Roundup: Saugatuck Hamlet, Lyman Video …

The next stop for the rezoning of Saugatuck: the full RTM.

On Thursday, 2 subcommittees of the Representative Town Meeting — Planning & Zoning, and Transit — discussed a text amendment and map amendment, approved earlier by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

That decision — which would create a new district in Saugatuck, suitable for development of a retail/restaurant/hotel/residential/marina complex — was opposed by more than 30 voters.

Their petition to the RTM led to the subcommittee hearings. The votes to uphold the P&Z’s approval of the new district were 6-0 in the RTM P&Z Committee (with 1 abstention), and 5-1 in the Transit Committee.

The full RTM votes this Tuesday (January 17, 6:30 p.m.; remote). Two-thirds of the members — 24, regardless of how many are present — must vote in favor of the petition to overturn the zoning change.

The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020.

The shaded area includes the new text and map amendment boundaries.

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Several readers had difficulty accessing the link in yesterday’s Roundup to a YouTube video showing the delivery of supplies to our sister city Lyman, Ukraine, and the exchange of town flags.

Click the red arrow in the middle of the logo below to view.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” bald eagle was spotted at the Cross Highway/Sturges intersection.

Which makes it a good candidate for “Fairfield … Naturally” too.

(Photo/David Furth)

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And finally … today in 1973, Elvis Presley’s “Aloha from Hawaii” concert was broadcast live via satellite. It set a record: the most watched broadcast by an individaul entertainer in TV history.

(The King is long gone, but “06880” lives. Please click here to support your local blog. Thank you!)

14 responses to “Roundup: Saugatuck Hamlet, Lyman Video …

  1. Thanks, Dan, for writing about The Hamlet. The text of my request, sent to the RTM members, is as follows.

    I live in Saugatuck, on Stony Point Road, and until the last election was the only RTM member living here. There now are none.

    Having studied over several years 8-30g and its possible effect on Westport, I think I understand that the “Hamlet” zoning amendments are an attempt to “head ‘em off at the pass”, “’em” being 8-30g developers. That being said, the amendments have come at us way too fast. We, the future of Saugatuck and the future of Westport, should not be held hostage to the current mad rush. It’s not our, the future’s, fault that Westport seems to have spent twenty years fighting against 8-30g developers (and losing) instead of making and implementing a sensible plan for affordable housing. The mad rush was forced on P&Z by a state-imposed time limit for decision making. That’s not the same thing as careful study to make sure we’re doing the right thing for Westport over the long term.

    The most egregious examples of our moving way too fast are as follows.

    We must check, using our own experts, the would-be developer’s claims that underground parking in a flood-prone area is a good idea. Given global warming, how much sea level rise will flood our new underground parking and make Saugatuck a ghost town?

    To my knowledge, we have not yet heard from our fire protection folks. How will we protect the development that likely will result from the proposed amendments? Will we need a ladder truck stationed nearby? Will we need a new firehouse?

    Who are the investors in the would-be developer that is paying the cost to get the amendments passed? We must assure ourselves that no undue influence, planned or inadvertent, is being imposed on our town’s decision makers.

    Please reject P&Z’s action because their rushed approval process does not maximize the chance of doing what’s right for the long term. After we complete proper due diligence, we may agree to the current language word-for-word. At this time, however, we can’t do that.

    Thank you.

  2. We agree with Rick Jaffe – RTM members please vote on Tuesday NOT TO CREATE a new district in Saugatuck.

  3. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    Mc-Hamlet
    Several years ago I opined that Westport suffers from an “Identity Crisis”. The RTM P&Z/Transit meeting Thursday evening illustrated this on steroids.

    For decades I’ve witnessed individuals come to Westport for our exceptional amenities embedded within the charm of a Southern New England town aesthetic.

    However too often arrivals are accompanied by the phrase “You know what Westport needs?”, and then imposition of their desires, commonly ignoring what generational residents want.

    Due to Westport’s increasing affluence, experiences commensurate with that wealth have attained increasing influence and impacts upon our Town. An endless parade of modest, “more affordable” perfectly functional homes that have successfully raised generation after generation, literally bite the dust replaced with opulent Mc-Mansions.

    Alex Hyman lamented this observation, but was dismissed by a young-ish investor in the project with what can be best described as contempt, as in essence he (and the Town) was told: “Move over old man, we are here, and we know what’s best”.

    I remind that A) What’s “best” is an inherently biased opinion, and B) The consideration given to our elders is a direct reflection upon our individual humanity.

    I remind the young-ish investors that the Town they discovered and adore was built by the generation you seek to impact or displace by your “visions” under the subjective rubric “progress”.

    Predictably, along with this march of alleged “betterments”, the “aesthetic attraction”, “historical attraction”, “unique character” and “New England charm” is eroded until lost – replaced by the Long Island, NYC, Westchester ambiance Westporters loathed. Of course the attractive amenities remain (schools, recreation, theater, restaurants) but absent the distinctive character that attracted in the first place. Amongst these deaths by a thousand cuts, the Saugatuck proposal represents an enormous incision.

    Instead of being protected, Westport’s identity’s been increasingly prodded towards Long Island, Westchester and elsewhere. We are not Great Neck, Westchester, Palm Beach, Naples, or a “Town in Denmark”. We are/were Southern New England.

    Is THIS the Saugatuck vision that residents have desired? NO. The 2018 TOD made that clear. THIS proposal is what the DEVELOPERS envision for Saugatuck not what SAUGATUCK envisions for Saugatuck. Despite Attorney Bernheim’s disingenuous attestation that this ROAN project “checks all 8 boxes of the TOD design principles”, he intentionally omitted the two most critical principles of all: NO buildings taller than 2.5 – 3 stories, and NO footprints greater than 20,000 SF because it did not fit the narrative he was promoting. That ROAN’s attorney “misrepresented” is no surprise as he and the project developers know that it is primarily the SCALE of the proposal that is unsatisfactory – not the revitalization itself.

    To falsely state that Westport residents are always inappropriately fearful of change is a strategy used to disparage opposing individuals, to silence legitimate concerns, diminish rival credibility. And a developer preening over the alleged success of Bedford Square was expected – as dining and retail unaffordable to the majority of fixed income seniors, “working class” families and those “affordable housing tenants”, still represents success and progress to him because their patronage is “superfluous”.
    Thursday evening accusations of “fear-mongering” was used to discredit and silence legitimate concerns. The multitude of concerns expressed were NOT fear-mongering. They remain legitimate and responsible. Kudos to those who sufficiently cared to express them.

    There is no argument that Saugatuck has long deserved a sensible, responsible revitalization, and no argument that Westport’s residents DO DESIRE CHANGE to that neglected area of Town. The question has always been one of SCALE befitting a historic Southern New England village – APPROPRIATENESS given Saugatuck’s unique physical and environmental characteristics, constraints and challenges. SENSIBILITY.

    In addition, as Seth stated, “The optics are not good”. Displacing affording housing to elsewhere in Town, while constructing an expensive boutique hotel, luxury condos, high end retail, and spas for the enjoyment of the affluent, might deservedly be viewed as being as “entitled as it gets”.

    With the P&Z’s herculean efforts, and despite the RTM subcommittee’s concerns, and public’s displeasure with its scale, for understandable 8-30g concerns this project is destined to move forward. A developer and handful of investors have succeeded in forever imposing their will onto the entirety of Westport’s residents. They will leave their indelible mark in the face of substantial public opposition and near certain infrastructural impacts because THEY believe (and will always believe) that THEY knew “better” than the multitude of residents of Westport who desire something different but have no effective power.

    The term “Hamlet” at Saugatuck was a clever marketing ploy intended to foster imagery of a small quaint village as by definition a Hamlet is small. In reality, and in congruence with the Mc-Mansions, this area will be forever designated the “MC-HAMLET at Saugatuck”.

    Just look around Town – did anyone expect anything other?

    • Jay, I love it; MC-WESTPORT!

      Can we get Miggs, Staples grad and of Ukraine heritage, to design a new flag?

  4. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    Sadly, Saugatuck as many of us knew it appears to be doomed. Developers are like a steamroller and ruin everything but somebody will make a ton of cash. Traffic in Saugatuck was bad in the 70’s and there’s no way ‘The Hamlet’ is going to improve the situation. When I come back for may annual visit this year I will have to patronize the Duck one more time before they sink it.

  5. There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me, it is a prison.

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    How many of the legendary Saugatuck families of Italian descent are still in Westport? It’s a rhetorical question.

  7. I was on all 7 hours of the zoom call this past Thursday.
    It was quite interesting to witness.

    I appreciated all of the effort it took on everyone’s part to have this meeting and make it accessible to anyone that wanted to attend.

    In the end, the RTM voted not to overturn the P&Z’s decision to move forward with this project prior to the amendment running out of time.

    While there is much debate on whether or not that is what’s best for Westport and in particular the Saugatuck area, what I would like clarity on is how each RTM member comes up with their decision.

    Is an RTM member supposed to vote based on their own ideas of what they think should happen, or are they supposed to vote based on what the majority of the constituents in their district want?

    From what I could see, everyone who spoke up that was not financially invested in the project was against it. Yet, it seems the RTM votes did not take that into account. How is that allowed to happen?

    Would someone who was been involved in the politics in this town mind explaining the process in more detail about how these votes are supposed to work?

    • Hi Melissa – I reccomend you call one of the RTM reps from your district. They can explain the process etc. The list is available on the town’s website. I’m also happy to talk to you – feel free to DM me on FaceBook if you’d like.

  8. As much as I miss the Westport that I knew and loved, I’m glad I don’t live there any more.

  9. Elisabeth Keane

    Is there any hope that the Gault family would reconsider and do with this rejuvenation the wonderful job they did with the first one?

  10. Interesting…

    Roan is being called out because they’re new to town but forgetting that the properties are privately owned by Westport families is a mistake. These families have provided service to the community for generations and should be allowed to maximize their exit strategy.

    What they’re proposing to replace are ugly structures that do not contribute to the aesthetics of Saugatuck. We can’t compare it to razing a single-family home. It’s apples and oranges. In addition, 21 Charles has already established the scale of the area. It’s a prominent structure and what surrounds it needs continuity. Keep in mind, the proposed street scape on riverside is the same height as Saugatuck center. P and Z still controls that final design.

    If some feel a ” smaller” scale project could be profitable, how come they have not secured the funding and presented it to the neighborhood they are now trying to control?
    When the YMCA was originally proposed, it was limited in size and the end result is that it is about 20% undersized across the board. David Waldman’s development downtown was limited in scale, and he stated that reducing the size of his project cost him his profitability.

    Younger people moving in and wanting to invest and shape the community that they want to raise their children in is nothing new.

    Would you prefer 300+ residential units like Hiawatha, that dump cars into the area at morning and evening rush hour or a mixed use, including more great restaurants, all while providing publicly accessible waterfront and amenities.

    Which one of these options is better concerning traffic?

    8-30g …We have had multiple examples where developers used it to permit extremely inappropriate developments, if this project is overturned it’s 100% likely the next developer will and those 300+ units will be a reality.
    Let’s not repeat past mistakes, let’s retain some control over what goes in this space.

    The TOD study was abandoned because it was not viable. Regardless, P+Z used key parts of it for guidance and Roan met those suggestions.

    Lastly, the idea that this was rushed through is ridiculous! It’s been discussed for well over a year and a half with carefully thought-out public access requirements. Anyone commenting now could have put in the effort and been easily informed and heard. Unfortunately, the folks who didn’t like the P+Z decision are attempting to stir up support based on misinformation and hyperbole.

  11. Jennifer Johnson

    I take issue with Mr Guimond’s comment “The TOD study was abandoned because is was not viable”.  

    The Saugatuck TOD study, which cost upwards of $500,000, was completed in 2018 by top-flight consultants and involved thousands of combined public hours in meetings, reviews and surveys.   The Saugatuck TOD study showed that it makes sense to locate denser development away from the heart of Saugatuck and closer to Route 136 given the topography and the need for easier rail and fire/emergency access.  Yes, this would require “liner buildings” around “tiered parking” (which was vehemently opposed by a vocal minority of Westporters opposed to anything put forth by the consultant (see Dan’s post on March 14, 2018)).  But given the choice that we now face (namely, the flawed Hamlet or some vague 830(g) project looming down the road), it is now worth immediately revisiting.  

    The Saugatuck TOD plan can be found easily on the Town’s website.  Given the overarching importance of the Saugatuck rail station to our town’s economic health and quality of life, it is worth taking the time to revisit this impressive study.  Page 112, for example, shows where and how Westport could address affordable housing. From a traffic perspective the Hamlet will have a disproportionate and adverse impact on residents who rely on Saugatuck Rail station over those who use Greens Farms. The Saugatuck TOD Study gives us the solutions we need now. Let’s not allow it to be wasted. 

  12. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    Robbie,

    Many residents HAVE BEEN quite concerned about the McHamlet proposal since its inception – perhaps you are just not aware of this – however vocal “objection and opposition” could not occur until there was something concrete to object to and oppose.

    Because proactive community outreach and engagement by developers is virtually non-existent, residents are far too busy with family and work obligations to become informed until the 11th hour. Reactionary resident protestation becomes the norm. Unfortunately without a Town referendum that’s how the process generally works – and it is a reality that developers always take advantage of.

    If ROAN and its investors actually cared about Westport’s inhabitants, they would have engaged and partnered with them (the way that the TOD consultants did) to create a sensible development plan the community would support.

    As you stated, THE DEVELOPERS had years to have done this – but for obvious reasons THEY decided to “go in another direction”; by law they are not required to work with the community as profit motivation takes precedent over community support.

    But thank you for clearly crystalizing the motivations here:
    1. Profit
    2. People moving to a Town with sights on changing it without concern about what the inhabitants desire.

    You are correct that this is “nothing new”. In fact, historically, these newcomers were given a name: “Carpetbaggers” – i.e. “moving to a Town and exploiting a situation for personal gain”. This obscene-sized McHamlet will remain long after you are gone.

    I reiterate: The entire community supports changes in Saugatuck – however it is the SCALE that is at issue. And again you ignore the fact that The TOD’s KEY design principles of SCALE were completely ignored. THAT is what is so objectionable.

    The TOD study provided a framework and guidepost to build upon – and for the many reasons delineated, that should have been the developer’s foundation to begin from. If ROAN (and the “younger people moving in” investors you reference) actually cared about the community at large, they would have partnered with it rather than choosing to impose THEIR vision because THEY think that they know better, AND in so doing it would make them “X” amount of money.

    Robbie, it is not too late for ROAN and its investors to do the right thing. A final design that honors the TOD scale principles, and one that comports with the vision of the community, can still be constructed utilizing the approved Text and Map amendments – but it would take a willingness to begin an earnest dialogue with Westport’s residents to work in partnership. Yes, the 8-30g issue and retaining control over what is constructed there IS important – but as you have heard, Westport’s residents also want control over what is ultimately constructed in Saugatuck rather being held hostage to ROAN’s imposition.

    Perhaps an amendable solution is still possible instead of ROAN constructing that objectionable McHamlet. The enormity and indelible impact of this proposal demand it.

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