[OPINION] Stop Lighting Up Cottage Lane!

Last year, a new housing development at 1480 Post Road East replaced the old Roger’s Septic business.

Neighbors behind the site — on roads off Maple Avenue South — worked with the builder during the design phase to make sure their concerns were addressed. The 1- and 2-bedroom condo-style apartments and townhouses are now up, and occupied.

However, for several months nearby residents have complained about bright lights shining onto their property. Chris Grimm wrote to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and copied “06880”:

A lighting plan has been submitted for your review for 1480 Post Road East. The applicant has submitted this as a modification and requested this as part of a work session, therefore not allowing public attendance.

As president of the Cottage Lane Homeowners Association, I urge you to reject this application.

Lights were installed without the appropriate P&Z review (or public input), and violate Westport regulations for light spillage on adjoining properties. The lights violate rown policies that require lighting be at a low level, downward directed, and screened.

The 2nd-floor placement certainly is not “minimal height from the ground,” the lights are most certainly “visible from above 6 feet from the ground at the property lines,” and the “glare is not shielded from abutting properties.”

Lights at 1480 Post Road East. (Photo/Chris Grimm)

I urge you to come to Cottage Lane some evenings to see for yourselves how these lights (which stay on overnight, until 6:15 a.m.) fail to conform with town regulations, and disrupt neighbors’ lives.

In a town where residents argue vehemently about lights at sports fields, which would not be on every night and would be turned off at a decent hour, we look at these lights that spill into our yards and our homes and steal our night times, every single evening.

Almost all of the homes in the Cottage Lane Homeowners Association are negatively impacted by this lighting. Two directly look at the lighting from their living rooms and 2nd-floor bedrooms. Two others are even closer, with lights shining into the backs of both houses. The view of #4 is especially jarring, as if a spotlight is aimed on the back of that house.

The houses at the corner of Cottage and Maple are impacted by the lights on the westernmost building, which directly faces them. Given the higher elevation of those properties, they seem to look downward on the bright lights, further evidence of the lack of appropriate screening.

A front view of 1480 Post Road East.

I believe that this is a simple matter of enforcing regulations as they are written, and rejecting any plan that does not conform. I also believe that you should look at this as a “clean slate” project. To allow the developer to tweak a conceptually bad plan later, simply because he inappropriately installed it, would be to reward him for not following the proper procedures. The developer should start from scratch to create an appropriate and compliant plan, regardless of what he previously, inappropriately, installed.

“06880” reached out to SIR Development. President Rob Haroun declined to comment. The P&Z will ocnsider the matter on March 28. For correspondence and other materials related to this, click here; then scroll down to “Work Session Items: New Business.”

18 responses to “[OPINION] Stop Lighting Up Cottage Lane!

  1. Matthew Mandell

    Light pollution is a big deal. With new LEDs often the power and color temperature are not taken into proper account.

    From the photo it sure looks harsh, i wonder if the new inhabitants like having such lights right out their windows all night long.

    No site plan should be a work session, neighbors concerns should always be heard. The extra time it takes is well worth it.

    • The application was submitted, withdrawn, and resubmitted as a modification, with scribbled note from the architect:

      “I understand that the request for a site plan modification for the site lighting can be done via a work session as opposed to a public hearing. Therefore I would like to resubmit my request of February 24, 2022 for a modification.”

      https://www.westportct.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/55949

  2. Overly-bright lights are a big problem everywhere, thanks to the power, low cost and often harsh color temperature of LEDs. This shouldn’t require a P&Z meeting to resolve. Right way is for a developer/property manager to be a good neighbor and solve the problem proactively. “President Rob Haroun declined to comment” suggests a lack of neighborliness?

  3. One other thing evident here is a half-assed job of screening the backside of the development. Those measly evergreens will take years before they provide an effective barrier. We faced the same situation down here in NC where a hedge-fund backed developer is squeezing in a bunch of houses on postage stamp size lots. We planted 22 12-foot tall evergreens to screen from our side. Honestly it was not all that expensive, and if the developer cared they would have done it from their side.

  4. Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention, Dan. Drive by there some night–good lord!

  5. It would be ideal if the Cottage Lane neighbors could work this out with SIR Development. This neighborhood association has been very proactive over the years helping shape the development of this abutting property. In all the checks and balances guiding the project lighting was over looked and now we have a disturbing problem for Cottage Lane. We join with Matt Mandell to call for a public hearing on this issue, not a closed working session, which would allow for public comment. We also encourage Rob Haroun head of SIR Development to try harder to meet the neighbors’ needs for eliminating this intrusive light pollution. Saying they have to pay for the mitigation is not the way to solve the problem. It is your development, your lighting design.

    Art Schoeller
    President
    Greens Farms Association

    • Developer said neighbors would have to pay to replace his lights? What a p**z!

    • Thank you, Art.

      Rest assured I was encouraged to meet with the developer and attempted to have good faith conversations.

      Being asked to pay for the replacement of fixtures was the least of the head-scratching moments of the months-long conversation. I was repeatedly told that the Cottage Lane Homeowners Association had “approved” these lights, even though there was no light plan and even though a homeowners association doesn’t approve light plans, P&Z does. I was told that proper procedure was followed (obviously not the case as P&Z asked for a lighting plan – and the representatives seem to acknowledge that failing in the current filings with P&Z).

      When I reiterated a previously expressed concern about certain lights impacting certain neighbors, I was accused of bringing up a new issue. When I showed the electronic paper trail of that very conversation, I was told that (in person) the developer probably didn’t hear me and (as to the written concern) he didn’t “acknowledge” my email. Are we trying to deal with this like adults or not?

      And any agreement seemed to be conditioned upon the matter not coming before P&Z, something of which I have no control and, frankly, something that concerns me. Where I come from, certainty is all important. If I installed a compliant light plan, I would darn sure want it approved by P&Z, so that I would know that I had the words of the regulatory body in Town on my side.

      I really don’t understand how someone can install unapproved lighting and then act like they are doing the neighbors a favor by getting it into compliance. And yet, here we are.

  6. Green Giants

  7. Donald Bergmann

    The above comments, including ones from people I know quite well, Matt Mandell and Art Schoeller, appear to be totally on point. Lighting is a huge issue and in this case it is fortunate that the P&Z Commission has the right and the ability to address and correct the problems. Too often the Town is unable to address lighting issues, telling individual homeowners they need to bring a private nuisance suit. It seems almost inconceivable that the P&Z Commission does not address this matter in a public meeting. Work sessions do not allow for public input and rely on the record submitted prior to the closing of a hearing. For some reason, the developer and his architect and attorney do not want a public hearing. They may make some legal claim to justify that, but I am fairly sure they fear a public hearing will result in an outcome to which they object. Mary Young, our P&Z Director and Danielle Dobin our P&Z Commission Chair, should conduct a public hearing. To do otherwise seems silly and will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly as being improperly supportive of a developer to the detriment of the public.

  8. Cristina Negrin

    The development going on in Westport is frankly, on steroids.. there’s no consideration for traffic vs more and more cars on the road ie population. Sadly I moved out of my home town of 55 years because it’s no fun anymore getting in the car to go anywhere

  9. I agree with Chris, I would not want all those lights in my yard. Interestingly enough, I live on a private road in town that is very poorly lit, as most private roads around here are. We have a bunch of lovely new neighbors (many from the city) who feel the darkness of the road is not safe and they are advocating for installation of street lights (one of which would be right outside my house since I live on a dark corner of the road). Honestly, I would rather NOT have these lights, but it is interesting to see the new comers who are very interested in lighting up the street (which would admittedly be less grotesque than what the Cottage Lane people are experiencing). Maybe they would feel more secure living on cottage lane? I don’t know 🤷‍♀️

  10. “Neighbors behind the site — on roads off Maple Avenue South — worked with the builder during the design phase to make sure their concerns were addressed. ” Unfortunately the builder, Rob Haroun ,AKA SIR Development
    is a piece of crap and has been for a long time. We sold our first home to him in 1998 and 10 days later it was knocked down for the McMansion build which was fine. Between the time we went to contract and closing I was told by my attorney that the buyer wanted $1,000 credit on the purchase since we had taken the recessed lights from the kitchen of the house they were tearing down. Greed has no bounds.

  11. As past members of the Cottage Lane Homeowners Association, it seems clear the town needs to step in do the right thing here. My wife and I join with Matt Mandell and others calling for a public hearing on this issue, not a closed working session, but one which would allow us to comment. We’d like to see SIR Development work with the Cottage Lane neighborhood, getting some positive PR here, by eliminating their intrusive light pollution. It’s as simple as “The Golden-Rule”. I’m left wondering, how many of SIR’s properties would sell if the adjoining neighbor had this much light pollution all night, every night. A little kindness and understanding still goes along way in our town, right?

  12. SIR, another builder pretending to be ‘home-grown’ and neighborly. Meanwhile…..

  13. Dermot Meuchner

    Developers run the town of Westport and thinking about them as good neighbors is folly.

  14. No one has mentioned light pollution causing birds whose lose their way because the stars have disappeared. Mary Maynard

  15. Why has this dragged on so long? Why can’t P&Z do its job and protect taxpayers? Why is the balance of power in this town always tilted toward the arrogant?

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