Question Box #5

Our Question Box is once again full.

Here are the latest answers — to the best of my ability, anyway. I’m stumped by many of these queries. So readers: Please chime in with any additional information. Click “Comments” below.

And if you’ve got a question for our box, just email dwoog@optonline.net.

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I read a lot about “affordable housing” in Westport. What is considered “affordable,” and who sets the guidelines?

Guidelines are set by Connecticut General Statute 8-30g. Click here for the exact 2021 income limits, and rental maximums.

Housing limits at places like Sasco Creek Village are set by the state.

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Who hires the town attorney, and how much is he or she paid? (David Meth)

According to town attorney Ira Bloom, the First Selectman (or woman) appoints the town attorney. The budget for the position has various components:  retainer amounts for the town attorney and assistant town attorney; a component for labor and employment, and the contract services — the largest piece — which covers litigation and longer-term projects.

Neither Bloom nor the assistant town attorney, Eileen Lavigne Flug, are town employees, so they do not receive a “salary” per se from the town.

Town attorney Ira Bloom

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Is there a committee for the Baron’s South project, or a way to get involved? (Whitney Raith)

Baron’s South falls under the purview of the Parks & Recreation Department. Contact director Jen Fava (jfava@westportct.gov) to let her know you’re interested.

Baron’s South is a gem in the heart of Westport. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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Also from Whitney Raith: Why are there so many dead-end private streets? Does this lessen the town’s road upkeep?

Now that’s something that I — as a native Westporter — never thought about.

My guess is it’s a function of how the town grew. As farmland was sold to developers, they built homes off the main roads. If the houses were behind each other, they needed a way to get to the main road. Because there was still undeveloped land behind, the new roads did not connect to others, so they became dead-ends (more delicately, cul-de-sacs [or “culs-de-sac”?]).

I’m sure the nature of people moving to town — seeking privacy, which “private” roads provide — had something to do with it too.

I don’t think it was a way for the town to avoid upkeep. But if my theory is wrong — or you’ve got other ideas — click “Comments” below.

In this 1965 aerial view, Staples High School is on the left. An arrow points to High Point Road. Located off Long Lots Road, and the longest cul-de-sac in Westport, it was developed in the 1950s.

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Was there a mini-golf course where Lansdowne is now located? I was also told that it previously was the dump. (Antonia Zegras)

Fore! The 33-acre Lansdowne condos — located on Post Road East, just west of Stop & Shop — were once the site of mini-golf, and a driving range. For a while, a Bedford Junior High phys. ed. teacher had a trampoline business — “Ed Hall’s Jumpin’ Gyminy,” or something like that — out in front too.

Plus a skating rink, which eventually morphed into the short-lived Nines Club discotheque, courtesy of orchestra leader Lester Lanin. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

That rink/disco lives on, as the Westport Tennis Club.

As for a dump: I recall stuff being dumped in the back of the driving range after the mini-golf complex closed, but I can’t swear to it. Readers: If you remember: Click “Comments” below.

Once a mini-golf course and driving range; now well-established condos.

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I drive up and down Long Lots Road several times a day. Almost always, I see a flock of hawks circling, always between Turkey Hill Road and Hyde Lane. Can any readers explain why? (Lawrence Weisman)

Hawk-lovers: What’s up (ho ho)? Click “Comments” below.

Not Larry Weisman’s hawk — but very cool nonetheless. (Photo/Lou Rolla)

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I know that Alcoholics Anonymous meets at the St. Luke Church stables on Long Lots Road. Were there actual stables there at some point? (Arthur Hayes)

I don’t know the answer. I’m sure some of our alert readers do. But I’m guessing there were. It doesn’t seem like a name that came from thin air.

The St. Luke Church stables. Were there once horses there?

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Is there anything new concerning the incomplete structure on Hillspoint Road diagonally across from Joey’s by the Shore, where a series of restaurants used to be located? (Paul Rohan)

Nope! Negotiations continue, following a cease-and-desist order for violations on the residence that was slated to replace (most recently) Positano’s.

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

Do you have a question for the Question Box? Email dwoog@optonline.net. When it’s full, I’ll answer them.

23 responses to “Question Box #5

  1. 460 roads in town are private. The residents are responsible for upkeep, snow plowing, trees, etc. So, yes the town doesn’t have the maintenance expenses. When the neighbors cooperate and contribute to related expenses, its’ a no brainer. When the neighbors don’t contribute to the expenses, the other households must grin and bear the expenses. I wish the town would take over…..

  2. I’ve seen those birds too. The ones I’ve seen appear to be turkey vultures around High Point Road and Long Lots. They sit in the trees and on the roof of the house there. Is that what you mean?

  3. Michelle Garvey

    Regarding private roads, while the residents bear the maintenance burden, they also don’t have the requirements for town roads – so often private roads can be more narrow, for example, and the town would not be willing to take over.

    • Looking at the planning and zoning regulations, it seems like private roads have many requirements, including they have to be a certain width.

  4. The hawk pictured is a red tailed hawk. The birds circling are vultures. I have a friend who worked at long lots school and she reported a group of Turkey vultures roosting near the school. I saw those vultures the other day when driving by highpoint road! I didn’t stop to see if there might be some black vultures among them. An interesting sight to be sure. This past week I had a large flock of black vultures in Norwalk, near my home!

  5. I still never tire of seeing birds of prey in flight or even better, perched nearby within binocular range or closer. In Westport we are fortunate to see, on a regular basis, red tail hawks and ospreys, alongside cooper hawks and the thrill of a bald eagle or two. Properties with larger, standing trees will likely also host barred owls (I once saw two at once on a low limb.) Red tails, who nest on very high branches, do tend to soar together, and turkey vultures, who feed on carrion, can certainly be daunting up close in flocks. Also, it’s always fun to find a large feather from any of these birds on the ground. There is an excellent website showing large bird profiles to recognize them in flight: https://www.raptorresource.org/2019/06/28/identifying-birds-of-prey-in-flight/

  6. Per Merriam-Webster: It’s cul-de-sacs.
    Literally from the French: Derrière(to be polite)-of-the-bag(s).
    Makes sense. Multiple bags can each only have one bottom.

  7. Yes there were stables on St. Lukes property. The whole piece of land was owned by a private family with the last name of Gillman. The daughter Mary Gilman had four horses which she showed and raced. My grandfather, Howard Avery, managed the horses for her.

    Where Landsdowne stands used to be an apple orchard owned by George and Henry Rippe. They had a fruit stand at the corner and sold apples and homemade apple cider. During the holidays they sold Christmas trees. They were my great uncles. They lived at in a two-family house on their farm located on North Avenue which now has many homes built on it. They also grew many tomatoes and corn both of which were sold at the stand and later sold from their barn located on their farm.

    • Thanks, Helen. Great info on the St. Luke stables.

      However, you are wrong about Landsdowne (sorry!). They’re the condos nearest Stop & Shop. The condos where Rippe’s farm stand stood on the Post Road, near Turkey Hill North, is now the site of the Harvest Commons condos (hence the name) — not Landsdowne.

      Great info about the Rippes, though! BTW, their farm on North Avenue is now Greystone Farm Road — a totally made-up name. But there are several homes with silos as architectural features there, an homage to the past.

  8. Michael Kliegman

    Regarding Lawrence Weisman’s question: In fact, these are not hawks, but vultures (turkey vultures and black vultures). I live in that neighborhood and spend more time than I should admit observing them. (I think we rarely see more than a couple of hawks circling together around here). They seem to like our neighborhood to inhabit during the winter (residing in tall, full evergreens), and we have well over a hundred of them.

  9. Thank you, Dan, for posting my question. However, I would like to know how much the town attorney is paid, now that it is clear the First Selectman/Selectwoman appoints the firm and it is not on salary. How much money is spent, especially when bookable hours becomes the goal and is contrary to the interests of the residents of Westport. This was made very clear in the past when so much time was spent by the town attorney trying to sabotage the interests and goals of residents who ultimately achieved their goals but were forced to prolong the hearings, wasting a great deal of their own time, energy and, of course money, as well as the town’s, which ultimately comes out of our pockets in taxes. What recourse is there to get such an attorney and firm replaced by one which has the best interests of the residents in mind, not the perceived interests of the “town”. We are the town.

  10. As to the blue horror at 233 Hillspoint Road: What town committee or person can permanently have this eyesore on Westport removed ? What a travesty too much money brings,,,,

  11. Private roads are anachronisms from the 1950’s. Fueled by the great exodus to the suburbs, the housing development boom arrived too quickly for local municipalities to upgrade regulatory standards

    The Westport Zoning & Subdivision Regulations of the time permitted both subdivision roads built to Town standards, and private roads, which could be narrower and meet lesser paving requirements.

    In addition to the fact that private roads cost less to install, there was a perception of exclusivity in the term “private” because the right to pass and repass was deeded exclusively to abutting property owners; not allowed to the public at large.

    As property owners later realized, the liability of private roads was that they were not maintained (plowed, repaired, resurfaced, etc.) by the Town. Instead, homeowners with frontage on private roads were responsible for all upkeep.

    Currently, only private roads built to Town road standards are eligible for adoption as Town roads.

  12. Yes, there were stables at the property the Gilman family sold to the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1957. But the building dubbed “the Stables @ St Luke’s” pictured above wasn’t built until 1987. Like Helen Ranholm, I remember the horses and a donkey that grazed at the corner of North Turkey Hill & Long Lots before the Church was built. The original stables are still there: the buildings behind the garage that sits between the rectory and the 1959 Church

    The first pastor Fr Looney held daily mass in those miserable, drafty, unheated stables until the Church was built. Sunday masses were held at Greens Farms Elem gym and later Long Lots Jr High gym

  13. I fondly remember the miniature golf, driving range and especially the Jumpin’ Jimminy where I had several birthday parties in the late 1950’s / early 1960’s.

  14. Re: Larry Weisman’s inquiry about hawks. These are turkey vultures on their way south but stop off in Westport on their way. We are in the northern part of town in a house surrounded by large old pine trees that provided shelter for them. I’d say around at least 50 or so vultures swooped daily in the late afternoon and hunkered down for the night. They defecated a white liquid all over our property and flowers. They are known to be looking for carrion or dead birds as they swoop. I was told to beat pot covers together that would send them out of the trees only to return. I would return with pot covers even as nightfall arrived. We finally got rid of them.

  15. Here is a suggested answer to the question why there are so many dead end streets in Westport (06880 January 2, 2022).

    Fairfield was among the first towns in the area to be settled and homes tended to cluster along the shore of the Sound. Settlers needed wood for heat and cooking, so a system was developed whereby each home along the sound had a « long lot » extending north to the « West Parish », (now Weston and Wilton), the width of which was determined by the amount of frontage along the sound. These lots, maps of which can be found in the Fairfield land records, were identified by the family name of the landowner, (Sturges’ long lot, Cabot’s long lot, etc.), and conveyances were made by drawing lines across the entire width of the lot to create a parcel of land described thusly: «commencing at the northern end of so-and-so’s holdings in Sturges’ long lot, a parcel of land comprising 10 acres» and we’re shown on the map by drawing a line at the designated place.

    In time it became necessary to create public highways in order for landowners to access their wood lots to the north without trespassing over private property. To address that problem the king of England in 1769, created a board of surveyors to lay out « upright » highways and « cross » highways at prescribed distances from one another. (Cross Highway, Long Lots Road and Easton Road are examples of cross highways while Compo Road and Wilton Road are upright highways.)

    Note the distance between these roads – Long Lots Road or Post Road to Cross Highway, each more than a mile as specified by the king’s surveyors.

    So you can see that the distance between those roads, occupied by privately owned Long lots, necessitated termination of subdivision streets at the boundary of the adjacent long lot.

    This history also helps to explain why our traffic problem is so intransigent. With east-west routes so far apart, all traffic is essentially shunted onto one of four streets – Green’s Farms Road, Post Road, Long Lots Road and Cross Highway all a mile or more apart – and then, for those traveling north or south, onto Wilton Road, Compo Road, Hillspoint Road, Maple or Bulkely Avenue. Add to those constraints that we are bordered by two major highways and have only three vehicular river crossings and you’ll understand why our traffic problem cannot be solved, only remediated,

  16. Luisa Francoeur

    The private road I live on dates to 1930 or the late 1920’s; not a part of the 50’s exodus. In this case, it would be the developer who created it and each private road may have been created for a different reason.

  17. Daniel Delehanty

    Much of the area once occupied by the driving range had originally been a marshy meadow with a small stream known as Shadow Brook running through it. Since the site was of limited value, it eventually became a private open dump known as Brown’s Landfill. The proprietor would supposedly sit under a beach umbrella at the entrance road and charge by the truckload. Since there were no environmental regulations then, anything and everything was disposed of there. When the marshy areas had been filled, the landfill was covered with earth, leveled and the area converted to the driving range.
    In the 1980’s the untouched area of the site located south of the landfill was developed for the Lansdowne Condominiums. Since the landfill area could not be built upon, it was used as a buffer and landscape amenity.

  18. Richard W. Alley

    I always thought the Lansdowne property was originally owned by Albert Cuseo. I remember it being a dump. The Brown family originally owned a large chunk of Post Road property as well. Before I moved to Westport, Cuseo’s, Backiel’s and Brown’s were all Post Road farmers. The Driving Range, Miniature Golf, and Trampoline Center all enhanced a large complex that also featured ROCK AND ROLL EVENTS, with popular disc jockeys from area radio shows. They would hire several officers at every event just to circulate thru the crowds to prevent fights. Dick Alley

    • Thanks, Dick. The music events you talk about were noted in my story: the Nines Club, owned by Lester Lanin. It did not last long, but among the groups who played there were the Youngbloods, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and ? and the Mysterians.

  19. In regards to the Private road question, I don’t have an answer for that but I can tell you that I grew up on a very small road off Whitney St. It was a dead end. It only had 3 houses back then and was a one lane road. The residents of the road were responsible for the upkeep and plowing. However, Sue Terrace connected to our road by a dirt right of way (old maps showed the roads connecting but they really didn’t) and I had friends who lived there on on Crescent Rd. Sue Terrace was a dead end and considered private but I definitely remember the town plowing that road although I don’t recall if I ever saw work crews doing any upkeep or repairs. Point being, I am not sure a private road designation is really “private” for every one of them.

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