Committee Recommends New Long Lots School; Gardens Would Move

It’s Plan C.

A new Long Lots Elementary School would be built on the baseball diamond adjacent to the current school. A new field would replace the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve, now on the southern edge of the property.

The Long Lots School Building Committee voted unanimously last night in favor of that concept.

Plan C, recommended last night. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The decision in the Town Hall auditorium was the culmination of nearly two dozen meetings, and a year of studies.

It also followed 3 months of passionate pleas by residents to save the 20-year-old garden. Over 100 gardeners were joined by scores of others, citing environmental, educational, health and other benefits of the plots.

Last night’s vote was the end of the first phase of the Long Lots project, and the beginning of the next. The LLSBC will forward its recommendation to First Selectwoman Jen Tooker. If she accepts it, it then proceeds through various town bodies, including the Board of Finance, Planning & Zoning Commission, Representative Town Meeting — and of course the Board of Education.

The public will have “many, many, many opportunities to voice support or opposition, to bodies that may or may not approve it,” said Building Committee member Don O’Day.

LLSBC chair Jay Keenan noted that the building and parking lot will change shape, as the process continues.

Long Lots School Building Committee last night, at Town Hall. Chair Jay Keenan is 5th from left. (Photos/Dan Woog)

The meeting began with a reiteration of last week’s presentation by Newfield Construction. It included three “concepts”: renovate the existing 70-year-old school; renovate with additions, or build a new structure, with cost and timetable projections for each. (Click here for the full feasibility study.) 

Plan C — an entirely new building — is approximately 126,000 square feet, with a construction timetable of 18 to 26 months. The estimated cost is $92.1 million.

Before the vote, a dozen residents spoke. Their questions and comments ranged from the possibility of sending Long Lots children elsewhere to enable renovation (“not possible” for a variety of reasons, committee members said), to issues with wetlands and traffic, and concerns about artificial turf fields.

Joe Vallone addresses the Building Committee.

Architect Joe Vallone repeated his idea — first raised at last week’s meeting — of a 3-story, energy-efficient building. Committee members responded that it would not work due to educational specifications for young children.

“How many people think the gardens should be demolished?” Vallone asked. No one answered.

“How many think the gardens should be saved?” he continued. There was strong applause, from the half-filled auditorium.

Keenan then called for a discussion of the concepts. O’Day said he supported C. “It’s the best use of the site. It reduces the duration of construction. I understand it means rebuilding the gardens.”

But, he added, the gardens would need to be shut down anyway, as the entire Long Lots property would become a construction zone.

Other committee members called C “the best approach with the best layout,” the “best one for traffic, safety and education,” and the best for neighbors.

Several said that they had originally favored renovating the current school. They changed their minds based on cost ($107.5 million), time frame (36 months), and disruption to students during construction.

With little more to say, Keenan called for a vote.

Every hand was raised.

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56 responses to “Committee Recommends New Long Lots School; Gardens Would Move

  1. TO: Jay Keenan and the LLSBC
    CC: Board of Selectwomen, P&Z, BOF, BOE, RTM

    A few thoughts for the record:

    1). I thank you for your service to the town of Westport and for the exhaustive hours spent on this difficult and complex problem. I am 100 percent in favor of building a new school as soon as possible to the specs submitted by the Board of Education.

    2) I am sorry I was nine months late to the party on this worst case scenario. I couldn’t have imagined the garden and preserve were at risk when the committee was formed in September 2022, especially since gardeners were not invited to provide input (nor were our residential neighbors). I hope the town (and electorate) has learned from this problematic experience of excluding important stakeholders in the decision-making process.

    3) The present-day Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve are the ultimate expression of community, volunteerism, and environmental stewardship. Closing them down is wrong. It is draconian and unnecessary. To all our town reps who have a vote on this: Please don’t do it.

    4) Any decision to “move” these town gems is a platitude to the gardening and Preserve community.
    Platitude =
    a) The quality or state of being dull or insipid;
    b) A banal, trite, or stale remark.

    5) Soil scientists (U-Conn, CAES) say that to disturb soil that is being cultivated is akin to “an earthquake, tornado, hurricane and forest fire occurring simultaneously to the world of soil organisms.” How do you recover from that?

    6) The gardens and Preserve are not well funded, if at all, by the town. We (WCG members) pay for a port-a-john. Our water is not potable. Our labor is done by volunteers or paid for by them. Our tools are donated. We really are the neglected step-child in the Parks and Rec family of fancy facilities.

    7) The people of the gardens and Preserve are studious and quiet neighbors to the abutting residences and elementary school. We follow strict rules to respect the security of the students. Our soil absorbs an abundance of water that might otherwise runoff into neighboring properties. We are a quiet and calm alternative to living with noisy, high-level baseball field activity just yards away from individual residential backyards.

    8) There has been ZERO thought or due diligence to plan for the future of the gardens, at 13 Hyde Lane or elsewhere. Zilch. Your plan proposes to move us to a swampy shady inferior location with an access road cutting through the middle.

    These are my thoughts. It makes me sad that they carry little weight in your deliberations, and nary an acknowledgement from the town’s chief executive.

  2. Lorraine Shelley

    $107.5 million to renovate a school? something fishy is going on here. The outrageous greed disgusts me.

    • is there a clear explanation why renovating is so much more?

    • You could reflexively blame greed and question the integrity of the people giving you that information, or you could’ve been on the ground and paying attention as many of your dedicated neighbors committed significant time and energy to identifying the magnitude of issues plaguing the school building. Teachers and parents have been flagging issues for at least a decade, and there have been a series of reports and presentations over the last 3 years at least highlighting the significant challenges facing a potential renovation.

      I know this has become a hot-button item for a few people recently because of the impact on their choice of – and I know I’m opening myself up here – a hobby, but it ignores or intentionally disregards the level of care and consideration that has gone into this process.

      And I don’t mean to direct this rant at you personally, but I’m tired of the repeated implications from a vocal minority in town that the people tasked with this very significant decision are somehow not operating in full faith or aren’t taking into consideration all the myriad details that a project of this scale and scope requires.

      In order to move forward, decisions have to be made, and because of the competing priorities it is inevitable that some groups will be less satisfied than others. We teach our kids that the world isn’t always fair and we don’t always get our way, and when we don’t we accept that and move forward, not dwell on it or continue to point fingers at the people responsible for that decision or question the integrity of the decision making. It seems to me that there are a lot of adults around that could stand to relearn that lesson.

      • Mr. Morgan: A few facts to consider: the committee was formed in September 2022. Some representations were made initially, I don’t know by whom, that the project did not involve the gardens. There was NO outreach to the garden (or neighbors, I think) to draw into the input/assessment phase of the committee’s work.

        Some nine months later, in June 2023, gardeners got wind that the gardens were in jeopardy. We inserted ourselves into the process the hard way, when the committee was already very deep into it. I do believe they worked hard at this complicated project but without all the proper stakeholders at the table or even in the loop.

        The fact remains: not all of the invested stakeholders were consulted, or even notified, that this was even a possibility.

        Now, I’ll go back to my hobby of trying to save another Earth.

  3. plan c and plan c alt have the same school location I believe. one chooses the garden and one chooses a baseball field. Mentioned last night on a wish list from parks and rec (a plastic turf over the garden) the committee recommends natural turf. how does the “parks” and rec, want to take a park and make it a plastic field? every time I think this thought I am confused all over again!
    let’s go westport. make sure you speak up if you think leaving a 20 year old garden is more important than a baseball field. the field can find another home, the garden is alive and will need to be killed!

    let’s go westport! let’s rally around the alt c plan that could have just as easily been the recommendation. the BOE did not assign the committee to plan for fields.

    with respect and civility regards to my neighbors!


  5. I appreciate the hard work of the LLSBC. There is no doubt that a new school is required. Now all that is needed is for the Parks & Rec. department to find another location for the ballfields and not destroy the 20 year old community garden. Both the garden & fields are under their purview. Might I suggest that the section of Winslow Park North, where the State of Connecticut is currently using as a staging field for the work on the Post Road, as the site for the ballfields. This section of the park is not used by dog owners due to the proximity to the road. I would assume that by the time the state is done with using our open space it will be time to play ball. Please consider this suggestion as an alternative to destroying the garden. Let’s not have another locker fiasco. If this proceeds, as planned, all the way to the RTM lets pray it will get on the agenda.
    Thank you,
    Susie Kowalsky
    Long Lots Junior High – Class ’72

  6. The Chair of the building committee said the recommendation is “malleable”, meaning it can be tweaked. Now that the recommendation is out of committee, it’s time for the various parts of Town government to be directly involved. Parks and Rec, the Board of Ed (when is a redistricting coming anyway?), First Selectwomen’s office, RTM and Board of Finance can all reject this and send it back to committee. Let’s see where town leadership does. Let’s keep our campaign civil and respectful.

    • Joe – the problem is that the BOE will likely rubber-stamp this because they want their school built as quickly as possible. (It would be nice to hear the opinion of the Republicans running for BOE on this plan.) The BOF will rubber-stamp it because the BOF Chair is a Little League dad who has already spoken up for building a baseball field on the site. One can presume that the FS chose the committee based upon what she wanted on the site – which is why Sustainable Westport was not represented on the LLSBC. At that point, you’re running out of options. Who knows how P&Z will approach this? RTM? How much moral courage have you seen out of them lately? I say with all civility and respect.

      Chris Grimm

      • Chris, marking this to review over the coming months. Not a bad bit of handicapping, 85% chance you are spot on for how these boards will react and vote. RTM, not exactly Profiles in Courage…..Wirth all due civility and respect.

      • I truly believe this committee was seated one year ago with a sparkling new baseball diamond baked in, under the cover of a new school. I also believe that all those involved in setting this proposal on a path forward did not anticipate opposition from neighbors or gardeners. Everybody knows “Westport Loves Baseball.” And we do. Just not at the expense of slaughtering the environment.

        An aside: Any town official with a conflict of interest related to their sporting affiliations, please identify yourself.

  7. This is a week that will be long remembered.

    Not only has the LLSBC rendered their verdict to destroy the Community Gardens and Preserve to oblivion but the RTM 29 have, by their refusal to affirm the existing RTM rule, Town Charter and State enabling legislation that everyone’s matter matters when it comes to being heard by the RTM, have ensured that they will refuse to hear the voice of the community about protecting the gardens and preserve.

    You see, the RTM does not have a line item veto when it comes to approving the BOE’s budget. They must accept or deny it as presented. So they can, based on their disturbing vote not to affirm that which they had already sworn an oath to uphold and support, refuse to hear a 20 elector petition to approve the school build minus the destruction of the gardens.

    Don’t believe me? It has already happened. The moderator admitted during the more than 5 hours of debate on Monday and Tuesday night that he had already “discouraged” the supporters of the Gardens from submitting a petition for redress to the RTM.

    And now, with the votes of the RTM 29 duly recorded, he has his official “authorization” for his undemocratic actions. Don’t look to the RTM as it is now currently compiled by the sitting RTM 29 to save the Community Gardens and Preserve. The moderator and the RTM 29 gave us all their answer Tuesday night. Some peoples matters matter and some peoples matters don’t matter.

  8. The chair of the building committee said the recommendation is “malleable”, subject to change. Now that the recommendation is out of committee; it’s up to Town leadership to save the Gardens and Preserve by adopting option Alt C, which builds a new school and saves our town treasures. Each of the Board of Ed (when is the redistricting coming?), Parks and Rec (pollinator pathway versus plastic artificial turf ball fields?), Board of Finance, and the First Selectwomen’s office. Let’s keep up our campaign to save the Gardens and Preserve with passion, respect, and civility. These town assets are worth the fight. There must be another place to build the fields.

  9. Robert Harrington (Board of Education Member)

    I want sincerely thank the LLBC for their time, effort and diligence on this project so far. It is a great group of people. Disagreeing with this decision is not personal.

    I know that many elected representatives, across multiple boards and commissions (Including the Board that I sit on), wanted the process to play out and hear the recommendation first.

    We now have that recommendation. The 20 year old gardens will be destroyed to make way for a ball field. The location of the school is exactly where it should be.

    The recommendation of this committee could easily have been to build a new school AND protect the gardens. They went a different route. It would have cost a few million dollars to protect the Westport Community Gardens – but for a 50 year+ project that is a rounding error that would be worth it.

    The Westport Community Gardens is overseen by the Parks and Recs Department. This is a mistake. It has to change. The Parks and Recs Department has NOT provided leadership for this great community gem. They do the bare minimum for it. This showed throughout the process and from their report that was submitted just days before the recommendation. This department has not answered one single question from the public throughout this process. We need change.

    I would like the Board of Education to take over this oversight for WCG. We can be a strong advocate for this community facility. The WCG is currently run be a science teacher that has been in the profession for over 20 years. The Gardens sit on our campus and it will allow us to fully integrate educational programming, across ALL schools, with this important resource. This hasn’t happened in the past. It needs to be part of its future.

    I hope the board that I sit on, and other elected representatives throughout Westport, including the First Selectwoman and her office, will support both a new school AND protecting the Westport Community Gardens in their current location.

    As a sitting Board of Education member – I cannot and will not support this recommendation.

    • Karen La Costa Mather

      Robert – wonderful idea placing the Garden/Preserves under the BOE umbrella. If the LLSBC decision was truly about meeting the needs of the elementary school children – many more children would be served with hands on science classes to learn about eco-systems, sustainability and stewardship of our increasingly fragile planet – than would be served by a Babe Ruth baseball field! The Stepping Stone students would benefit from the exposure to nature and all its wonders and little miracles. This is a fabulous opportunity!

  10. How obnoxious & inconsiderate of long time community members. Surely a better solution could have been addressed. Consideration should have been seriously taken to en corporate the gardens for much needed environmental education.

  11. Nathalie Fonteyne Gavrilovic

    What a sad decision! Destroying something brimming with life for an artificial field. I support a new school, I support responsible financial stewardship but this is a very shortsighted decision. Actually, I don’t understand that decision. I would imagine that it makes more sense to build a field from scratch then to destroy and relocate 20 year old gardens. Once again nature and the environment lose out.

  12. Jennifer Johnson

    Dan – Please post the image of “Concept C” which shows the garden remaining at its current location (see page 60). “Concept C” reflects the location of a new elementary school building. The consultant showed two images for “Concept C”: one that keeps the garden where it is and adds an adjacent soccer field. The other replaces the garden with a ball field.

    In short, the good news is that it is clearly possible to build a new school PLUS replace a soccer field AND save the garden The question is whether our elected leaders have the political will to make that happen.

  13. There is little that I can add that Toni Simonetti and the previous commenters haven’t already stated. Just heartbroken by this situation and how it has played out thus far. I am dismayed by the utter lack of support for preserving the Community Gardens by our Town and the Parks & Rec department. And the wish to cover this site—a biodiverse, environmental gem teeming with life—with artificial turf?!?!?!

  14. Karen La Costa Mather

    I’m sure the Chairman of the small, handpicked LLSBC has read the article: “How can you design accessible educational facilities in Sustainable Design”. According to my daughter who is on Linked In, he is an active follower of the individual who posted this article.

    Here is one portion headlined in bold: Engage with stakeholders and users: “Designing accessible and sustainable educational facilities is Not a one-way process. It requires collaboration and communication with your clients, users and communities. You need to engage with them throughout the design process, from the initial concept to the final evaluation. You can use various methods, such as workshops, focus groups, co-design sessions, or feedback surveys, to involve them in your design decisions, and to test and refine your solutions. By engaging with your stakeholders and users, you can ensure that your design meets their needs, expectations, and values and that it fosters a sense of ownership, belonging and pride”.

    We got the exact opposite. The LLSBC started with their end-result, knew it would upset and hurt stakeholders and did everything they could to keep it quiet and be exclusive and opaque. Hello FOIA requests. If the LLSBC followed the advice above, we would have a creative plan in place that made everyone happy. Now stakeholders are angry. It’s righteous anger as we’ve seen abuse of power and lack of transparency throughout this ugly process.

    For example, Lee Goldstein, Chairman of the BOE, was surprised to see plans expanded beyond the initial scope of the new/refurb school with playgrounds. She asked why was there a baseball field on top of the twenty year old Garden/Preserves.
    The LLSBC Chairman stated that he used his own ‘judgement’. Wow. Like a king, he can destroy a beloved ONE and only 20-year old, national award winning Garden and negatively impact the property values of Long Lots neighbors. He couldn’t be bothered to deal with the pesky peasants. My judgement is how arrogant!

    I wish our First Selectwoman would have the guts to reject Plan C and admit we can create a plan that makes everyone happy and not make Westport look like a town of hypocrites when the word ‘sustainable’ comes out of their mouths. The great expense and long life of this new school deem we get it right. The LLSBC’s initial visions of a “campus” with sports fields adjacent to an elementary school, which doesn’t even use them, has blinded them throughout their design and kept them closed off from alternative solutions and plans offered by Westport architects, engineers and residents.

    Ironically, this Building Committee – all about Sustainable Design – could care less that the Garden/Preserves, with decades old living soil and native trees bushes, serve as a long-term carbon sequestration. The disconnect is mind boggling. The hypocrisy is laughable.

    And the ONE and only Garden/Preserves – which have only supported much life, added joy, beauty and meaning and goodness to this town and its residents at no cost financially while adding great benefit ecologically – is going to serve as the sacrificial lamb so the LLSBC get their baseball field. So heartless and selfish.

  15. I’m not one to give up easily but I fear that “The die is cast.”

    As much as I admire Robert Harrington’s independent thinking in these comments, there will likely be no garden worth having once the existing structure is bulldozed.

    Furthermore as others have said it feels like there is little more that can be done as the school is the major issue at stake (as it should be and which all / most agree.) Let’s face it, we aren’t going to sacrifice the school timetable for the garden. The fix is in.

    Although I am not personally a gardener my wife is, and it is her passion. I decided to make common cause with the WCG community when I saw the way their supporters were treated by the LLSBC at their meetings, who planned in secret at first and made decisions without the benefit of full information about the LL ball field usage from the PRC, not to mentioned a general tone of “we know better than you” at their public meetings. As Miggs Burroughs has said, the garden was treated like a “potted plant” in their process.

    I have lived in Westport for the best part of three decades and never involved myself in town politics thinking that our local issues were talked out by residents for the benefit of our local community, not concerning ourselves with International, national or to a lesser extent State issues. I realize now how wrong I was.

    Which brings me to the subject of the RTM. I watched (a little shocked) the recent meeting on TV – the first time I had seen it in action. Twenty-Nine members (Including all four members from my own District 5) essentially took away the right of residents to petition the town government’s elected body claiming, among other things, that otherwise folks might bring petitions wanting to “declare war on Weston”…What?

    I think we can agree that while Westport Town Residents may have strong personal views on International and national issues it will be rare that RTM members change their opinion because of RTM debate in the town auditorium. Neither will most of the rest of America outside Westport know or care what we think as a town.

    let’s leave that to our federally elected officials to hash out and concentrate locally on creative thinking for better outcomes for our own community. Most of them will not be partisan. We don’t have time for virtue signaling on either side’s issues and they pit residents against one another. The current Committees and Commissions are unelected and unaccountable to the public – blunt instruments at best. Let’s also involve the right stakeholders too. Maybe that is one lesson we can all learn from all these various recent fiascoes.

    Last, I have no idea whether this is possible under the Town’s Charter or not but with a fresh perspective the RTM seems way too unwieldy to be effective. How about one representative per district instead of four? Finding two thirds majorities among thirty-six people is next to impossible and no one wants to ask volunteer RTM members stay into the small hours at every meeting while everyone has their say. Fewer members (nine) would make it easier for the public to lobby their RTM member as well.

    Let’s find reforms that make us nimble and work for the good of the Westport community rather than persist with this antiquated “Frankenstein’s Monster” model of Town Government.


  16. Valerie Smith-Malin

    I am stunned. It’s willfully ignoring the laws of nature and common sense to think that you can “move” gardens, especially mature, pesticide-free gardens that are already on the Pollinator Pathway and are homes/routes for birds. They’re not potted plants. As we know, bird populations are in steep decline and wildfire smoke is on the rise. Per numerous expert articles, it’s the canary in the coal mine for humans. How will the ball field help when the sky is orange again next summer? We hypocritically want Brazil to ‘Save the Rainforest’ while destroying Connecticut’s lungs to appease a few. And paradoxically, the ball field will be less used as we experience more days trapped inside by hazardous AQI. If the Building Committee truly wants what’s good for ALL children and Westport residents, they’ll help ensure that we can all eat and breathe in the future and not add to childhood asthma and food insecurity. That honestly feels like a lawsuit coming. Moreover, locating a high-school sized ball field that’s the wrong size for use by the children at the elementary school where it is located, and used by a few for a few months a year, is tyranny by the minority to the detriment of all. In a town as educated and resourceful as ours, we must be able to find a way to share resources. Our children at CMS and BMS shared schools, and that’s more complex than Recess. We can do so much better than this.

  17. I appreciate all of the hard work and time that has been devoted to the Long Lots plan and I totally recognize that it is a complex issue.

    I agree with many of the previous comments but I also believe that the students will be missing out on many wonderful educational opportunities by not having the community gardens situated on their campus. After 20 years, the gardens are in prime condition for all kinds of new and innovative programs. With the proximity of the gardens to the school, the curriculum could easily be enhanced to include hands-on activities and experiments during (as well as before and after) the school day.

    Let’s please continue to have an open and productive discussion about alternatives.

  18. Everyone has always agreed that a new school is long overdue and in fact should have been a priority as long as 6- 10 years ago.

    The ball field which clearly can be built anywhere else in town has been on the cards since day 1, and the plan has always been to bulldoze the gardens in favour of a ball field.
    We just didn’t know it.

    And that is precisely why sustainable Westport and the 20 year old community gardens had no seat at the carefully handpicked table.

    Putting a ball field there has always been the plan. Even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the school, which is retaining its fields as of course they should.

    This was deliberate and a foregone conclusion.

    Pretending to be transparent, pretending to listen and care. But never has there been the remotest intention of saving the gardens.
    None whatsoever.

    The last few months have been about lip service.

    • Sadly the true headline decision here is the new v renovated school one. Despite some commenters NOT “everyone has agreed a new school is required”. Desired by some perhaps but required? Nope. Does anyone really believe renovating is more expensive than a complete tear down & rebuild? Would be nice to see the specific plans and related costs and how they were RFP’d for competing bids. HUGE capital cost to Westport’s taxpayers. No offense but THAT’s the true issue here yet so many baseball v garden comments. This decision making board played this process perfectly. They buried the lead and had everyone debating the side issue.

  19. Mark, that is a great point and it had not occurred to me.
    I should have said new or renovated whichever was a better cost.
    I do not know if it cheaper to renovate or cheaper to build.
    It certainly is believable especially with the way materials have gone up that a renovation would cost less.
    But I would not expect any “true” numbers on that. Unless they are independent, not retained by the town, and from someone with no skin in the game in selling the result or gaining from the result.
    But thank you for that correction.
    And fyi, the numbers are published on cost estimates, and surprise surprise according to those, a renovation is more expensive. 🤔

    • As I noted in another reply, the “new vs renovate” discussion has been ongoing for years, with lots of information made available from a variety of sources during that time.

      It’s not the rest of the town’s job to catch up a group of newly-interested parties on all the work that has come before, and the continued insinuations that there are ulterior motives or dishonest behavior from the people doing the hard work to arrive at such an important decision is…unfortunate.

  20. Now that the garden rubbish has been disposed of, let’s focus on the approval and development of The Hamlet at Saugatuck.

  21. Doesn’t it sound like the wrong marching orders were given to the Building Committee.

    The mandate could have read-
    1) preserve the unique Westport Community Gardens and The Preserve- maintaining access to them during construction.
    2) build a state of the art and energy efficient elementary school with age appropriate ball fields on the presently available utilized acreage.
    3) get input from involved stakeholders.
    4) maintain a “big picture” to balance Westport community needs and Westport educational needs.

    Just think- it is still early and not too late to rethink the mandate!
    Might even wind up keeping everyone happy- with a great school and a preserved Preserve and Community Garden!

    • I’m sorry if I’m missing sarcasm here, but are you suggesting bullet point one – the FIRST priority! – for a mandate for a new elementary school should be to preserve the gardening plots that a fraction of the community uses?

      Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

      I understand the importance of considering the needs of and gathering input from every stakeholder, but any suggestion that maintaining the gardens is more important than the actual school building really is unserious and reflects such a narrow perspective that it is almost contradictory to the concept of multi-stakeholder engagement.

      • Nobody has said the new or renovated school is less important than leaving the community gardens exactly where they have sat for 20 years.
        There can very easily be both. That’s the whole point.

        The ball field can be built somewhere else.
        Pretty simple and it will save the tax payers a fortune. The cost to build the new ball field ( which is not part of the school) is the same no matter where it goes, but the tax payers will all be on the hook to do a new community garden. And that could be millions. ( not to even mention that it took 20 years to get it to where it is now, winning national acclaim.
        The whole point is exactly that. And having respect for peoples time, effort and a Westport gem.

        The community gardens are not a part of the school campus/grounds. They just happen to sit beside them.
        This is a”land grab” and judging by public outcry, a very unpopular one.

        I don’t hear 120 upset families. I hear thousands.
        I am not a member of the community gardens, but they have 100% support from me and the majority of the town.

      • You don’t understand. The baseball field is NOT PART OF THE SCHOOL! It is an elementary school. It will have playgrounds and such. The ball field IS NOT for the Long Lots students. The school CAN be renovated or rebuilt without regard to the gardens. The rub is in
        the Parks and Rec athletic fields. They don’t fit with the new school plans.

        • Exactly Toni, I’ve reiterated that twice in my comments.
          The ball field is not for long lots. It is for parks and rec…
          It should not have been ever pondered.
          Community gardens are also not part of the long lots campus…

      • Oooooops! Move bullet point one to bullet point two position.
        End point either way is a great elementary school building, age appropriate fields plus great community garden and preserve.

  22. Between this cynical boil the toad exercise, the attempted car jacking of Parking Harding, the RTM’s brazen theft of citizen rights – plus some other things – I too have plan – a plan for election day. I’m calling it Plan C.

  23. @ Robert Harrington, your comment made me recall that—back when the WCG was in development 20 years ago—folks discussed the possibility of folding the gardens into the BoE. Yale toxicologist and Westport resident David Brown advised against the entire project, testifying that risks from pesticides once used/stored on the site, along with what he perceived as questionably “remediated” soil, meant the land was not the right place for a community garden, especially one that children would work in/eat from. Superintendent Elliott Landon was clear he did not want to take on the liability, but the town decided they’d done their due diligence, and the WCG was born, minus any affiliation with Long Lots.

    FWIW, I’d guess the subsequent stewardship of the land, including years of soil amendments, has done more to benefit the overall health of that piece of land than anything the town ever did. What a shameful way to repay the gardeners for their efforts, especially when you can build a fully functional ball field from scratch; building a healthy community garden takes years.

    • Thanks for that comment, Stacy.

      I hate to allow myself to be triggered, but the BOE hasn’t lifted a finger to improve that land in twenty years. The LLSBC members have not lifted a finger to improve that land in twenty years. Nobody except the gardeners and volunteers have lifted a finger.

      But now these bastards think they are entitled to appropriate the land on which the gardens sit because they are lazy and they are selfish and they are stupid.

      Between Lee Goldstein’s fecklessness and lack of moral courage “leading” the BOE and Michelle Mechanic’s lies about what the BOE can do, the Democrats are being completely useless. For all their panicking about Mr Riano, he may be nuts, but at least he shows the courage of his convictions. Elected Democrats seem to be all about “let’s screw our constituents and claim we didn’t have a choice.” And “you don’t want them, do you?” Can you imagine anything more spineless? How is that kind of weakness a model for our children?

      I’m not absolving the FS who sent us down this path. And I’m certainly not absolving the LLSBC. I was thinking today, if a client went to Delgado, Gilbride, and Keenan asking for a new school, and they were presented with the LLSBC’s recommended plan, they would be laughed out of Town. Keenan would have never presented anything this stupid, if his paycheck depended on it.

      The next stop is the BOE, and we will learn what the BOE really stands for. Because they can recommend the plan that doesn’t destroy the Gardens. It is their choice. We will see what choice they make and defend. But if they pretend that they didn’t have a choice, they have not earned our votes in November. Own your vote.

      Chris Grimm

  24. Absolutely right!

  25. Karen La Costa Mather

    Count me triggered too Chris.

    In their gut, most people understand Plan C is morally wrong.

    In school, we learned about historic figures who stood up bravely against the tide to stop injustice in its tracks. They didn’t sit around hemming and hawing about political ramifications. They did what was right. Robert Harrington, let’s hope your courage is contagious. And Westporters – remember in November!

  26. I think the LLSBC, unpaid professional volunteers, should be congratulated for a job well done, and should be thanked for incredible service to the Town. They have saved the Town an enormous amount of money, doing a time-consuming job of figuring out how best to replace a worn out school. Now we can move on to the other Town departments and the administration, whose job it is to consider the non-building aspects of this project. We can only hope that they can complete the task by figuring out how to place a simple ball field elsewhere to allow a clearly revered, unique Community Gardens to remain in place.

    Jeff Wieser
    Gardener, Plot #146

    • Hi Jeff,
      Hope to meet you at the garden. I agree that they have worked tirelessly, but they could have recommended Alt-C with the garden, and they didn’t. that is a part I don’t understand, except for the initial walk through that the committee said they did with parks and rec and the parks and rec wish list the committee mentioned before their vote.

    • Thank you, Neville Chamberlain.


      Chris Grimm

  27. Hi Jeff,
    Hope to meet you at the garden. I agree that they have worked tirelessly, but they could have recommended Alt-C with the garden, and they didn’t. that is a part I don’t understand, except for the initial walk through that the committee said they did with parks and rec and the parks and rec wish list the committee mentioned before their vote.

  28. Where did the real option C go?

    The Feasibility Study presented two versions of option C, one which leaves the gardens intact (C Alt), and one which replaces them with a baseball field (C). Unfortunately the one that leaves the gardens intact was never intended to be viable – it proposes putting the baseball field in an absurd location that would cost almost three million dollars to build (see the map on page 60 of the study).

    Why was the option that satisfies the most people and maybe even costs the least, i.e. leave the gardens where they are and build the new baseball field at Winslow Park North, not even considered as an alternative?

    Just asking …

  29. So much for “replacing what currently exists.”

    Long Lots elementary kids are going to get the following with their new school, as itemized in the recommended Concept C (pages 61-62 of the appendices):

    Baseball Field – Natural Turf 121,000 SF <
    Seeded Natural Turf Outfield 121,000 SF
    Import Topsoil 1,479 CY
    Perimeter Fence 1,124 LF
    Dugouts – 50'x10'
    Bull pen – 75' x 15'
    Batting cage
    Fan bleachers two (2) sets – 60'x12'
    Infield Mix – Clay
    Bases, mounds, foul poles

    Play ball!
    FWIW, there are no challengers in RTM District 3, and one challenger in RTM District 2.

  30. Patricia Taylor

    As a former Westport resident who petitioned a federal agency, ATSDR, to investigate contamination of soil and water on the site of the present community gardens, I am relieved that residents – especially children – will no longer be eating produce grown there.
    In 2004, before the gardens were developed, the ATSDR identified contaminants and issued a Health Consultation which recommended remediation and ongoing environmental monitoring as well as enrollment in the state’s remediation program.
    My hope going forward is that the town will feel able to follow ATSDR’s recommendations and that the site will be tested and monitored if it is to be used by Westport children for sports.
    For the report see

  31. Joseph Mackiewicz

    How ironic: the town’s only Community Garden is slated for destruction so a snazzy Babe Ruth (full-size) ball field for middle and high school kids can be built instead… although Westport’s four existing Babe Ruth fields are under-used. The 11,000 + hour field use statistic touted in the study appears to be for all sports field activities at Long Lots, not Babe Ruth baseball. If true, taxpayers should be as incensed as gardeners.

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