Cross Street, Hiawatha Projects Settlements Near

Two of Westport’s longest-running — and thorniest — housing issues may soon come to conclusions.

RTM member and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director Matthew Mandell has been following the sagas of Lincoln/Cross Streets and Hiawatha Lane Extension for years. He writes:

Two major projects, both 8-30g*, have come to a negotiated resolution: Lincoln / Cross Street as well as Hiawatha.

Both will be presented to the public by the Planning & Zoning Commission this  Wednesday (May 12, 7 p.m., Zoom). There will be an outline of what each will be, and the public will be allowed to comment. It is anticipated that P&Z will then vote on each.

How did we get here? 

P&Z denied the Lincoln multi-story 80+ unit project, and was then sued by the developer. The judge ruled in favor of the developer. 8-30g cases are exceedingly hard to defend. Even though there were severe safety issues, the judge said the need for affordable housing essentially outweighed them.

The P&Z then worked with the neighbors and the developer to make the project more palatable. I was not in any of the meetings, so I too am waiting to see what has come out of it.

The settlement may lessens the impact on Lincoln Street, just south of Cross Street.

As for Hiawatha: P&Z, the Board of Selectmen, the Department of Housing and everyone else who ever said boo about this project was sued over this one. There were actually 7 lawsuits still pending after this 16-year battle.

With this negotiated settlement, all of them go away. Their ancillary issues, some of which could have been detrimental long-term to the entire town, will be gone as well.

While some of the suits might have been won, I am not sure all 7 would have. This was always an egregious project of 5 buildings with 187 units, where 10 naturally occurring affordable homes exist in the middle of an affordable neighborhood.

Homes on Hiawatha Lane.

This one is going to hurt. I can’t say more on the issue, but we will all see it when it comes public. I am very sad about this outcome, and really feel for the neighborhood. We all fought for 16 years against a developer and lawyer who only saw opportunity and not people.

In the end, it is the town that gets sued. It’s the town that negotiates for itself, and they make the call in these cases. A silver lining may be, with both of these projects the town would probably get another 4 year moratorium from 8-30g projects.

The Planning & Zoning Commission welcomes public comment at Wednesday’s 7 p.m. meeting. Click here for the Zoom link. The meeting ID is 816 5841 6015. The passcode is 221876.

*8-30 g is a Connecticut statute. It says that that unless 10 percent of a town’s housing stock is “affordable” — according to state definition — a developer planning to include affordable units can challenge a town’s denial of a proposal.

12 responses to “Cross Street, Hiawatha Projects Settlements Near

  1. Cheryl McKenna

    I was an observer for the LWV Westport for years and watched these procedures in person and on my TV often. I want to know what happened to the sewer issues with Norwalk and the fire department issues with this tight areas entrance and exits?
    I will of course be watching but this area was already an affordable lovely quiet area that does not need to be dug up and destroyed. I too am sad about this one and only this one in all my years in Westport watching our
    P and Z .
    The state’s overreaching as we have other affordable housing that is not figured into their 830-g plans as they were built before these statues were voted on. Canal Park and the homes near the beach .. forgot the name at the moment…
    Let’s all watch who votes which way in congress and on the P and Z and try to determine who dropped the ball.
    Maybe no one has because this developer is ruthless and has spent a lot of money to win .
    I for one don’t want his energy in my town . Is it really over? Has Covid taught us nothing about greed and the values we really should care about?
    I know it’s probably not our fault and it’s complicated now but can we fight once more to have him go back to….. Stamford? I’m ready for one last ( my attorney will be watching ) fight are you?

  2. Michael Calise

    Sad – Very Sad – For the neighborhood – For Westport- For the gutless who choose rationalized settlement over responsible battle. Sad Very Sad

  3. Susan Iseman

    I agree it is sad and it seems that traffic is getting worse by the day as folks return to pre pandemic activities. The condition of Post Road from Wilton Road heading into downtown is poor at best and in dire need of paving. Who’s minding the store?

  4. Larry Weisman

    Of course, none of us have yet seen the proposed terms of settlement of these two matters, but unless they include significant and substantial concessions by the applicants, one can only conclude that, due in part to the 2 recent losses suffered by the town in 8-30g related appeals – which, to be fair, are difficult to win – the p&z is suffering from octotridecaphobia, a not uncommon fear of 8-30g.

    • Jeff Jacobs

      Thanks for adding a new word to my vocabulary! If only we had adopted your suggestion: divide planning and zoning into two separate bodies.

  5. Werner Liepolt

    Does this explicate the recent resignations from the P&Z?

  6. Priscilla Hawk

    Please don’t let this get approved – Entrance and Exits to I95 where the most accident occur is right there. It will become more of a nightmare than it is.

  7. Trisha Bates

    Let’s be very clear about this, Felix Charney is no friend to Westport. His persistence on decimating Saugatuck will have disasterous effects for generations to come. All for what? Money?

  8. Philip Bosco

    Felix Charney and Timothy Hollister along with many other developers and lawyers took advantage of a really aggressive law that our lawmakers instituted. This law, does NOTHING but create overdevelopment, destroy green space, invite more congestion from traffic to sewage to drainage to pushing the limits on our infrastructure. You could build 100 units, and only 30 of them deemed “affordable.” And then, those points disappear after 7 years. What’s the point?

    We’re getting bullied for being an affluent town because people pay more to deal with less issues. Did the city slickers forget that the reason why they moved here was to escape the city and it’s backwards politics and crowdedness? It doesn’t make us discriminative or racist or prejudice, this town is open for anyone to move in who can afford it, that’s not our fault.

    Preserve the small town. Utilize current structures on post road for development if anything.

    We’re really going to let the representatives of this state who have mismanaged other towns and cities dictate how we live? Trying to make us as equal as them and take on their problems is a joke.

    Leave Lincoln Street as is, historically preserved and traffic free, and leave Hiawatha as it is, single family start up homes.

  9. Cheryl McKenna

    Well said Philip… only now it’s gone too far to leave these wonderful peaceful places alone … watch tomorrow evening’s P and Z meeting to learn what happens now. We all need to get involved earlier and maybe we should as a whole town raise funds to take Hartford to court for unfair practices?

  10. Dee Chapman

    268 new rental units to the Town of Westport in two residential neighborhoods, one on Lincoln/Cross Street a 6 story building with 81 rental units and the other on Hiawatha Lane adding 5 buildings with 187 rental units is in the final stage of being approved is concerning.
    I have a question for Danielle Dobin, who is the Chair of Westport Planning & Zoning Commission what happen to all the safety concerns the Fire Department expressed and the sewer problems?
    I sat in those meetings as an elected RTM member if you need help finding the minutes I would be glad to give you mine.

  11. Dee Chapman

    RTM P&Z meeting Committee -Revised
    Tuesday May 25th 6pm
    Zoom meeting
    Phone number: 646-876-9923
    Meeting ID: 835 9819 2104
    Passcode: 034044

    I signed up for alerts for Westport Planning & Zoning meetings, If you haven’t seen this already,

    P&Z committee Zoom meeting is related to Proposed Zoning Map,
    Village of Saugatuck, Hiawatha Lane, Town of Westport, Ct.