.) But Mr. Perri’s point is well taken; should the developers take on the responsibility of fixing the intersection, they’d have a lot more legs to stand on.

    Well, that and bringing the units down to a size and price more likely to appeal to actual seniors.

  13. Richard Fogel

    no development

  14. Audrey Rabinowitz

    I personally know a man who at the age of 55 had a 13 year old child. So if this family was living in this proposed housing, a school bus would have to stop and pick up & drop off this child for a few years. And it’s very possible that at the age of 55, some parents do have children in elementary, middle and high schools. So where would 3 school buses stop to pick up and drop off these students, without disrupting traffic and putting the safety of these kids at risk?

    And Mr. Kaner, you really don’t know seniors very well. Your statement that “Unfortunately seniors are not as proficient in using computers to actively follow and comment on this blog and elsewhere on social media.” I know for a fact that many seniors – 55 and over – do comment on this blog. Please give us some credit.

  15. Michael Calise

    It is truly frustrating to follow this discussion. First the term senior housing is a deceptive terminology. ALL HOUSING is available to seniors none are excluded. What is being argued for is simply “smaller” homes. Which, by the way, as all housing is for seniors all smaller housing is for those who have that particular need regardless of age. A sensible look at our zoning regulations and districts is the true solution to this paranoia. Exclusionary text amendments are not!

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker SHS '58

      Spot on Michael. As usual you have the sensible approach. I lived near there and the intersection has been a nightmare for years. Please note, other than thanking you I am staying out of this discussion because regretfully I no longer live in Westport.

      • Michael Calise

        Thanks Mary,
        You may not be in Westport but Westport is in you heat. Staples ’58

  16. Bonnie Dubson

    Mark, thanks very much for standing up for Coleytown. I encourage everyone to attend the work session on the Daybreak Development this evening at Town Hall. It is slated as the last item on the agenda: http://www.westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=745&recordid=15285

    I am optimistic our elected officials will DENY this project whose density compromises the UNIFORMITY of Residential Zone A and will endanger the neighborhood’s public safety: both in traffic, and environmentally.

  17. Great comment, Richard Fogel! I’m with you and I encourage all who are against this development to comment here. So, here I go:

  18. This will be my final post on this topic. It will be up to the P&Z to decide. I’ll respond to some of the comments above:

    1) the “traffic nightmare” caused by these homes is grossly false and misleading – it is a tiny fraction compared with the previous nursery operation including hundreds of customers and many large trucks making deliveries and pickups.

    2) all Westport homes are available to seniors – other homes in Westport are not deed restricted for seniors, so that statement is completely misleading. These units are available ONLY to seniors.

    3) keeping “in the character” of Westport – often, this terminology is a way to say “we don’t want outsiders.” In this case, I’m just perplexed. The units built would be in the architectural character of Westport, but they would be smaller and designed for seniors.

    4) to the person who said I don’t understand seniors – I do. I led the effort to enhance the senior center, and I’m a member of AARP. A couple in their late 50s or early 60s moving here will hopefully stay for 20-30 years enjoying all Westport has to offer.

    5) to the person who said we must do something with the intersection regardless – I absolutely agree with you.

    The bottom line is that this plan is consistent with Westport’s Plan of Conservation and Development, it diversifies our housing stock, is far less traffic intensive than retail use, and is the right thing to do.

    • Michael Calise

      please tell me what home currently for sale in Westport can not be purchased by a Senior.

  19. The neighbors’ real reason for opposing isn’t traffic even though they said it was. One of the very involved neighbors told me that she thought that a nursery like Terrain would be great there! WHAT? Talk about disingenuous! A nursery like Terrain would bring insane traffic…. and never mind the toxins from pesticides that they also complained about in their power point presentation to the commission. The townspeople were worked into a frenzy under false pretenses when traffic and toxins from the nursery wasn’t the neighbors’ genuine concerns! The original plan and the latest plan creates a marked decrease in the traffic that was during Daybreak Nursery days, and a tiny increase in current traffic. I lived next door to Daybreak Nursery at Palmieri’s Nursery for the first 30 years of my life and have lived on Daybreak Lane since 1983. I know, first hand, the traffic nightmare that retail creates. There were semi trucks dropping off inventory, landscaping trucks going in and out, and the customers went in and out all day long, seven days a week. Even though it was laughed at when presented by qualified traffic experts, I promise that there were hundreds of ins and outs per day.

    I have said all along that my neighbors don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what was and they don’t know what could be. They don’t know that backing up to retail isn’t ideal for their real estate values and that residential is the best case scenario for them. They don’t now about unintended consequences, although I did try to tell them about the nightmare scenarios that I have seen in my career. The looming fact that the state owns the road in front of a substantial piece of vacant property, presents its own set of scary possibilities. They also don’t know what a real predatory developer is. Able is not a predatory developer. Their homes are beautiful. They have proven over and over that they improve neighborhoods. They do not destroy them.

    The real crime is that Able was led down the primrose path by the P&Z. I listened when the P&Z gave them suggestions for modifications. I went to most to the meetings from the beginning because I was so very excited to get rid of the retail impact on my neighborhood. Able listened to suggestions and they followed suggestions. Able jumped through hoops with new plans, new studies, and new experts ….only to be denied. I hope they come back and increase their project to land that would include 492 Main Street (which my family has not owned since 2011).That would be the best case scenario for everyone.

  20. Stacy Prince

    It’s 11 homes. On 2 acres.