On Wednesday night, several Planning & Zoning Commission candidates promised to examine thoroughly the proposal for a new Long Lots Elementary School, and to “think outside the box.”
One “06880” reader is doing that.
Yulee Aronson is a licensed professional engineer, with 40 years of construction management and project controls experience, overseeing many high-profile and complex projects. He says, “I have never encountered a construction problem that couldn’t be overcome.”
Locally, Aronson has worked on the reconstruction of Staples High School and the William F. Cribari Bridge, and the chlorination building at the wastewater pollution facility. Other projects include Penn Station access, the reconstruction of La Guardia Airport, and the Baltimore Potomac Tunnel replacement.
The Long Lots School project may be the most expensive capital construction project in Westport’s history.
The project site is unique. It houses the school, athletic fields for the town, and community gardens. In addition, such major construction project will have an impact on the delicate ecosystem of the neighborhood.
Thus far, the options developed by the Town-hired consultants and presented by the School Building Committee are deficient in taking into consideration the interests of all parties that occupy the property. SBC’s recommended solution, Option C, keeps all stakeholders at the site but relocates the community gardens. Relocating the gardens destroys the delicate ecosystem that was created over the course of the last 20 years.
Long Lots “Option C”
Over the course of public hearings, several alternative solutions were presented by various professionals who live in town. These solutions consisted of a new school building of a similar size and function, properly sized athletic fields proposed in the footprint of the existing school, and the community gardens to remain in place with no environmental impact to the neighbors. For one reason or another, these solutions were dismissed as not viable
I’ve reviewed the report prepared by the consultants. I conclude that the selected Option C can be “compacted,” thus eliminating the need for building the baseball field over the gardens. An example of such “compaction” is as follows:
The proposed school footprint can be narrowed by 50 feet by stretching it in a north-south direction, and narrowing the courtyard in the east-west direction. The classrooms would “slide” along the perimeter of the interior wall of the courthouse, without affecting adjacency.
Additionally, the northern part of the parking/drive area can be moved closer to the school building by 50 feet, straightening the “S” configuration. The grass islands between parking/drive lanes can be eliminated for a gain of another 50 feet, leaving small islands for site lighting.
This would allow for the shift of the baseball field by about 150 feet in the westerly direction, and off the footprint of the existing gardens.
If I’m off by another 50 feet I’m sure it could be found by moving the baseball field closer to the parking area by 25 feet, and shifting the entire school building west another 25 feet.
Lastly, during construction, a controlled and safe fenced-in passageway could be created to allow gardeners access for continued maintenance of the gardens.
To reiterate, this is just one of several possible solutions that could be developed.
When a municipality or any other public entity embarks on major projects such as this, it often seeks peer reviews of the designs prepared by their primary consultants to make sure that they get the best value for their money and obtain the best solution.
It would be prudent for the town to seek an independent peer review of the currently proposed design. This review should be performed by an independent professional entity in charge of finding a design solution that satisfies the interests of all stakeholders. Alternatively, this can be requested of the current consultants.
(“06880” gives a voice to readers, through comments and opinion pieces. But we rely on readers to support us too. Please click here to make a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!)