Next Stop For Parker Harding: P&Z On Monday

Before any municipal project is approved, state statutes require an “8-24” hearing.

That’s the next step for Parker Harding Plaza.

On Monday (October 23, 7 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss a request by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker to adopt the plan hammered out by the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

It would reconfigure the parking lot behind Main Street — built on landfill in the 1950s — to increase riverfront access, add 2-way traffic (while retaining the “cut-through” route), and make other changes.

Changes planned for Parker-Harding Plaza 

A town-wide charrette in August mollified some residents However, others still have concerns.

Annette Norton is both a downtown merchant and a Westport resident. She has owned Savvy + Grace for 6 years. She also meticulously restored a 1700s North Avenue home,

She writes:

“I am deeply concerned about the DPIC project, including:

  • Redesigning Parker Harding parking lot and taking away 44 parking spots.
  • Moving the trash to the river.
  • Taking away loading zones, so traffic will be held up in the parking lot when businesses get their deliveries.

“My proposal/solution is to make a beautiful boardwalk by the river, leading people to the existing green space we already have downtown — Veterans Green — while encouraging additional exploration with a walking path throughout all downtown.

“Maybe we can increase the current footprint all the way to Coffee An’.

“How is losing 44 spots okay? And if we are trying to entice people to hang out by the river, were will they park?

“Downtown businesses rely on locals. When they cannot find parking, they shop elsewhere.

“DPIC brought up safety, which I take seriously. To my knowledge, the Fire Department has never had issues, since the parking lot was created.

“The current plan moves trash right next to the river. That can lead to trash falling along the road and parking lot, and traveling into the river. There are also safety issues for employees crossing the road to take out the trash.

“I love our downtown. I want it to survive and thrive for generations to come. Compo Beach and downtown are the crown jewels of our town. Thank you for your consideration and care.”

(Click here to view a livestream of Monday’s meeting. It will also be shown on Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent to

26 responses to “Next Stop For Parker Harding: P&Z On Monday

  1. There are no dimensions included on this drawing but it appears backing out of parking places will have to navigate across both lanes of traffic. Is there a more detailed schematic?

  2. Losing parking spaces is a huge mistake.

  3. The future of our downtown is in need of our(your) voices! Please, voice your concerns in an email to prior to this Monday, Oct 23rd. In your email request that your letter, be distributed to all commissioners on P&Z. Thank you, your voice is so important and will definitely impact the future of your downtown. -Annette (Savvy + Grace)

  4. 89 “small spaces”… In this town? Are you kidding?..Thumbs down to ANY plan that reduces parking spaces…

  5. I find it hard to believe that a decision will be made on this without an economic impact study being done. None. Losing 44 spaces will materially impact economic activity downtown, which will hurt downtown merchants, which will impact rents that can be charged, which will reduce the value of downtown properties and ultimately present us with a reduced commercial tax base downtown.

    With a few tweaks, meaning getting rid of the planned green space, 20-25 spaces could be added back while still keeping the entire project within code. If the 1st Selectwoman wants to preserve green space, she can start with the Community Garden.

    BTW Dan, great use of the word “mollified.” The anger and emotions of some people were softened, and some were appeased……but this is far from a good plan. And the poor process speaks for itself.

  6. All good suggestions! When will our Selectwoman start to listen . She’s at every opening for pictures and the doesn’t support our merchants.

  7. John thank you I Agree as a rtm member downtown I have heard from merchants that they will leave Westport ct and some will close for gold in Westport and never come back . As a resident downtown we’re does the chamber of commerce Stand and the downtown association? Dan ask them? Don’t forget residents are upset? Does anyone want to ask Jen tooker we’re she is stands on business closing in downtown Westport I heard it from merchants my self .

  8. Creating green space along the river is a HUGE plus to downtown. Ideally having some restaurant space on the river (similar to Bar Taco across the way) would make downtown more an all day & night destination. Eliminating parking wouldn’t be so bad given the Imperial Lot is within easy walking distance and anything that reduces downtown traffic would make shopping there more pleasant. Westport’s downtown area has so much potential. Need more creative thinkers than the “keep my parking” crowd.

    • Mark, The DPIC’s own slanted survey showed that no one would be willing to walk the distance from the Imperial Lot to any place on Main Street. We can all bemoan this fact, but I think this is the reality we need to recognize and plan for in 2023.

      • Who did they survey? The senior center? The demographics of Dan’s site? From Imperial to Athleta is 3/10 of a mile. Basically a lap around Staples track.

        For such a progressive, lets ride bikes town, it seems a bit whiny to complain about a 7 minute walk.

        • Great points John. Logical, common-sensible. I believe if a true survey were conducted and the context presented was a true waterfront zone with green space, most people would make the arduous 10 min walk over. Perhaps the self-important, latte drinking, time-pressures Westportwr would object. Space could be designed for drop-offs should people truly not be able to walk over.

          • I respectfully think you are completely wrong about the Imperial Lot… It takes a lot of driving to exit from the circuit of trying to find a spot to park in the jessup adjacent lots to get to Imperial. Most shoppers/diners will drive to Saugatuck or the Post Road East before even considering the underdeveloped and not particularly welcoming Imperial Ave lot.

            I haven’t even seen overflow from significant funerals/wakes at the nearby funeral home generate parking on the Imperial Lot.

      • It’s the driving not the walking that puts the Imperial Ave lot in the undesirable category. (Though a well lighted walking path from the Imperial lot through Jessup Green to downtown might help.). If I failed to find a space after driving through the Parker Harding, Jessup Green, and Elm street parking lots I am not going to be in the mood to drive across the Post Road, down Imperial Avenue and up into the scruffy Imperial Ave lot, at that point I’d go to Saugatuck, South Norwalk, or Fairfield.

    • There is one chance to get this right! We need to treat Downtown Westport like the jewel that it is. It is a jewel today not because it has a huge riverside park. It is jewel because it is a congregation point for friends and families to go shopping and socialize over a meal, it is an easy town to walk in and around for residents in the connecting neighborhoods, the downtown has great events like the Fine Art Fair and Children Halloween Parade, business partners are able easily meet up to share a promising new idea over coffee. It is not only Westporters which are enjoying downtown, but visitors from all over the region. Compare the vibrancy of our downtown to the lifelessness at the SONO Mall and it is breathtaking.

      If you would like to visit a park along the river in Westport you have the option of walking along the pathway next to the library, around Levitt Pavillon, thru the Imperial Lot, and ending at Grace K Salmon Park. Westport also has a relatively new park on the other side of the river appropriately named Riverside Park. A third option is to dine by the water at Bar Taco or rent a kayak at Sea Kayak Connecticut. We have an abundance of terrific options.

      I am an RTM candidate for District 9 and do not support the plan in its current form.

  9. Mark, I beg to differ.
    The “keep my parking” crowd, are the merchants and restaurants working their butts off to create a vibrant downtown.
    And it has worked.

    I can certainly speak for my restaurant nômade which has completely revolutionized the entire downtown, which had zero action before we opened. We have already made Westport a day and night destination. You are welcome.

    The consistent complaint from our customers, “we can’t find parking” “we are running late, there’s no parking”
    We are not making it up to be difficult.
    These are FACTS.

    There is no room for any more green space in the downtown. NONE. Certainly not at the expense of parking.
    The imperial lot is 17 minutes walk from Athleta. I have walked it and I am not a senior. I am not a slow walker either.
    Oh and that was on a nice sunny day.
    Nobody is doing that walk in the rain. Or the snow, or the ice.
    Nobody is parking there until it has a shuttle bus laid on by the town AND lights and cameras.

    Have you been reading about the brazen car thefts and the car jacking. You think those thugs won’t very quickly realize women and men are walking back in the dark to a desolate parking lot ?
    Well I am here to tell you that they will be there lying in wait to mug anybody they see as a potential/soft target.
    We need lights, cameras, a bus. And then by all means the Imperial lot will become useful. We need to figure out what will happen on Thursday’s, since our beloved farmers market is there.

    And most of all Mark, we need to fix the imperial lot first, before anymore in town lots are touched.
    It is decrepit, in a dire state of disrepair. It is potentially deadly dangerous, at any given hour of the day or night.
    That is hardly the fault of the merchants, or the residents.
    We either want a downtown or we do not.
    A downtown with added green space is simply not a viable option.
    As to your suggestion of allowing many more restaurants to open on the river. And where will the patrons park ?
    Great idea if we didn’t already have a monstrous parking problem.


  10. Celeste Champagne

    Ridding Parker Harding of any amount of parking space would be a disaster for all of us who are “born to shop”–and do it on Main St., in Westport. What folly is being created thinking about cutting parking for “green space”. A good way to lose beautiful retailers AND customers.

  11. Honey Do List:
    1. Bring the PH lot up to date with fire and handicap access codes
    2. Restore angled parking
    3. Solve the trash storage problem. What do other towns do?
    4. Small spaces? Let’s get real. I pulled up next to a ford expedition the other day. To quote the B-52s, it was as big as a whale. Make that, two whales.
    5. Recognize that no matter what is done, the capacity of the lot is fixed, but the demand for those spaces is not. From time to time, the demand will exceed the supply and you won’t be able to find a spot. Oh-bla-di-oh-bla-dah, life goes on.

    Good luck.

  12. This is not good news and anti-business for sure.

  13. This plan is a non starter for two basic reasons.
    1- it loses 44 parking spots when it is already tough enough with the current parking spots.
    2- it is not based on angled parking, making it a park at your own risk situation with that narrow through road.

    Please leave it the way it is until a better plan is proposed!

  14. Gee, a controversial P&Z vote right ahead of its election. At least that race is competitive with three commissioners vying to retain their seats against three challengers. If green space vs. commerce is something you feel strongly about either way, note how they vote, and then on 11/7 remember that you need not vote for four. Voting only for (or against) those you agree (or disagree) with (ie. “strategic voting”) multiplies your vote’s impact. And not voting at all forfeits your right to complain later about the outcome.

  15. Richard Johnson

    I would love some actual evidence that parking downtown is difficult. I have never, ever, not once had any real trouble finding a spot within a reasonable walk of my destination, with the sole exception being the one or two weekends leading up to Christmas (when I still can find parking, it just might be further afield). Can you always pull up directly in front (or in the case of Parker Harding, behind) your destination? No. But if you want the immediate convenience offered by acres of blacktop parking, there are innumerable strip malls on the Post Road offering that.

    • How very strange Richard, I believe your experiences are unique.
      I have never, ever, ever, not once been able to find a parking spot in downtown without a struggle. Nor can any of my customers, other than at night. So it seems we have a very different experience there.

  16. Joseph Vallone, A.I.A.

    Taking a quick glance at the proposed inner driveway, one giant issue jumps out at me; the lack of connections between the inner and the outer roadways. Can you imagine the traffic back-up while one vehicle remains in the lane waiting for a slow moving driver, to back out of their parking space? One car has the ability to hold up the entire inner lane of traffic with no way to exit.

    At minimum, I believe you need at least three cross connections over the entire length of the parking lot. I’d be happy to sacrifice the loss of a few parking spaces, for a quick exit out of the inner loop, particularly when I can see there are no empty spaces available.

    I do like opening up pedestrian access to the waterfront, which is the only reason to undertake such a project, therefore, I believe this could be a successful design solution, with some tweaks.

    Unrelated but relevant, how about we stripe Main Street so vehicles can park in designated spaces rather than wherever the feel like parking. Many times I notice only 10′ of space between cars, an insufficient amount of space to park another car in between. Striping the street with lines illustrating designated parking spaces seems like an incredibly inexpensive way to provide an actual net increase in parking.

    Finally, given the majority of the stores haven’t been Ma and Pa shops in decades, how about we consider a parking meter system to generate revenue? (Someone has to pay for that new elementary school we are about to construct) West Hartford has a simple kiosk metering system that seems to work quite well. Of course expect pushback from the Chamber of Commerce but count the communities in CT who have implemented similar revenue generating systems, you’d be surprised.

    • How about the huge trucks from fed ex, UPS, DHL, Amazon prime, Baldor, US FOODS, Cisco, all delivering I imagine over 100x per day and the suggested plan has no loading zones after 10am, when staff arrive at work.
      The loading zones are purposefully useless, and are available from 6am to 10am when all but 3 or 4 businesses are open.
      The reason and let’s be VERY VERY clear, the reason the loading zones are available only until 10 am is so that those spaces go into the parking numbers and add 15 spots to the pool of spots.

      In other words the loss of parking, if the loading zones are an all day affair which they NEED and MUST be, is another 15 fewer spots. The loss of spots is more like 60. And parking in the 85 odd small car perpendicular spots is going to be a spectacle to behold. I hope Dan does a new set of photos on folks trying to navigate small car perpendicular spots.

      There is a lot of smoke and mirrors happening here. So to add to Joseph Vallones concern about traffic, it won’t be cars in the middle of the roadway, it will be 40 foot trucks, some of them for 20-30 minutes parked in the middle of the lot unloading deliveries.
      But what do I know, I’m just a merchant who receives 5-10 deliveries on every given day. All of them after 10am in the morning.

  17. That was closed not open… oops..

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