Five years ago, I wrote about Belta’s Farm.
My story began:
Bayberry Lane is like many Westport streets. There’s a mix of homes: handsome converted barns; stately Colonials; 1950s split-levels; modern, multi-gabled McMansions.
Nothing — not a sign or a peek through the trees — indicates that the driveway at #128 leads to a 23–plus-acre farm.
It could be Westport’s best-kept secret: There’s a working farm a few yards from the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.
Four generations of Beltas — the farm’s founding family — live there. Dina is the widow of Jimmy Belta, who first farmed the land in 1946. Greg is her son. His children and grandchildren are there too.
How much longer, though, is uncertain.
Five years later, the farm — which has supplied Stew Leonard’s for decades, and since 2012 offers fresh produce and eggs through Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions — has edged closer to its next chapter.
The Belta family cares deeply for its farm, and the neighborhood. As Westport — and their lives — change, they’ve worked hard to come up with a plan they believe will enhance the area, while helping settle their patriarch’s estate.
On July 26, they’ll present a proposal for a text amendment to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
They hope to create an Agricultural Heritage Overlay District. It will enable them to build 9 single-family homes, on 1-acre lots — and retain 8 acres of the property for use as a working farm.
Four generations of Beltas would be able to stay on the land.
Over the years — especially after the death of Jimmy Belta in 2012 at age 88 (a farmer to the end) — many developers have approached the family. Each time, they said no. The plans were not in keeping with the Beltas’ concept for the future of their farm and homestead.
The Agricultural Heritage Overlay District would, they say:
- Allow the family to retain its 2 primary residences, both over 50 years old
- Retain 8 acres of rich farm land in perpetuity, growing the same amount of produce as they currently sell at their farm stand
- Develop 9 additional building lots that complement the farm property
- Provide a buffer area with neighboring properties, and preserve the farm’s natural beauty.
Current zoning regulations permit 2-acre lot subdivisions. So they could sell the entire property, to be filled completely with homes.
The Beltas’ say their proposal is “a unique land use concept that will enhance the surrounding neighborhood.”
For over 70 years, the Beltas have been good neighbors — and great providers of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to Bayberry Lane and beyond.
They no longer raise poultry and livestock there. The slaughterhouse is gone. Times change.
This time, they’re asking the town to help them move forward.
Without leaving their farm behind.