Baron’s South: Town Officials Reply

Yesterday, “06880” posted reader Morley Boyd’s comments about Baron’s South. He said that construction material from the recent Senior Center modernization project had been dumped in a nearby meadow. He was concerned about debris in the fill, soil erosion, and the removal of trees.

Morley wondered why the material was placed there, whether it has been tested, when it will be removed, and where it will go.

Today, 2 town officials responded.

Jen Fava — director of Parks & Recreation — says:

Mr. Boyd’s characterization of an “illegal dump site” including a “host” of objects is greatly exaggerated, misleading and a misrepresentation of the actual conditions.

The decision was made by the Center for Senior Activities Building Committee to store the fill on site temporarily for use in other projects within the town and/or on the Barons South property.

A closeup of the rear of the dumped fill on Baron’s South. (Phots/Morley Boyd)

This fill was taken from on site in order to accommodate the Senior Center expansion. The fill, as taken from its original location, contains rocks and soil, as would be expected, but it is all from the Baron’s South property.

Mr. Boyd’s description also made it sound as though truckloads of debris have been dumped.  This is simply not the case.  There are a few pieces of metal and other debris, but not in quantity, as implied by the description.  The items in question are being removed.

With regard to the “mature trees” that were removed, this was done in consultation with the tree warden. Only a few trees were removed, which were not in the best condition and were identified to be taken down as part of the future plan for this site.

Alicia Mozian, Department of Conservation director, adds:

I inspected the site last night. It is fully stabilized and the erosion controls are in very good shape. I saw no evidence of silt/sediment on the driveways leading down toward the waterways.

43 responses to “Baron’s South: Town Officials Reply

  1. Jen,

    Thank you for your response.

    For the record, I feel that your tone isn’t really appropriate. I’m a resident with legitimate concerns, not the enemy.

    Unfortunately, you didn’t directly answer any of my questions and I have some difficulty with much of what you did write. Worse, you’ve now raised some alarming issues about the future of this material.

    Notwithstanding the fact that what was done here is patently illegal, you should be aware that I know the (completely different) story which was fed last summer to the abutting residents about the dump.

    So I’ll ask you now: is the illegal dump a “privacy berm where trees are going to be planted” as the abutting neighbors were told by the Senior Center expansion project manager last summer? Or is the illegal dump a “temporary” stockpile of fill and construction debris which you plan to shift elsewhere?

    Or is it this: the Senior Center’s excavation contractor pointed to his contract and refused to remove the roughly 1000 yards of material from the site and thus the town opted to just dump it all in the park and hope no one would notice? This last story is everywhere, so please think carefully before responding.

    As to the alleged stockpiling scheme, perhaps you are not aware that shifting (likely untested) fill from one place to another is a practice which is frowned upon from an environmental standpoint, but either way, the very notion that this material is possibly going to be spread somewhere else ought to be especially disturbing to certain land use people.

    In any event, your statement that the surface of the site is now going to be scrubbed of the construction debris and other inorganic material is absurd. Do you expect anyone reading this to actually think such material only exists on the surface?

    As to the 90 year old cedars which formerly graced the site, there was nothing wrong them whatsoever. If they weren’t, they would have been removed as part of the earlier effort to cull hazard trees from the park. Short of a written statement from the Tree Warden, there is exactly zero evidence that he supported the removal of the trees at issue and thus your statement to lacks any credibility.

    So I will ask you the same questions again:

    1. Can you please tell me why this material was dumped in the park?
    2. Has this material been tested?
    3. When will this material be removed?
    4. Where will this material be moved to?

    Also:

    5. What exactly do you mean when you refer to the removal of trees as being part of “the future of the site”. What are these plans? If there is a plan that has been produced with taxpayer funds could you please produce it?

    6. What are the “other projects within the Town and/or on the Barons South property” which you indicate in your response will be the recipients of this material?

    Although it would be my hope and expectation that the appropriate RTM committee(s) will now take a look at this appalling abuse of a town resource, I’ll simply file a zoning complaint if that doesn’t, for some reason, occur. And we’ll go from there.

    I look forward to your response.

    Morley Boyd

    PS. Alicia, I respectfully wish to note that I watched the silt laden water leaving the site and going into the drain on Imperial Ave.

    • Thanks, Morley, for your thoughtful look at the dump created by the town and for not letting the town get away with the rude and false defense proffered by Ms. Fava.
      Sadly, the town has (for my 49 yr residency) been a shitty neighbor; always the expedient, cheap route (except where sports fields and lighting are concerned) and always a false justification for doing what a resident would not be allowed to do.

  2. John F. Suggs

    Jen, I look forward to reading your complete answers to Mr. Boyd’s questions. And I have one of my own: could you please explain why you apparently chose to ignore ALL the regulations, procedures and permits that a private citizen would face should they attempt to do the same thing?

  3. Saranda Berisa

    I agree with Mr. Boyd, and I certainly find Ms. Mozian’s tone out of line. We as citizens have a right to question when something looks suspect in our environment, because as history indicates, towns/governments do not always have the best interests of the residents at heart. (And things aren’t monitored tightly) So thank you, Mr. Boyd for trying to keep us all safe.

    • Saranda Berisa

      Apologies, this was meant for Ms. Fava more so than Ms. Mozian. I too am looking for a detailed response as I am a resident of Imperial Avenue, and am quite disturbed by all of this. Thank you.

      • Anyone who knows Alicia Mozian knows that she only has one, very even, very fair and very eco-friendly tone, always. She obviously went out of her way to check out the situation and simply reported as she saw it. – Chris Woods

  4. Carolanne Curry

    ms fava’s tone in her response to a Town resident was inappropriate and unacceptable.
    An apology is in order.

  5. Better dust off your resume Jen…

  6. Jack Backiel

    Ahh.. the good old days. Landsdowne Condominiums were built on the town dump. I believe it was the town dump since the 1860s. I remember my father dumping old car batteries in the dump in the1950s. Then the town allowed condos to be built on the dump, after it was transformed into a golf driving range for a while. Ahhhhh… the good old days.

  7. Richard Fogel

    my concern is that there appears to be 1 standard for individuals and a more lenient standard for the contractor and builders we know. It is a concern. The rules should be enforced equally.

  8. Wendy Crowther

    Ms. Fava provided a “reply” but certainly not an “answer.” I don’t believe anyone is questioning WHERE the fill came from. What she did not answer is whether the proper approvals were procured from the appropriate town bodies to deposit fill in this meadow. According to Ms. Fava, the decision was made by the Center for Senior Activities Building Committee. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure that the CSA Building Committee is NOT the appropriate permitting body.

    She also does not state whether this was part of any pre-planned and vetted landscaping vision for Baron’s South. When the town approved $70-$80 thousand dollars for landscaping work in Baron’s South several years ago, the majority of that money was allocated for tree work. However, a portion of that money was also allocated to pay a landscape design firm to create a low impact plan for simple improvements – e.g. pedestrian pathway restoration and better pedestrian linkages at entry points from S. Compo, Post Road, Imperial Ave.and the Senior Center. I know a landscape design firm was hired. However, I have never heard that any plan was ever produced. If it was, it must be sitting on a shelf. So what did we pay for?

    Though Conservation Director Mozian went to the site last night, I’m curious to know whether she was aware previously that this fill had been deposited in this location. If it falls within her purview, did she and/or her Commission give their approvals for this work.

  9. Larry Weisman

    This only confirms the wisdom of those who advocated for senior housing on a small portion of the Baron’s South property, which would have imposed on the entire property an enforceable maintenance obligation on the part of the developer. What the P&Z did when it rezoned the entire property as open space was and continues to be a colossal mistake. If Mr. Boyd has his facts straight, it would appear that we have traded senior housing for illegal dumping and inept property management. Not a good deal as far as I am concerned.

    • Michael Calise

      Confused ? Why would you be against Open Space

      • Larry Weisman

        I’m not at all against open space, although in a town with one and two acre zoning it would not be my first priority. The senior housing proposal would only have occupied 1/7 of the property, leaving more than 18 acres as open space. Why would you be against senior housing?

        • Michael Calise

          I believe open space is a first priority. There are plenty of buildings and large properties in Westport that could be converted to housing. Large private lots do not provide open space for the public. Your song is an old song with a lot of baggage Larry and it needs to be put to rest!

          • Larry Weisman

            Michael: if you really think that sacrificing a needed senior housing complex, the revenue it would have generated, and an assurance that the property would be well maintained, for an additional 4 acres of open space, (22 acres instead of 18), is a good deal, then I sure don’t want you negotiating any deals for me.

          • Jack Whittle

            Larry, you continue to rewrite history to suit your agenda – sorry but there was never a viable senior housing proposal (what we know as a site plan – special permit application) for Baron’s South; the P&Z at the time had only seen a rather general “pre-app” after a series of text amendment efforts. No viable senior housing proposal was sacrificed in the name of preserving some of the last open space we have in Town. Please stop the half-truths (that’s as polite as I can go here).

            In fact, green-lighting the senior center expansion on Baron’s South was the commitment the P&Z made as an act of good faith while preserving this property as open space – I am deeply saddened to learn that very project has despoiled a pristine portion of this property.

            • Larry Weisman

              And whose fault was it that you never saw a formal proposal? Who prevented that by foolishly designated the property as open space to preclude the filing of an application? Talk about rewriting history and peddling half truths …

    • John F. Suggs

      Larry, It wasn’t just the P&Z Commission that had the vision and courage to protect Baron South rate open space by keeping that disastrous land grab er… “development plan” out, it was backed up and fully validated and affirmed by the Towns Representative Town Meeting. I, personally, consider that vote to be the most important vote I cast in ten years on the RTM. Truly a great day for local democracy.

      • Larry Weisman

        Thank you Mr. Suggs for pointing out that the P&Z was not the only body to contribute to what was and will continue to be a big mistake.

        • Jack Whittle

          counselor Weisman –

          We know it’s a sore spot for you, but chalk it up to being on the wrong side (again) of a debate where your desire over-develop Westport was successfully rebuked. I am quite confident the wisdom of preserving precious open space has already been agreed as the wisest course, and the Townspeople will only grow even more fond of this action as the years go by.

  10. Larry, the dirty little secret is that it doesn’t much matter whether I have my facts straight or not. We both know the park will still take it in the neck.

    As Alice said to Humpty Dumpty, “We can make words mean whatever we want them to mean”. And if you read what Ms. Fava was told to write, you’ll see the outlines of the sleazy defense that’s coming: the town has just declared its one year old dump “temporary” and elected to call the mix of dirty fill and construction debris “topsoil”.

    It’s perfectly legal to temporarily store topsoil for “landscape purposes”. No permit needed. The only problem – other than the fact that this was never “temporary” – is the pesky fact that the dumped crud isn’t “topsoil”. Not even close.

    What to do?

    Well, Ms. Fava must have been told: “Look, we know that heap of stuff is completely filled with foreign objects (bricks, concrete, rubber, steel, plastic, etc.) but if you would just go over there today and pick up all the nasty bits on the surface that a zoning inspector might see, we’ll then deem it to be topsoil!”

    And that’s exactly what Ms. Fava did; she hid the evidence. Problem solved.

    It’s actually quite easy to solve embarrassing developments such as this when you get to decide what words mean.

    • Larry Weisman

      I only wish you had realized what you now know at the time you opposed the senior housing proposal which would have left 18 acres of open space managed by the private developer who had every incentive to do a good job to protect his investment. What is going on now comes as no surprise to me.

      • Fair enough.

        It’s darkly ironic that by sending your senior housing deathstar to the bottom of the ocean, us tree hugging ecoweenies seem to have unwittingly exposed to park to yet another threat: the park’s owner. Doh!

        Still, I’d do it again. Nothing personal, you understand.

        Cheers,

        M.

  11. Don L. Bergmann

    I decided not to make a judgment on this matter until a response was provided by a Town official. We now have responses from Alicia Mozian and Jen Fava.

    Alicia’s observations are most surely accurate, but then Morley’s observation is also probably accurate. Morley comments about water movement that he observed and Alicia comments about the stability of the site.

    As much as I am normally sympathetic to the issues Jen Fava confronts and my belief that her actions always reflect good intentions, Jen’s response was woefully unsatisfactory. Many have explained why.

    Bottom line, this is not a dump site or a storage area for materials excavated in the course of the Senior Center construction. It needs to be remedied. As to the trees, I would like to hear what Bruce Lindsay has to say. I may do some follow up on my own.

    Don Bergmann

  12. Thomas Carey

    As a thirty four year resident of Westport, forty-two year real estate professional as a lender and investor and current member of the Conservation Commission, there are few people I have encountered in my life and career with more knowledge, credibility or commitment than Alicia Mozian. She loves the environment, has served the town professionally for decades and is unimpeachable. If Alicia says things are okay, things are okay. I endorse her bona fides absolutely. Often this space is used to raise important issues but facts are also important.

  13. John F. Suggs

    Me too – I would do it all over again in a heartbeat! Between that Senior Housing Death Star Private Land Grab of Public Property or the Park and Rec’s mismanagement I will take Park and Rec’s mismanagement every time. Even though they don’t act like it in situations like this one today – they still work for the town residents and we can rightfully call them to task when they screw up – like now. (Jen I still am waiting for your public answers to Mr. Boyd’s questions.) Not so much with that private company that you and others wanted to hand over the upkeep of the Barons South property.

    Oh and… yeah… me too – “nothing personal you understand.”

  14. Werner Liepolt

    The debate that is sidetracking an essential question—who is the less competent custodian of a precious piece of open space a public employee behaving with thoughtless expediency or a developer profiteering on the public weal—should not continue.

    It should end with the land in question being cleared of dumped material and prepared as a pollinator habitat to fulfill the town’s commitment to address the growing crisis caused by loss of pollinating species.

    There are many published guides and (I’m sure) local experts who could be involved. Obviously someone charged with the maintenance of our public land resources should be conversant with practices that promote healthy environments and would work assiduously in their thorough preservation and continual improvement.

  15. While we await a response from the secretive and sour tempered Director of Parks and Rec, something new has just been brought to my attention.

    Evidently Ms. Fava has a solution to her newly discovered illegal dump in Barons South Park. And that is to move the debris to Riverside Park and spread it around.

    Riverside Park is the formerly wooded little place on Riverside Avenue which was suddenly and inexplicably attacked by Parks and Rec employees with chainsaws last year. The wounded, battered landscape covered with slash and stumps has been the subject of considerable comment ever since. Many wondered how this even happened and why there wasn’t a public hearing to at least discuss Riverside Park’s pending destruction.

    Hence, the plan to spread the misery from Barons to Riverside. What better way to make the evidence of all those stumps in the latter go away?

  16. Here is what I understand so far- a longtime concerned Westport tax paying citizen asked questions about work being done in a town designated public open space.
    I don’t understand what the soap opera vitriolic attacks have to do with anything. I would simply like to hear if all the proper permits and town obligations were followed that apply to all work done. Still waiting..

    • Jennifer Johnson

      Thank you Mr. Yurkiw. Vitriolic attacks are wrong and completely counter productive.

  17. I’ll try and stick to the facts and stay away from finger pointing and personality issues. The P&Z Commission was explicit in our approval of the site plan for the Senior Center Expansion. We labored over topography, drainage, landscaping and the preservation of certain rare and notable trees which were listed on the State Registry .( hmmmmm?)

    We DID NOT approve infill of the meadow or of the site that Morley is referring to. Stabilized or not, it’s a clear violation of the approved site plan.

    Our commission members regularly initiate enforcement action against developers and home owners for regulation and site plan violations. The town is not exempt from our regulations.

  18. Speaking of questionable NEW town dumps. Did the town meet the proper requirements to dump over 100 metric yards of chipped trees at the North Compo baseball fields? I watched as much of this material was trucked into this town site from other locations and private properties. Did the tree warden or the conservation entities approve putting all that material on top of the remaining tree roots and nearby wetlands?

    I also see that the illegal signs, all 60+ of the banner size business advertising signs are being reinstalled today on the fences around the ball fields. This is a clear violation of the town’s signage laws. If the signs are to stay then they should be made legal by changing the signage laws.
    When writing the First Selectman’s office about the dumping of all those truck loads of chips this past winter, I was told my letter was forwarded to the Recreation department. I received no reply.

  19. Still no response from the town to the questions it was asked, so I’m just going to go ahead and file a zoning complaint under Sec. 32-8 for the stockpiling earth products without a special permit. I’ll include the pictures, taken today, of the ASBESTOS cement pipe fragments, bricks, metal, plastic, concrete, tile and asphalt that is mixed in with the rocks, sand and gravel fill which was dumped in the park 10 months ago. If I’m not mistaken, we also have a regulation which bars fill which contains oil (asphalt), right? I’m hittin that one too.

    • William Strittmatter

      Hmmm. If you really want to stick it to the town, if there really is asbestos in there, maybe you should send a complaint to the EPA to report hazardous waste dumping. Maybe get it declared a superfund site and really get the place cleaned up.

      Wonder where it came from though. Stuff hasn’t been used for 40-50 years.

      • The site from which much of the fill at issue came from also contained a 1950’s era one story accessory outbuilding on a concrete slab which was demolished as part of the Senior Center expansion project. The building had a sink and a toilet. It’s possible that this is where the asbestos cement drain pipe entered the picture.

  20. Richard Jaffe

    In our country’s current political environment, civility seems to have taken a back seat. My RTM campaign message was this: “Westport must remain the open, welcoming, caring community it has always been. I pledge vigilance to make sure we continue as a bastion of decency.”

    The protagonists in this discussion are tireless workers for the good of our community. As a representative and advocate for the residents of our town, I ask for, and urge, a more civil tone – make that an absolutely polite conversation – in our public (and private) discussions.

    Thank you.

    Rick Jaffe. RTM District 1

    • Richard, thank you for your service and for your interest in this matter. You should know that this controversy only became public after more private inquiries were ignored by town officials. As an aside, in my experience, calls for “civility” are often used by those with power to silence those without. In this instance, the back and forth is perfectly healthy and within the bounds of normal discourse. Perhaps, as an elected official, you would be willing to advance this towards a resolution by asking, right here, for a public hearing so that the residents who are the actual owners of this park can have their questions about what happened to it answered. And learn what is going to be done to address the damage. Will you do it?

    • John F. Suggs

      Rick Any RTM Cmt Chair can schedule a cmt mtg for the purpose of holding a public hearing on an issue of public importance whenever they want. They can Invite Park and Recs and Planning Dept heads to their RTM cmt mtg to answer all the questions that have been asked of them in these posts which have gone unanswered. This is the key role and function of the RTM! (At least it was during my 10 years of service on it.). RTM Cmt Chairs will you please call and schedule a hearing on this illegal town dump?