233 Hillspoint: The Saga Continues

For over a year, construction has been halted on the Hillspoint Road residence meant to replace the old Positano restaurant. Multiple zoning permit violations led to the stop-work order.

The half-finished structure has become a neighborhood eyesore. Blue sheets wrap the exterior. A construction fence keeps out intruders. Weeds grow in the driveway and sand.

The homeowner hopes to move forward with new plans. Nearly 20 Hillspoint Road residents joined a phone call Wednesday night with the architect.

They were not pleased.

Representative Town Meeting Andrew Colabella says there was “very robust discussion,” with opposition from neighbors.

Michael Calise adds, “All of the neighbors were against the proposal. Some even said they were offended and appalled by the proposed design.”

Construction has been halted at 233 Hillspoint Road. (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

The plan — presented by Vita Design Group — includes a new rooftop, and elevator with cupola. It adds bulk, makes the entire roof line higher, and blocks views from Compo Hill even more than before.

Hal Kravitz — who owns the Joey’s by the Shore property, diagonally across the street — says that cupolas are allowed only for light. They are not supposed to be functional.

The height would be 47 feet — even higher than the original plan. Mechanicals would be relocated to the roof deck.

Calise says that for him, the most significant change from the first plan was the conversion to a gambrel roof. It reaches down to the top of the first floor, with the lower section parallel to the side walls of the second floor.

Details from the new proposal.

“Under the current method of measuring gambrel roofs, they were able to lower the midpoint of the roof so significantly that they actually raised the ridge of the roof 10 feet,” Calise says.

“This proposed design and the resultant ridge height was above the existing elevator shaft, and required a higher chimney to comply with building codes.

“When I pointed out that this actually created a third floor and a higher building, they argued that it did not because the roof design had openings which meant it was simply a cover for an outdoor deck, and therefore not a roof.”

This is not the first new construction in that area of Hillspoint Road. Recent new homes, however, have been low-slung, in keeping with the scale of the land.

Colabella says of 233 Hillspoint, “What is there now is a bullet wound. What is proposed, dumps salt into the wound.”

The new proposal is subject to approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals.’

For many years, 233 Hillspoint Road was a restaurant. The most recent tenant was Positano. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

24 responses to “233 Hillspoint: The Saga Continues

  1. Joanne Romano

    That is truly an abomination and does not belong along that small strip of roadway. It looks like every last piece of property is consumed by an over sized box. I’m sure the neighbors are thrilled

  2. One piece of the story here is that the previous team of architects and builders parted ways from the homeowner and project. Vita Design Group, who has a phenomenal reputation in town, are trying to help the bad situation, and find a solution that everyone is happy with. This is a mess all around and VDG was brought in to fix the problems, and every neighborhood VDG usually touches comes out pretty awesome!

    • I agree that the Vita Design Group has done excellent work in our town! However, the problem here is, even someone of their caliber will find it impossible to put lipstick on this pig they’ve inherited. If the owners would tear it down and start over as they should given the problems this has caused our neighborhood and community, I am confident that the Vita Design Group would design a high quality home in keeping with the aesthetics and charm of the neighborhood.

    • Adam,,,have you visited the ‘home’ VDG designed on the corner of Old Road at N. Bulkley? What did this VDG vulgarity add to our neighborhood? Zip

  3. I recall that Vita ruined the once lovely little 19th century building (the former Knitting Shop, Corner Spirit Shop, etc.) at the corner of Wilton Road and PRW. It now looks like the runner up in a late 50s Popular Mechanics design contest for teens. The firm clearly didn’t understand the building.

  4. Virginia Jaffe

    Every time I drive by this obvious eyesore and ridiculously proportioned building, given it’s location, it is like being slapped around the face by a very selfish person shouting ‘I will do what I want to do and I don’t care how many people it negatively impacts’! How it got passed through Town Planning and Zoning in the first place, is extraordinary.

  5. Thanks so much for the update as I’ve been wondering lately what was going on there. Some great quotes in this piece. I actually thought VDG was involved from the beginning so thanks for clarifying.

  6. This is one of the ugliest proposed houses I’ve seen, and that’s in a town full of ugly new houses. But this is what happens when architecture is driven by trying to eke as much square footage out of a small lot rather than local context and aesthetics, combined with FEMA regulations that require putting new houses on stilts. No house in this charming area should be 47 feet tall. Unfortunately there are not a ton of alternatives at Old Mill given how flood prone the area is – eventually all of the charming old beach houses will have to be torn down and replaced or lifted 10 or more feet. This is already happening at Compo en masse. That said, this property should get zero accommodations from the town given that they abused the significant concessions they received.

    Bigger picture, this house illustrates the fallacy of claiming the existing zoning regulations protect local “character”: this was allowed by current zoning, and it is plainly out of character for the area. And frankly, almost certainly harming others’ property values. I sincerely hope Westport adopts a form-based zoning code that would prevent future monstrosities like this, as well as stringent protections for historic structures before the tragedy of the commons that is playing out in town is complete, and Westport is completely stripped of any charm and is filled with HGTV reject “modern farmhouses”.

  7. Given the high profile location I am very surprised that the previous architect and or builder would try to build something that would violet any codes, did they not think that this would go unnoticed?? How did it get this far? Were there not any inspections??

  8. Donald Bergmann

    I have focused on this site for many years. Our ZBA, Chair Jim Ezzes, was wrong, quite possibly legally under CT variance law, in voting to grant the huge coverage variance this effort embodies. Only ZBA member Liz Wong voted against that decision. That issue alone should be reviewed and possibly reversed by the ZBA at the next hearing. Since that ZBA mistake in judgment, many iterations have resulted, the latest and one of the worst is the increase in the height of the peak of the roof using Westport’s problematic gambrel roof calculation and the third floor analysis, both as highlighted by Michael Calise.
    I have undertaken an effort, so far mostly me and a few neighbors, to convince the Town, Jim Marpe, to make use of the $2 million in the Town’s open space purchase fund and combine that with significant private funds, including, hopefully, land trust funds, that might convince the owners of 233 Hillspoint Rd. to remove the structure and donate the site to a land trust as open space. The goals would be to limit or eliminate any significant out of pocket cash loss to the owner, to allow the owner to enjoy tax benefits from the transaction and to have the owners name on a charming gift plague at the site. Of course the prime goal would be to eliminate this eyesore and add to the beauty of Old Mill Beach for the benefit of the entire Town. To date, my efforts have been rebuffed by a representative of the owner and, as to the Town, not explored in a meaningful manner.
    If my vision gains little traction, I note that a very serviceable home, highly priced, could have been constructed by modifying the former restaurant structure Further, as to why, the owners abandoned the legal right to continue a restaurant, that remains a mystery never commented upon by the owner of 233 Hillspoint Rd.
    Don Bergmann

  9. We miss the romantic location of Posotano’s here. I’m sure the neighbors do too, even in hindsight.

  10. My wife and I used to eat at Positano a lot. It was one of our favorite restaurants, not so much for the food as for the location. It had a relaxing old-world vibe to it, and after eating, we liked to wander around outside in the evening soaking in the air. Now it’s gone, and like too much in this town, is being replaced by something that appears jarringly out of place.

    I realize that history can’t be preserved forever and things have to move on. However, successful communities figure out how to manage their transitions. I know we’ve got a lot of people thinking about this issue, but they need our support and they need to act fast. Every tear-down and every new construction, if ill-conceived, worsens the problem and increases the likelihood of a very sterile future for Westport.

  11. If my memory is correct, the restaurant was looking to expand their seating to a small outside patio. (Imagine that?) A difficult neighbor nearby made a stink about it and one thing led to another and they left.

    • MICHAEL CALISE

      Interesting observation. If the outdoor seating issue had occurred during 2019-2020 the result might have been very different. But, in truth that was not the only issue Positano had to deal with.

  12. Leslie Gilderman

    …like 1) using Town beach property for outdoor dining; 2) on a environmentally sensitive beach; 3) on a beachfront not zoned for commercial purposes; 4) with the Town holding all the liability…

    Everything about Positano’s improved after they settled in at Playhouse Square. It was a great move for everyone involved.

    Folks can always take a blanket, a basket and a bottle to Old Mill Beach with friends. One of Westport’s most charming venues, apart form the crowds at Compo.

    • David J. Loffredo

      If we’re going to analyze the rules, 1) I’m pretty sure they would have done the outdoor dining in their parking lot and not on Town property.

      The neighbors didn’t want the traffic and the noise. Now they have this to deal with.

      Also 2) I’m also relatively sure you can’t have alcohol on Old Mill Beach, let alone 3) something in a glass bottle.

  13. Ciara Webster

    Either way this proposed new build is a joke… it should be a given tgey get denied any semblance of this..
    people have been forced to remove sheds on their property that are way less of an eyesore.
    If I lived within an asses roar of that house I’d be livid..have some respect
    For your neighbors..
    Best idea yet was to turn it into open space..
    it should have never been allowed to be one this monster.
    I’m amazed vita put their name on it..
    way to ruin your reputation..

  14. Amy Chernoff Elkind

    We just moved to Westport and live on Sherwood Drive. I would adore signing up for this terrific newsletter/blog. My email address is listed below. Thanks for all you do, Dan Woog!

  15. In NYC many years ago there was a prominent case where a developer built a high-rise that was deemed too tall and he ultimately had to remove 12 stories as part of the resolution. Maybe a reduction in height will be the appropriate outcome here.

    As for Don’s proposal that the town should chip in to buy the property and turn it into public space, I am glad to hear that the town has “not explored (this) in a meaningful manner.” I love Old Mill Beach but do not feel that acquiring this property would be a significant addition in any way. I hope the Open Space fund will be saved in its entirety for potential future opportunities.

    I fully understand why neighboring homeowners are displeased by what has transpired at 233 Hillspoint—especially those whose views might be impacted in some manner—but the town’s role here should be limited to the proper enforcement of zoning laws.

  16. Donald Bergmann

    Fred’s response above is certainly legitimate. I do note that over many years Westport has not been able to find uses for the open space funds, that the Town can have a role in preserving or obtaining open space and that my thinking is premised upon substantial private contributions. At this point, I would most like the matter at least to be explored. However, nothing can happen until the owners of 233 Hillspoint Rd. work their way through the legal and political process. So far, it has not gone well.

  17. Valerie Ann Leff

    Ugh! Couldn’t someone crazy rich buy the place, tear down the house and donate it as a public park space? It’s so so awful!

  18. Brooke Petrosino

    This is another example of how Westport P&Z has failed to keep the integrity of Westport being the quaint artist, farm, beach town it once was…look around; other towns like Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, and Ridgefield have managed to keep a New England feel about their town while embracing development–they put in strict building codes & restrictions and stuck to them. Meanwhile Westport continues to allow developments that are out of scale for property size and architecturally not fitting for a New England beach town. It’s probably why so many Westporter’s leave in the summer to Sag Harbor, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard for a quaint beach town feel vacation with their families.

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