Construction Near For Hiawatha Lane Housing

The weather wasn’t all that was hot yesterday.

More than a dozen residents gathered in the driveway of a Hiawatha Lane Extension home. Representatives of the development, site planning and construction companies involved in the 157-unit housing complex that will soon be built there had invited neighbors. The goal was to explain the building process, and listen to concerns.

Some of the concerns had been aired already. Residents are worried about trucks navigating the narrow roads; safety of children; noise; drainage and runoff.

Hiawatha neighbors listen intently.

Gus Pappajohn, president and CEO of A. Pappajohn Company, the Norwalk-based builders; Pete Romano, principal of LandTech, the Saugatuck civil engineering firm, and David Walsh of Summit Development explained the timetable — demolition of several homes will begin in 2 weeks, and last approximately 2 years — and described how they’ll handle issues like parking, school buses and culverts.

Other concerns have been aired earlier, throughout the nearly 20 years since a smaller development was first proposed. They involve traffic on nearby Saugatuck Avenue, and the displacement of residents from one of the least expensive neighborhoods in Westport.

Pappajohn, Romano and Walsh noted that those issues were already adjudicated. The town of Westport settled with Summit after years of litigation, allowing the development to proceed.

A rendering of the development, on an easel yesterday. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Several neighbors said angrily that they had not had a chance to air those concerns during the approval process. Construction officials replied that as an 8-30g application — one that addresses affordable housing in towns that do not meet a state minimum — issues like traffic are not part of the discussion.

“It’s been a long and contentious process,” Romano acknowledged. “But we’re here to talk about the future, not the past.”

For nearly an hour, residents peppered the builder, engineer and developer with questions about the future. And the past.

They looked at architectural plans and renderings of the 3 buildings. They asked again. Pappajohn, Romano and Walsh repeated their promises to keep disruption as minimal as possible; to be available at all times, and to continue to keep the neighbors informed throughout construction.

And then — with the sun and their anger still hot — the meeting ended. The neighbors walked home, past several now-empty homes and a new chain link fence.

Plans for the 3 new buildings. (Hover over or click to enlarge.)

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18 responses to “Construction Near For Hiawatha Lane Housing

  1. Stacy Prince

    I feel for the neighbors. Moneyed interests always win, eventually. They keep coming back until they find a crack in the system and exploit the heck out of it. Big Yellow Taxis everywhere.

  2. Gloria Gouveia

    “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Yogi Berra

  3. Saugatuck and train station area are headed for extreme overdevelopment, Westport turning into a city. These residents neighborhood will never be the same and these contractors will certainly do as little as possible to avoid disruption despite their promises

  4. One comment that the publications missed, when i braught up the subject of the pending appeal, David Walsh of Summit development said to me “The courts have been very clear that they are going to rule in our favor” – David walsh, summit development. Thats a pretty eye opening statement about an appeal that hasn’t even been argued yet. Kinda highlights some corruption/collusion in the ct courts if you ask me. What do you all think?

    • Bill Strittmatter

      I suspect it is much less sinister than you might think. There is probably a pretty good history of precedents on appeals of 8-30g projects that have gotten this far so the result, while not certain, is probably reasonably predictable. As in 90%+ likelihood of the project going forward.

      But, if you don’t appeal, 99.9% likelihood of the project going forward so, I suppose, why not go down fighting…as long as you don’t mind spend8ng money on a longshot.

      • Gloria Gouveia

        Attorney Strittmatter, As a lawyer you know that words matter. The pending appeal brought by the neighbors is an attempt to enforce a single family deed restriction…a subject that has very little pertinent case law. The appeal has nothing to do with Section 8-30 C.G.S.
        The subject case & case law can be viewed on line.
        This distinction puts the Summit team’s comment in a very different light.

        • Bill Strittmatter

          Not an attorney. However, the point remains the same. Presumably there is considerable precedent on success of appeals of court rulings regarding enforceability of deed restrictions. I have no opinion on the case itself, but only on the suggestion that something nefarious (as in “the fix is in”) is going on. While possible, seems unlikely.

          • Yea thats for sure, just another elitist crackpot, who likely has some financial interest in whats going on. This is the same person who in the comments of the earlier hiawatha articles went on about single family zoning is racist. However if you google the name you will see he has always lived in single family zoning, godfrey road east in weston, fairfield beach road in fairfield. People like Bill weigh in on what affordable housing should be, though they have never in their lives needed it, and don’t know what its like to struggle. It’s truly shameful.

  5. Nice thought, but you weren’t there. What he said was clear as day, “The courts have been very clear that they are going to rule in our favor”. That doesn’t say there is a good chance we will prevail, that is a statement saying they have spoken to court officials and already have their answer, before the case has been argued. Perhaps there is another way to perceive it? indulge me please,

    • Bill Strittmatter

      Yes, obviously, I wasn’t there. However, having been involved professionally in litigation in the past, I can understand someone making that statement without “the fix being in”.

      For example, if the same or similar issues raised in the current appeal have been raised in 20 cases in the past and the courts have rejected them 20 times, I can easily understand someone saying “the courts have been very clear that they will rule in our favor” without having actually spoken to anyone other than their attorney.

      Indeed, if he literally said “courts” rather than “court”, it is highly likely he was referring to generic court precedent since they presumably wouldn’t need to talk to more than one court for that answer. On the other hand, if he had said “court”, it may imply that they have spoken with the particular court this is in front of. However, it may still imply the comment was based on that particular court’s precedent.

      I don’t mean to parse words or be argumentative but just trying to be helpful. Unfortunately, if anything, the “fix was in” when the legislature passed the 8-30g law – well before this particular case. And, for better or worse, the legislature fully intended the “fix to be in” when they passed it.

      • While I do understand what you are saying, i disagree, If he had said something like, its unlikely the court will rule in their favor, or simply they’re not going to win, or they don’t have a chance, i’d agree with you. But it was stated as a clear fact, Maybe if you heard the tone of voice your opinion would be different, things don’t always come across the same when written out in text. But I was there and i heard it, what he mean’t was clear as a bell. Not to mention all the other things along the way that the court sided with summit on, that any logical person could see made no sense, or facts that were ignored and omitted (as the case was when this specific litigation was in superior court), and like I said in a previous post, no one ever came down to see the safety concerns first hand, no one came to see that this is a true affordable neighborhood. Maybe they aren’t required to, but when the safety of people is involved anyone with any sense of responsibility, would come see what they are ruling over first hand. Unless of course theres a clear prejudice where they are just watching summits back, or maybe just Tim Holisters, lets face it the judges and lawyers all know each and watch each others back. I call it a legal mafia.

  6. Elaine Marino

    My understand is that Staples High School is already at full capacity. Is this the case? If so, mustn’t this fact be taken into consideration when allowing another large development to move ahead?

  7. Unfortunately the developers, town and state, have already ignored much more important issues such as safety. Our fire marshall recommended having a secondary access and the state supreme court said otherwise. Of course they (the courts) never even came down to see what they were ajudicating, and either don’t understand the layout of the neighborhood, or simply just don’t care. All it takes in a major storm where one major limb or tree can block in the whole area with no way out. Should lightning strike a power pole in this storm cause a surge and set an electric vehicle on fire (charging at 220volts) and if power doesn’t get cut off the electricity will continue to feed the fire. Now this is development has an underground parking garage. so one car fire can lead to many more if not handled promptly, think about the minimum 150 extra cars that will be down there with gas tanks ranging from 10 to 45 gallons (depending on the vehicle) if one of those catches its going to be a domino effect and a MAJOR structure fire. Now remember there’s a large limb down, so now firemen and EMT cant get in and the 157+ residents have to get out. This is a very immanent possibility, and lives could be lost at worst , or others severely injured at best. Does the state care? nope Do the neighbors care? yup Will the future resident care when it happens? I’m sure they will. Now who gets held accountable for the loss? If it the state or town it will all come out of our taxes for something we were against and they were warned about.

  8. And just to let it be known, this “stipulated agreement”, gave the developer everything he wanted. Remember this orignally was supposed to be 155 units. After being denied several times he then applied for a 187 unit complex. Why would he do that? The answer is simple because he predicted that there would be some sort of stipulated agreement, one of which was to build less units, so they settled on 157 units. Thats two more than he originally wanted. And to reduce it to 3 buildings, so he just made the 3 buildings bigger, and made some of the units bigger, some with an extra bedroom, so really he got everything he wanted. So in the end It takes up the same amount of space, and will cause the same amount of congestion. Of course had the meeting for the agreement been opened to the public and not done behind closed doors without the residents knowledge that could’ve been pointed out but alas, they did it out of the public eye, and when they did have a public meeting, it was just a formality, the deal was already done, and regardless of the residents unanimously disagreed with the stipulation, they were ignored. And when somone asked what about the renters? Danielle dobin coldly said “Well, they all have short term leases anyway. and that was it. No help was offered by the town to help us find housing. Shows how much they really care.

  9. joshua stein

    So when will someone step up and abolish the current 8-30g that has been an absolute gift to developers, at the expense of resident families? The neighborhood where this is being built cannot support this traffic. It already struggles. Anyone with common sense can see that. But hey, lets make some people richer at the expense of resident and first responder safety, as well.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      You hit the nail on the head – the issue driving all of this is 8-30g which is a state and not local law. Probably a question that should be asked of the candidates for state representative and state senator that will be voted on this November – what is their position on it and what, if anything, do they propose to do about it and/or fix it.

      • And cut out the loop holes! Such as the affordable units being allowed at a different site, the percentage of units required, etc. Really focus on affordable housing. Maybe the state should provide some funding for local governments to invest in buying/building the housing themselves.

  10. The town had the option to fight and they chose not to, they left the burden on the poorest neighborhood in town to fight out of their own pockets. So in short Westport took their mistakes of not creating affordable housing that made sense and turned in to our problem and abandoned us. This is Westports fault not the residents on hiawatha lane, who pay taxes just like everyone else. They shouldn’t have left us to clean up their mess, they should’ve finished the fight and moved forward from there. Thats what the residents/tax payers/voters (not just on hiawatha but others in town as well) wanted, they were ignored. So yes while we are mad at the state, the town did their own dirty work as well, and that should not be forgotten.