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.
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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