[OPINION] RTM Member: Feasibility Study Made Me Favor Long Lots Plan

Seth Braunstein is a Representative Town Meeting member from District 6, and chair of the RTM Finance Committee.

After 2 visits to the Long Lots Elementary School property, his views on the future of the Westport Community Gardens have changed. He now supports the Long Lots School Building Committee’s recommendation to relocate the gardens.

Seth writes:  

Sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You might like one thing, yet I may favor another. Opportunities for interpretation or differing appreciation exist and can be celebrated. However, we can all agree that the Community Gardens and Preserve are beautiful and valuable town assets.

Feasibility generally isn’t something that is open to the same subjective interpretation.

Last Sunday morning I joined roughly 25 other concerned Westport citizens for a formal tour of the Long Lots School property hosted by a majority of the Long Lots School Building Committee.

The LLSBC began the tour by leading the assembled group from the south end of the property where the beautiful Community Gardens and Preserve are located to the north end of the property across various athletic fields (soccer and baseball) spread across 2 distinct property tiers, then to the west side of the property where wilderness (thankfully no poison ivy was encountered) and catch basins and a stream exist amidst a steeply declining grade as the property terminates back behind Harvest Commons.

Part of the Long Lots Elementary School campus. The Community Gardens (not shown) are south of the school. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

I am convinced that all parties involved in the hotly debated issues surrounding the question of build new vs. renovate come to this difficult decision with only the best of intentions. I am certain that the Board of Education, the LLSBC and first selectwoman are earnest in their desire to come up with the best solution possible for our community. None of these dedicated public servants have any “nefarious intent” and none of them want to have an outcome here that results in something that would fall short of the high standards our town demands. None of these people deserve the ad hominem attacks they have been subjected to.

I am also certain that supporters of the Community Gardens have sound arguments for why their 2 decades of investment in this property leave them hopeful that their interests and the reality of a new school can effectively coexist with the Garden remaining in its existing footprint. In fact, as a concerned member of the community (and an elected RTM member) I was convinced that this mutually beneficial outcome would be highly likely.

Having now had the benefit of a well detailed explanation for the reasoning behind the LLSBC support of the option they are recommending, along with a firsthand view of the property’s limitations, my view of what is feasible has changed. I had visited the Gardens a couple of months ago at the invitation of a member and at the time struggled to see why the two could not co-exist.

Now I understand why. This is a relatively small piece of property that is already crowded. The LLSBC has worked for months and hosted numerous meetings focused on what can be done to fit all of the existing puzzle pieces together so that all of the various constituencies represented on this property can walk away happy. This has been a huge task (did I mention they are all volunteers?).

The LLSBC has had to consider not just how to build a new school on this cramped property but also, most importantly, how to make sure the children in the existing school can continue to receive the best education possible while in the middle of a construction zone for the roughly two years the project will take to complete.

The committee has considered everything from how buses will enter the property, how parents who prefer to drop their students off will approach the building, where teachers and others working in the school will park, how all of the athletic and outdoor leisure time activities can continue and how to do all of this while minimizing the inevitable disruption that a project of this scale will pose to the neighborhood.

They have also been clear in their desire to consider Westport’s intent to increase sustainability which would require a series of geothermal wells to also occupy the site in the future to increase the energy efficiency of the new building.

Parking and bus loops are considerations in designing a new school. 

Under the best of circumstances (and this property does not meet that standard due space limitations, as well as grade and drainage concerns) a project of this magnitude requires significant staging areas. Take a moment to think about things like building materials (steel, brick, windows, etc.), heavy equipment (tractors, backhoes, forklifts), workspaces (construction trailers, bathrooms), large quantities of soil and other materials (to help correct grades and support foundations), not to mention parking for the sizable construction crew. When considering the requisite staging areas, the difficult job of putting this complicated puzzle together becomes untenable.

No one wants to displace the Community Gardens. No one has made a decision to sacrifice this wonderful town resource, but when considering where the flexibility in planning this project falls it is obvious that the school (a $100 million+ investment that will further help burnish our well-regarded school district) must take the highest priority.

Some have chosen to frame this unfortunate circumstance as the Gardens vs. the school or the Gardens vs. town leadership or the BOE. That simply does not reflect the reality of the situation. This really becomes a question of what is actually feasible on this property.

I choose to look at this as an optimization opportunity. Rather than trying to overcome the inherent limits associated with this crowded property, a better solution exists. In fact, it is a solution that has already been brought forth by the LLSBC itself. The Community Gardens could be moved to a portion of the Baron’s South property. While this will undoubtedly upset the supporters of the Community Gardens (and they have earned the right to be upset given the two decades of work they have invested in the current location) it might actually offer a better outcome long term for the Gardens and for the Town.

I have been a long-term supporter of preserving the rare open space left in Westport (check the voting record – I was adamantly opposed to a deal to develop Baron’s South for housing or for active uses), but placing the Community Gardens on a portion of the property could accomplish a number of desirable outcomes.

First, it would provide an environmentally positive usage of the land that would be consistent with the passive usage spirit of the current zoning (while drawing many more people to this vastly underutilized town jewel).

Second, it would actually provide the Gardens with a bigger space than is currently being utilized. I’d also add that the supporters of the Gardens have cited the number of seniors that have enjoyed the Gardens and moving the location to a spot in Baron’s South that would place them just a few steps from the Senior Center seems like a beneficial outcome. It is difficult for me to see how this wouldn’t be a classic win/win scenario.

The proposed site of the Community Gardens, at the Senior Center. (Photo/Morley Boyd)

Ultimately, the RTM will be presented with an appropriation request for this building project and the full range of issues associated with this property will be debated. From where I stand, legitimate questions exist around the status of the baseball field. The mandate for the LLSBC was to retain all existing school features and a baseball field is one of those features so it should be included in the new plans. However, any discussion of turf or lights or a vast increase in the scale and scope of a new field should be scrutinized.

I’d also add in closing that as an RTM member and chair of the RTM’s Finance Committee I would vote to have the town provide funding for the transition of the Gardens’ location (there may be a chance to maintain the Preserve in its current location). The Gardens are unquestionably one of Westport’s jewels and moving them to a spot where they can continue to grow and blossom, rather than exist in some sort of limbo amidst at least two years of construction, seems like a smart way forward.

51 responses to “[OPINION] RTM Member: Feasibility Study Made Me Favor Long Lots Plan

  1. It seems like Westport now has a disdain for anything old and is now a “town of tear-downs” that maybe started 30 years ago. Tear down those 1950s homes, build those mansions even next door to those 1950s homes to increase the tax base so taxes need not be raised. Old Orchard Rd. is a good example of the old (1950) style home next to the new huge McMansion. Westport has to keep up with the Joneses, the Joneses being New Canaan, Darien and Greenwich! I just wrote an e-mail to Ms Tooker mentioning the fact Long Lots School couldn’t last 70 years while a structure in Spain we visited is over 10 centuries old and still standing! Something is wrong here.

    • jack. who are the joneses keeping up with? that is the question.

      • Bert S. Twombly

        Dick, the Joneses aren’t keeping up with anybody. They are soooo far beyond that. They’ve been laughing at Westporters for years. That is, if they even notice Westporters.

  2. Simply put, this is a case where powerful interests (WSA and Westport Baseball) are favored over the less powerful. Why is a sports field given priority over a garden in deciding what is placed on the property? Who made that decision? Why? From my perspective this just looks like a case of Bullying, Might Makes Right.


    I have not closely followed this debate, so cannot comment, specifically, on the comment. But as a resident of Westport, I am grateful for this informed, thoughtful, and measured contribution to the conversation. Additionally, I appreciate the flexibility – consistency being the “hobgoblin of small minds.”

  4. Kristin Schneeman

    I appreciate my RTM colleague Seth Braunstein’s thoughtful analysis here and respect the diligence and expertise my other RTM colleagues Jay Keenan and Don O’Day, along with the other committee members, have contributed over the last many months on the LLSBC. I feel moved to point out, however, that the feasibility of moving the Garden to Baron’s South has not been established (and would require rezoning, among other things). As that site sits in my district and has been bandied about as the possible location for many things, I have a strong interest in having that debate fully and publicly before any decisions are made. The feasibility of building an adult-sized baseball field on that portion of the Long Lots site has also not been established — nor have I seen a needs assessment as to why we need this Parks & Rec upgrade and why this is the best location for it. I am very much in favor of building the best school possible at Long Lots, but I do not want to see us swept up into multiple major decisions in the rush to build the school. The LLSBC has been meeting for 12 months to get through the feasibility portion of the conversation. Surely we don’t need to rush all the remaining critical decisions in the next 12 weeks.

    Kristin Schneeman, RTM District 9

  5. Is it $100 million to tear down the old school, build the new one, furnish the new one and move the gardens at taxpayers expense?

  6. Please consider second opinion. Yes, the site is tight, but it can accommodate everyone, as shown on the proposed drawings. Both in final configuration and during construction. There are logistical experts that can testify to this. Geothermal solution is not cost effective anymore. But even if you were to use it, the fields can accommodate the “geothermal farm”. Permeable pavement shall be used to avoid the need to drainage collection and disposal. Cisterns shall be used to collect rainwater from roofs and pumped as supplementary source to non-potable water.

    • Thank you Yulee for you insight. I share your insight and it appears those in decision making positions are unwilling to consider your reasonable and well thought out recommendations. As someone who has spent most of my professional career in construction, I agree your proposal achieves the results sought by all the interested parties. Since Seth Braunstein has changed his opinion based on careful analysis, maybe he can and the entire Long Lots Building Committee and the administration could more closely examine your proposal.

  7. Does anyone have a problem with the new information that came out after emails were FOIA’d, that the building committee was talking to many interested parties who want to use the garden land without talking to the garden leadership or neighbors too?

    Does anyone have a problem with the fact that the building committee and the selectwoman is recommending where to move the Garden without talking to the garden leadership or neighbors? AGAIN!

    Does anyone have a problem that at the Board of Ed building committee presentation, the building committee never mentioned moving the garden to barons south even though at their 6pm final vote at town hall they made their recommendation to move the garden to barons south?

    Does anyone have a problem that a person on the building committee is also a member of the BOE and voted that night instead of recusing themselves from the BOE vote?

    Does anyone have a problem that the BOE could have said that night at the school committee presentation to the members of the building committee that they should not have made any other decisions with out waving a flag that needed to pause and include all stakeholders on further land use concerns? The BOE could have stated that publicly and clearly and still voted to accepted the Ed specs.

    Does anyone think that the building committee has done enough behind closed doors negotiating with friends, neighbors, and other interested parties, including the parks and rec officials, without ever coming to the gardens or the neighbors too, that at this point a new committee should be formed to take it from here?

    Does anyone want to interview the architecture firm and find out exactly what they were told to do and include and how they were instructed to present the material publicly?

    Does anyone want to question why the building committee has stated every claim like they are the one an only expert on many items, the most insulting is the long list of why the garden can not be used during the construction. THAT list has gone on and on with everything from buying all materials they need up front due to supply chain issues, to holes for geothermal heating and cooling.
    Why are the trying so hard to convince the public there is not other choice but to KILL the garden? Never once saying we need to use the space and then after we are done you can plant? Why ? because the interested parties want a new field at all costs.

    People who want a school, which we all do, should be so mad that the building committee mucked this totally up.

    FOR ALL of these concerns this 100 million dollar project should be peer-reviewed. All documents should be turned over.

    Intergrity should mean something to all citizens. I am deeply troubled that by being neighbors and friends and former collaborators that RULES of government are being watered down.
    I can understand that you want to help your friends BUT WITHOUT those rules who are we? How do we trust our leaders. Even though people volunteer they also need to be held to standards and answer to the public and their governing officials.

    Three projects have been handled the same disturbing way. Parking Harding, Pickle Ball etc at Long Shore and the Long Lots School Plan.


    We can and must do better! Check our egos at the door, reset, and collaborate.

    THAT IS THE model of our schools, all of it. We must set an example!
    We must maintain the stature the Town of Westport has developed. We must care about our neighbors, merchants, seniors, students! We must speak up and fight for what is right!

    • You’re proposing to halt all work, hire lawyers and experts to collect all documents and depose architects, etc. and then produce a report? This would take months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention delay the building of the school.

  8. Mr. Braunstein
    I truly appreciate your words here. But you, too, have been played.

    The one fact I would call your attention to is the issue of the geothermal wells. They would be drilled all over the lower fields. This has given flight to the so-called need to stage construction on top of the gardens… thereby destroying the gardens and creating an entry for a new ball field after the fact. But this will never happen,

    The LLSBC has said on record that geothermal is not practical. It will not produce the level of benefit to justify its cost of an ADDITIONAL $6.1 million. It is NOT a probable scenario. Please review the feasibility of geothermal. Yes it is what they call the “enhanced sustainability” option. It is not being recommended as the preferred way to go yet it provides convenient cover for the baseball field proponents.

    Under the most likely non-geothermal plan, construction staging would be done on the lower fields; therefore a construction fence can be installed to the right of the gardens. And everyone is happy.

    What do you think about that?

    • The town owns the land, even the gardeners haven’t contested that, and they’ve suggested no legal basis for challenging the town’s ability to use the land for something else. At this point, all I’ve seen are arguments about the process. That being said, I think the optics of placing a huge baseball field over the gardens are really bad.

      • Mike
        What is possible, and what is right are two different things. As for legal standing I do not know but I would not bet against the abutting neighbors.

        Do the right thing.

        • Toni, I’m just trying to answer a question. It seems that you agree with me that the property belongs to the town. Some people are confused about that. As for the neighbors attempting to use legal means to challenge the town’s use of that property, I have no legal opinion, but it’s not a simple issue. I personally would love to see the gardens remain intact. It’s also clear to me that they need a larger capacity school, and shipping kids up to Coleytown Elementary isn’t a solution. Our school is very old and seems to be at capacity. I’m also really unhappy at how some defenders of the garden are attacking the WSA, I don’t believe the WSA has asked the town to bulldoze the gardens and build a soccer field. We have a ton of kids that want to play soccer though and new fields would be welcome.

          • Mike, like it or not, this has been setup as an either/or question. They are basically saying in addition to the new school we can have either the baseball/soccer fields, or the garden. Not both. Taking them at their word, I am asking the questions: who decided that the athletic organizations win, and the gardeners lose? And when was that decision made? Because we know the BOE’s education specs were moot on this point.

            I have no vested interest in this. Not a gardener. Kids are out of the house and finished with sports in Westport. What I do care about is transparency, openness and fairness in town government; traits we are not seeing from this current administration.

    • The town owns the land. What they can do, and what the should do are two distinct matters.

  9. Thank you Dan, for publishing this note. Thank you, Mr. Braunstein, for writing it.

    As a Westport resident with no direct interest in the Long Lots debate (I do note have elementary school aged children, I do not use the community gardens, my children do not play for WSA or Westport Baseball, etc). I have been dismayed turn this debate has taken, and I have been really concerned with the rhetoric used by supporters of the gardens in this debate.

    The first principals here are clear – Westport must invest in a new school at Long Lots. It is past its useful life, crowded, and not fit for purpose. That a town such as Westport must send almost 600 students to this facility, we all should be embarrassed. There is no other option in town for the location of this school, that is clear.

    To build a new school worthy of our town costs money – a fair amount. That new construction costs too much these days is just reality – if you don’t believe it, talk to anyone trying to buy a home for the first time in 2023. Impuning the integrity of our elected officials, or that folks like Don O’Day – who did a masterful job in the redevelopment of Coley Middle – over this fact, is shameful. (I do admit that calling the WSA or Westport Baseball “powerful interests” is probably the funniest thing I have read in these pages in a while…)

    Most town residents have reconciled the fact that the Westport Community Gardens will likely have to be moved to another site to accommodate this new school. This outcome is unfortunate. However, the Gardens are amazing, and a testament to what people of goodwill can achieve when they work together. I hope that once this decision is made, that people can put this nastiness behind them and work together on them again.

    • Sean, why is another sports field, in a town full of sports fields, more valuable than preserving the only community garden in town? When was this decided? By whom? As information comes out, through FOIA and other means, it has become clear that yes, WSA/Westport Baseball are powerful interests in this town that have the ear of those who set the town priorities. Glad I could make you laugh this morning, but to those who voices have not been listened to, I can assure you it is not funny.

    • helping friends is another way of using power given to you unwisely. Also not talking to all stake holders is and was unwise. Can we agree to that?

    • Sean,
      Again for the umpteenth time, the gardens cannot be moved.
      They can be bulldozed. A new spot can be allocated where a new “start from scratch garden “ can be started.


      The baseball and soccer field can be simply built somewhere else. I mean why not. They are not part of LLS. LLS is going to get back all their fields. As they should of course.
      Again think manhattan staging.
      They DO NOT get to raze their neighbors property.
      They find a way to make it work.
      Simple as that.
      NOBODY including the gardeners have ever argued that there is not a need for either a new or improved school. And urgently. Nobody is disputing this.

      But the LLSBC did not stay within its lane on this. Nor quite frankly have most of that committee do not have the first clue about construction. If they had they would have suggested a plan like Joe Vallone which left the gardens exactly where they were and ticked all the school boxes. It’s 2023, almost 2024, and the school if constructed new and not refurbished, it should be 3 floors high.

      Once again
      The gardens are not part of the long lots campus.
      They should never have been up for grabs.
      If I’m doing construction on my house I do not get to use my neighbors property as a staging area.

      Gardens need to stay where they are bottom line.
      The new soccer and baseball field can move to barons South, longshore, or Winslow.
      The gardens are not the imposter here.

    • Sean your argument would make sense if this was a choice between a school and preserving the garden (and the preserve, which is conveniently ignored, along with a lot of other facts). But that is not the choice.

      The actual choice is between leaving the garden and preserve where they are, or building a Babe Ruth baseball field. If your preference is for a baseball field, then we can agree to disagree.

      And I suspect if the baseball field with restrooms, a concession stand and lights, and also water runoff, were going in your backyard, your opinion might be different.

      Seth’s argument is a smoke screen, and a way for him to justify giving in to pressure from his town government cronies.

  10. I smell a rat.
    Well said Janine and all letters between the town and the architecture firm are also FOIAble by law.
    The geothermal wells in the future remind me of back when the YMCA used a need for an Olympic sized pool as the driving force behind having to relocate, yet once it relocated no Olympic sized pool was ever built.

    I’m quite sure there are plenty other spots on long lots campus to locate the geo thermal wells which I am sure will never ever be dug anyway.

    At the end of the day it only makes sense to leave the gardens where they are and to find a suitable place to build the new “baseball” and “WSA” field.
    This field is not even for use by long lots elementary.
    As to staging space. Large buildings are constructed in tight places like Manhattan all the time.
    They do not get to use their neighbors abutting properties or parking areas or gardens as staging areas.
    The gardens are a neighbor to the school and are NOT part of the campus.
    Most important to understand and be acknowledged you cannot move a garden. It’s not a car. You can kill a garden, destroy it and start all over again, BUT, you cannot “move “ it.

    The need to use the gardens as a staging area, and the geo thermal wells are just this, the Olympic sized pool the YMCA feigned necessary in order to get out of the downtown.
    And surprise surprise we are still waiting for the Olympic sized pool.
    Smoke and mirrors.

    There are plenty spaces in Westport to create a soccer and baseball field. In that order.

    Dr. Jay Walshon wrote an excellent letter published by the WJ.


  11. Seth, you seemed to have overlooked some details while drafting this piece. Here’s one: the site where you want the Community Gardens to be established in Barons South is currently hosting a stockpile of contaminated construction fill. It’s roughly 5,500 cubic yards of rocks, soil, glass, rusty metal, car tires, concrete, broken asbestos pipe, plastic, chunks of asphalt – plus a few things you can’t see, like arsenic that exceeds exposure limits and two breakdown compounds of the pesticide DDT. The town’s own experts have made it clear that to safeguard health, close human contact with the fill in this 4 to 6 foot high pile must not be permitted. Are you going to request that the town conduct a feasibility study to determine what we’re looking at in terms of remediation costs at this site?

  12. Morley, If you read my other post, $100 million is now 120 million due to your comment, and maybe it’s even more? Now my question is, if I’m correct, and the cost is 120 million, is this still the best way to spend taxpayers’ money? Can Long Lots be fixed for 50 million with a 70 million dollar savings? Just ask’in.

  13. I’m 100% in favor of building a new elementary school on the existing Long Lots land. If the feasibility study indicated that the new build would be much larger and would require relocating the Gardens, then so be it.

    However, relocating the Gardens so that a new Babe Ruth baseball field needs to be built there boggles my mind. Based upon previous discussions, the current Long Lots baseball field has been used 6 times in the last year. This town has 19 baseball fields and I would think logistically, those additional games could be accommodated elsewhere. I find it amazing that this new, larger baseball field needs to built and in the process replace an existing 20 year old town treasure. And contrary to some opinions, gardeners do not live in an ivory tower and we represent many of your neighbors.

    Let’s continue to get the facts out, understand all processes, timing and presentation of the Westport Parks & Rec usage study, the LLSBC mandate, BOE requirements, etc. Fortunately, there are additional processes and approvals that need to be completed before the demolition starts.

    Please also show future gardeners the feasibiity study and soil quality health of Baron South, as there’s been many questions as to what has been previously dumped there. Please give the gardeners the same courtesy you gave to the LL feasibility study.

    And if anyone gets a chance, drive by the Longs Lots Baseball field on any given day and time. There’s a 99+% chance the field will be empty but ready for that upcoming baseball game. Meanwhile, the Gardens during planting and growing season will be functioning 24/7. In the winter, some plots may be active but the soil in other plots will be preparing for another wonderful growing season. Until they’re extinguished.

    • To be clear, we’re talking about a baseball field and a soccer field. My 3G girls team currently can’t play today because some of the fields are flooded. We have a ton of kids that want to play soccer and soccer fields are definitely needed, no one is making this up. I have no interest in baseball. I also think community gardens are wonderful and we should have more of them.

      • Aha but we are now all of a sudden hearing about soccer being the reason for a soccer pitch disguised as a babe Ruth lol..
        the plot thickens, the mistrust mounts. The agendas are now showing up like a dirty laundry pile.
        What is it soccer ? Or baseball..
        and build it somewhere else. Nobody’s saying don’t build ANOTHER field.. do it somewhere else.
        Enough already.
        And stop preaching about geothermal.

        • No, it’s just obvious you don’t actually spend any time around the current fields and instead use your time on here accusing people of being “rats”.

          In the current set up, the outfield of the baseball field doubles as a soccer field, and a critical piece of the town’s soccer infrastructure as well as it hosts practices for town-sponsored rec and travel every day of the week. Noting that the outfield of the new baseball field will also be used as a soccer field is neither new nor surprising.

          You can make up whatever bogeymen you want to validate your continued intransigence, but the people that have been involved in this since day one and who are doing this for the benefit of the actual wider community – instead of something that’s been branded “Community” – know the reality. And as I mentioned on a similarly petulant comment thread a few weeks ago, it’s not everybody else’s job to bring one minority stakeholder group up to speed on all of the complexities, no matter how vocal they are.

          • Please take a better look at the town’s demographics. Demographic diversity is not served with another baseball field.

            Soccer fields are NO PROBLEM and is not causing the brouhaha. Manipulation of facts about what can be done and how is big problem.

            There will be no geothermal as the cost/benefit does not hold; stage construction on the lower fields; rebuild gorgeous soccer field once construction is complete.

            See? Simple. And non controversial. Probably gets done quicker.

  14. The end goal is a better education for the students. With that 60 million dollar difference, Westport could hire a private tutor for every Long Lots student who needs one and this could go on for years, even decades! That’s what you want right? You want students’ educational results to soar. Obviously, this is tongue in cheek, but the only reason to spend this money is to improve student learning. A new building will definitely result in educational results t soar, right?

  15. There are many shortcomings in Seth’s analysis and most have been commented upon. Seth’s misstatement of the written mandate to the Committee is one, the Committee was directed to address a renovated school versus a new school. I used the word “nefarious” in a comment because Don O’Day had e mailed me to tell me that the last meeting of the LLSBC was not nefarious. Don did not tell me that the meeting would support a new site for the Gardens at Baron’s South. I was kind of stunned that the Committee could have made that judgement during a 90 second meeting. Hence, my correction of Don’s use of the work nefarious.
    For those who believe Baron’s South is the answer that satisfies all interests, I believe Jen Tooker has said she will cause that to be available for the Gardeners by May 2024, I ask that be a commitment. In fact, and this seems very feasible, I recommend that any vote that could result in the relocation of the Gardens be expressed with a condition. In other words, the Gardens will not be disrupted and the gardeners will not be precluded access until a new and complete Gardens is available for immediate use by the gardeners on Baron’s South. This seem fair since those who seek the ballfield have premised their judgment on the availability of comparable gardens at Baron’s South.

  16. Don the gardens cannot be moved… they can be started anew.
    But not moved.
    I think best to talk about no garden destruction and examine the shady agendas coming to light

  17. Thank you Seth for your well written thoughts on “The Bermuda Triangle” of Westport.

    To those of you who don’t know Seth Braunstein, as Chair of there RTM Finance committee, he is one of the most objective, smartest and hardest working RTM members on our elected volunteer body of 36.

    Dan, thank you for providing this forum for discussion, and thank you to those who have engaged here with passion and civility.

    The process here is long way from finished. To me the first priority is a new Long Lots School. The parents, children, and our town is need of this project getting started, and completed. The sooner the better for our community.

    The Baseball Field and Westport Community Gardens. I am in listening mode. I think you will find 99% of RTM is feeling the same way. We have to have for the process to get to us.

    Yes, I know many of you don’t believe the process has been a process. That is okay. I felt the same way when I was against the YMCA moving to Mahackeno.

    I found out the process does not start and end with First Selectman and shovel in the ground. I you believe that, it’s okay. That is your opinion and you have a right to it.

    As the process unfolds, gather all the information you can, send it out, but also remember to make sure to listen and hear what others are saying along the way.

    Hope to see all of you as one tonight at the candlelight vigil for the hostages and Israel 6 pm Jesup Green.


  18. Dan, This is my last comment on Long Lots. Something’s wrong here. Ever get that feeling that something is amiss? I just can’t see how this decision is the best one. Something stinks, but I live in Maryland now and this has no effect on me. But those who feel the same way, keep pushing ahead.

  19. Thomas A Orofino

    Folks, the rebuilding of Long Lots School is first and foremost about our kids and grandkids. Providing our future generation a school with an up to date school from an environment and technology perspective should be our goal

    While I do cherish our community gardens unfortunately it is not the goal of this project

    Given the fact that the gardens can be relocated it is the reality of what we face , these garden will have to be relocated so we should start that process now.

    • The goal of the project is to build a school. Put aside P&R wish list for various incarnations and everyone is happy. Use the lower fields for staging. Done. Much simpler path. Much lower cost. Done. Done. Done.

  20. Seth,
    It often astounds me how someone as articulate, sincere and “persuasive” as you always are, yet simultaneously be so wrong. Fortunately, as in this instance, you are not convincing.

    This opinion piece is foreseeable, as it’s clearly consistent with your ring-leadership at the RTM to abolish the Town Charter granted RIGHT for Westport’s citizens to petition to be heard. As the most vocal leader of the now infamous “RTM29”, at the podium you led the charge to eliminate Westport’s resident’s their ONLY guaranteed ability to be heard at a meaningful official public forum – and you perpetrated this WITHOUT having the support of your electorate to do so. Your leadership in that successful effort to silence residents was profound. At the podium you complained that residents were “bullying” you for defending their Charter provided rights, AND you actually stated that you “didn’t sign up to be part of a Town Hall meeting” (even though that is precisely what the RTM is intended to be) and shouted that you “didn’t want to adhere to the Town Charter because it was 74 years old”.

    So obviously the voices of opposition (opposition not only to the LLSBC’s decision to force Option C upon the electorate, and their 11th hour decision to relocate the Community Gardens to the Baron’s South, but also the resounding opposition to the unsavory process utilized in so doing) holds little sway. The partial list articulated by Janine Scotti above seems not to have impacted your consciousness.

    The foundations and assertions of your opinion piece are fallacious – therefore it disintegrates under even a modicum of scrutiny.

    1. “ALL parties came to the decision with the best of intentions.” – Not including the impacted neighbors and gardeners as stakeholders, utilizing closed-door discussions, expanding the BoE charge to construct a Babe Ruth field, etc. IS NOT the paragon of “best intentions”.
    2. “Nefarious intent” was not a motivation. – It now appears that without transparent disclosure, the PRD intended to replace the community gardens with that ball field. Nefarious, or not?
    3. “Given the staging area, the difficult job of putting this puzzle together is untenable” – “Untenable” actually means that this difficult job (Option C) cannot be supported (illogical, unsupportable, flawed, unsound). Many would agree and other options DO exist.
    4. The school must take the highest priority – Pandering for votes at its finest. NO ONE is suggesting that a new school is not the highest priority…but THAT goal doesn’t require the destruction of the Community Gardens.
    5. “Option C reflects what is actually feasible on this property” – A straw-man assertion as there ARE other options available – it just depends upon priorities and designs.
    6. “The optimal solution would be to move the CG to Baron’s South” – First of all, gardens cannot be “moved”. Optimal for who? YOU determine for the Gardener’s what’s optimal? Hubris exemplar

    The only rationale for this flawed opinion piece is pandering for votes from a district filled with parents who want a new Long Lots school constructed ASAP. The concern is that any modification to the LLSBC’s recommendation will delay that desire. This is why it was critical to have transparency in this process with all stakeholders present from the beginning. The “we don’t want to delay things” mantra is a strategy used to ram projects through. THIS project is far too important to allow in this fashion.

    If the parents want this school constructed ASAP, the time is NOW to modify the project design before this train rolls even further down the tracks and becomes increasingly contentious. Other designs for a new school that retains the CG and preserve exist. Just prioritize it.

    Seth, please move out of the way, and permit the ELECTORATE to make this decision.

    • Great analysis, Dr. Jay. You are da man!

      In my mind I can still clearly recall Seth’s defiantly exuberant attack on our Charter from the well of the RTM. I was ready for him to start banging his shoe on the podium as he railed against his constituents and their annoying right to petition the RTM. While the other 28 RTMs who voted to take away that fundamental right were mostly just somnolent sheep, Seth actually hung a lantern on his vote to vandalize the Charter. While I’m in no mood to be told what to think about this controversy by any member of the notorious RTM 29, I feel it maybe goes double for Seth.

  21. very well thought out and written article. Everyone should take a look at tbe Longlots site before jumping to conclusions. Tbe area is small . The Children come first and they definitely need a new school as soon as possible. They are our future. Do the right thing for them and stop blaming the board and tbe selectman for voting for plan C.

    • Not exactly a “small” site…

      A review of town records shows that the LLS campus, and the adjacent Parks & Rec managed land upon which the WCG and Preserves sit, totals 28.1 acres, combined. That is roughly 1,251,000 square feet of land.

      Based on what we know so far, it appears that of the total space cited above, the approximate footprints of current and contemplated uses will cover up to roughly 500,000 sf, or approximately 11 acres. And this is before the old school (108,000 sf) is removed following the completion of the new one….

      This leaves roughly 17 acres of undeveloped/used property, and 108,000 sf more (or 2.4 acres), following the demolition of the original school. Arguably, some portion of the undeveloped acreage is not readily useable due to grade and other conditions.

      • Are you including parking lots and roads in these numbers? How many acres do the fields occupy now and how many will they occupy under the new plan? Thanks

        • That’s a rough number that includes:
          existing school,
          existing parking,
          the new school,
          the area that is the garden and preserves

          Outdoor play spaces, and additional athletic fields are not included, but likely represent significant available acreage.

  22. Robert Harringon (Board of Education member)

    Seth is a fantastic RTM member. Smart, articulate and fair. Westport is lucky to have him on the RTM!

    Unfortunately, I strongly disagree with Seth on this issue. I find it insulting to the Community Gardeners that there was a recommendation switch to Barons South at last minute (and indeed that it was made at all).

    It’s SO obvious that the First Selectwoman drove this change. So much for process!

    It’s was NOT the recommendation of the LLSBC less than two weeks ago when they had previously voted on this. Since that time the Selectwomen, Jen Tooker began privately telling people of her overall decision and the “switch” to Baron’s South over a week ago. Suddenly at the 90 second LLSBC meeting last Thursday – the LLBC voted on a this new recommendation. They then came to the BOE an hour later and we were not told of this change at our meeting. We were told the Community Gardens would be relocated to a different place on the Long Lots Campus. In the end it was the public that told the Board of Education during public comment. Again – so much for the process!

    Furthermore, our Selectwoman was obviously too busy to come to either public meeting last Thursday and hadn’t released any statement about it. Elected representatives an the public were in the dark again.

    During the CMS rebuild discussions several year ago – the then Selectman, Jim Marpe came to numerous meetings at the Board of Education. Sadly during the process LLS – the Selectwoman has decided to stay away.

    Multiple elected representatives – across several boards and elected roles – including myself – politely and civilly asked our Selectwoman to sit down together over the past few weeks to collaborate and discuss the situation. She politely declined.

    Seth – you also mention sustainability. You and I are aligned on this. But isn’t it strange that the Selectwoman has not recommended that “Sustainable Westport” should have a seat at the table on the LLSBC? Furthermore, she proactively blocked the idea. What is the point of “Sustainable Westport” if we can’t have them at the table for a $100 Million school infrastructure and capital spending project?

    Furthermore, some the documents and emails that have been obtained through FOIA process show that the plan to move the gardens was on the table months before anyone in public, other elected representatives, or any of the Community Gardener was told.

    Seth – none of the above is on you, or aimed at your at all. I reiterate my very positive view of you and the role you play on the RTM and for Westport. We just don’t see eye to eye on this issue. Thanks.

  23. The current community garden was built, after some questionable remediation, on what was known to be a toxic site. Twenty years later — years during which the soil has theoretically been improved, thanks not to the town but to the efforts of private citizens — the town thinks its cool to consider offering gardeners what looks to be an even more compromised site. For growing FOOD, for god’s sake.

    I can’t get my head around any of this, but will scream into the abyss anyway: I hope that whatever happens at Long Lots, the town will start to pay attention to *all* the health risks attendant to environmental pollution. Yes, it’s unconscionable to suggest placing gardens at Baron’s South, where various chemicals and building materials like asbestos have been dumped; it’s also unconscionable to have kids playing sports on plastic turf, no matter what the infill, or on a field “perfected” with pesticides.

    I’m all for schools, sports, and gardens. But most of all, I’m for human health. Our elected representatives should be, too.

  24. Were any of our administration soccer coaches ? Or played soccer ?
    Would this be the reason for a soccer pitch disguised as a baseball field ?
    The plot thickens !
    Build it somewhere else.. stop destroying our town.

  25. Like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, congratulations on your “Conversion” Seth.

    Can we just stipulate a few things?

    1. The WCG community feels the same way as I guess almost all folks in Westport do – We need a new school as expeditiously as possible within the framework of governance for a $200 million dollar project.

    2. C-Alt accomplishes this just as fast as the chosen Project-C does, but it means that the ball field needs to be built elsewhere if we really need it, together with other PRC requests for its lights, bleachers and (oddly) a concession stand – Do any other fields here in town have one of those? What would it sell?

    3. The only qualitative difference between C and C-Alt is how it affects the neighbors. The ball field is not now across the street providing drainage run off and noise and light pollution rather than the peaceful tranquility the WCG provides presently.

    4. As many have said here gardens can be bulldozed and started from scratch but not moved. Please stop saying it can be moved, it just isn’t true and it shows the gardeners that you have a blind spot on this.

    Whether you agree with the direction of travel here or not I’m eager to hear if any of what I just said is factually inaccurate as I may come to a similar conversion as yours myself if I can be convinced (not that I’m a decision maker here.)

    Moving to the subject of Barons South – you seem certain that that is the right location for the WCG (until of course the town wants the land for something else again) but this is complicated by the fact that it is presently a toxic waste dump?

    Even if you could find a critical mass of gardeners present and future to be involved (doubtful in my view but I don’t speak for anyone who might) trust is broken as they weren’t included in the original committee process and remediation of the site is likely to be very costly – Is the town willing to foot that bill?

    Most people wash their produce purchased from the grocery store to eliminate bacteria and pesticides and I’m sure the gardeners do too – if this happened, ask yourself this question, would you be willing to eat a lettuce and tomato salad from the first growing season at Barons South? I certainly would not.

  26. I meant to say $100million project…fat finger – apologies!

  27. I keep hearing town officials say that they will rebuild the gardens on a different location. Seth repeated it here, adding that he advocates that “the town pay for it”. That whole premise is wrong.

    The WCG was not built be the town. It was built by a motivated group of community members, which in turn was led by a passionate leader, Lou Weinberg.

    If the town puts up some fences and hoses at Baron South, it is providing some of the infrastructure for a garden — it is NOT building a garden.

    The reason the WCG is a jewel is because of the passion, engagement and hard work of its members. Now, you are going to strip those members of 2 decades of their work and passion, and ask them to start over? Based on what, the deep trust that the town leaders have built with the community?

    The idea of moving the garden to somewhere else, somewhere better, being a win-win is a false narrative. It is either a deliberate and cynical attempt to mislead, or boneheaded naivete. Take your pick.

  28. Michael: Let’s be charitable: Boneheaded Naïveté for $100 Million.

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