Parker Harding Plan Withdrawn From P&Z

In a terse, 2-sentence note this morning, the town officially withdrew its applications to renovate Parker Harding Plaza.

Department of Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich emailed Planning & Zoning Department director Mary Young:

In consultation with the First Selectwoman, and in light of the commentary offered on the above referenced applications, we have decided to withdraw both applications so as to focus on addressing some of the issues.

We will resubmit at a later date.

For over a year, the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee has worked on a multi-pronged plan.

The first part — reconfiguring the lot behind Main Street to add green space by the river, improve traffic circulation and aesthetics, and bring it in compliance with ADA standards — initially removed the cut-through from Main Street to the Post Road. It also eliminated dozens of parking spaces.

Vehement opposition from retailers, restaurant owners and residents led to a second plan. The cut-through was returned, but for a variety of reasons — including widening of parking spots to meet current regulations — it resulted in the loss of 45 spaces.

The most recent Parker Harding Plaza plan.

Last Monday, Pete Ratkiewich and DPIC chair Randy Herbertson presented the newest iteration of the plan. Officially, it was an “8-24” review at the request of 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

P&Z commissioners and members of the public praised parts of the plan. But other elements — especially the elimination of nearly 4 dozen parking spots, along with traffic patterns, perpendicular rather than angled parking, sustainability, flooding, and the location of the dumpsters at one end of Parker Harding, near the river — drew intense scrutiny. (Click here for that “06880” story.)

P&Z members also questioned the sequence of steps. The DPIC has reimagined all of downtown, including the Taylor (“lower library”) lot by Jesup Green, and the lot on Imperial Avenue now used by the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Since the Taylor/Jesup Green plan adds parking (and a playground) downtown, commissioners asked, why not do that work prior to Parker Harding?

If town officials do not want to add parking there before eliminating it behind Main Street, they suggested the plan be reconsidered to improve fire safety, add the 4 ADA-compliant handicap spaces the lot currently lacks, spruce up landscaping and the current boardwalk — but also retain more parking.

After 3 hours of discussion, at Ratkiewich’s request the P&Z agreed to continue the proposal to November 6.

Now, it’s back — literally — to the drawing board.

(“06880” reached out to DPIC chair Randy Herbertson. He was not immediately available to comment.)

Artists’ renderings for the Parker Harding plan show 2-way traffic and perpendicular parking, with a pedestrian walkway from the Main Street tunnel (right) to the Saugatuck River. The backs of the stores are stylized; they would not look like that.


19 responses to “Parker Harding Plan Withdrawn From P&Z

  1. Very sad to see this. Meanwhile, PH remains a difficult parking lot and a garbage strewn eye-sore.

    I’m hoping that the DPIC and/or PW is incorporating the feedback they have gotten from the P&Z and concerned citizens and merchants, and will come back shortly with a new plan that:

    1. Adds ADA-compliant spots
    2. Minimizes the spaces lost
    3. Cleans it up
    4, Restripes the lot
    5. Makes it FD accessible
    6. Basically focusing it on being what it is, a parking lot and cut-through road

    This would be approved overwhelmingly by town boards and the public.

  2. In the meantime, I hope the DPIC and the Town resolve the the chronic trash issue immediately. With holiday shopping season fast upon us, seems like it’s the least we can do for downtown businesses.

  3. It is nice to know that in Westport Town, the needs, wishes and ideas of retailers, townspeople and some common sense prevailed and that Parker Harding and downtown Westport will have a bigger voice and an ability to make sure the eventual Plaza plan and parking remediation will have a better longverm plan and solution.
    Too bad the town can’t get a refund from the conultants and others who I honestly belive charged to much for so little.
    To our town administrators, let’s take more input and let’s find some better consultants and solutions.

  4. So much energy has been exerted not just by the Administration and the First Selectwoman’s appointees on the DPIC but also by the community, the downtown merchants, the D9 residents and local community leaders – First and Foremost RTM Rep Sal Liccione, but also John McCarthy, Doug Enslin, Ciara Webster, Gloria Gouveia, Morley Boyd, Dr. Jay Walshon, Jaime Walsh, Werner Liepolt and, yes, myself. So much time and effort has had to be expended to stop this bone headed idea from being forcebly implemented over the strenuous objections of so many stakeholders.

    My wish is that the Administration will take a moment and learn from this latest debacle. You can not lead by fiat. Democracy will never function well by authoritarian rule. Stop and learn! Be humble. Listen, truly listen. (That includes not denying the fundamental rights of 20 Westporters to petition their government and be placed on the agenda of the RTM. All peoples matters matter!)

    And you can start to apply this lesson learned by ending the unseemingly seige against our Community Gardens and Preserve.

    John F. Suggs

  5. The Buffer between the parking area and the walkway looks nice but it should be slimmed down.The town needs the widest two way pass possible.That will help eliminate accidents and relieve congestion that’s what the entail problem was.The lot will flow better and require less maintenance please consider that.

  6. India van Voorhees

    Hallelujah! Someone finally listened, and cared.

  7. Andrew Colabella

    I’m happy to see this because the loss of 44 spots is tremendous to merchants in Main Street. I would like to see the the cut through stay, add the number of ADA complaint spots necessary, relocate/consult the trash dilemma/issue, inspect and replace drainage/pipes as such if damaged or worn and fading to reduce and help with flooding, and install security protective measures.

  8. Next the cancellation of Long Lots entirely…why not do without the school and just have a bunch of ugly, impractical Portables.

    • Speaking of the school, the proposal is being delayed by none other than Jen Tooker herself. The P&Z was ready willing and able to hear her 8-24 application on Oct. 30. Tooker delayed until at least December. Tooker, not residents. Facts matter.

  9. This is disappointing that we continue to waste our downtown’s prettiest resource, the river, as a parking lot. While the plan wasn’t perfect, the idea that we should lean into prioritizing parking for clothing stores over any other land use is short-sighted.

    • Disappointing how Clark ? This is confusing. It’s not about a few clothing stores it is about every merchant in your and our downtown !
      You must be the only, or one of the only residents who does not want a downtown business area.
      You would like the downtown to close all of its doors and just have river front access ?

      Because as the largest business in town Nômade, the concept of not enough parking or removing parking simply does not work for me, my incredibly hard working business partner or for my hard working employees.
      And be very clear here Clark, businesses are not staying in Westport if there is no parking for them to sustain ( make money) their bottom lines.

      None of us in the downtown plan on being the sacrificial lambs in this scenario and charade, charette…

      I suggest to you that the majority of the town is very happy with how Main Street has been rejuvenated by all the new and old businesses coming out of covid, and busting our butts to make Westports downtown a huge success.

      If parking is removed we will all slowly leave. I’ve already heard of a few stores planning on their rapid exit, should parking spots dwindle.
      I am the first to agree with a need for more ADA parking spots and cross walks. That requirement goes without saying.

      We need maintenance, we need to restripe our lots with angled parking and fix the pot holes. The parking lot has been allowed to reach despicable levels of disgraceful. Perhaps you’d like to blame this too on clothing stores and their customers.

      And while I’m at it let me guess you probably think the community gardens adjacent to long lots campus( not part of it) are superfluous and should be bulldozed .

      How to fix The river front.,? do piers and a huge extended boardwalk.

      • I was thinking exactly the same about a boardwalk on a pier. Instead of more unkempt ball fields.

      • Ciara, love your restaurant just what downtown needs more of…. However, the two aren’t mutually exclusive; there should be more parking downtown and the waterfont is prime real estate for shops, restaurants and cafes. If the town could do both its a win for all including the people of westport.

  10. Perhaps the next iteration of this process can include all stakeholders from the beginning. It is important to consider the needs of the affected parties from the beginning. I am glad this project is being reconsidered and appreciate the work of RTM member Sal Liccone in representing his constituents effectively so that their voices are heard.

  11. We should think bigger. The area was originally reclaimed from the river. Let’s do it again. Move the sea wall 40-50 feet further into the river, fill in behind it and use the extra area for park/parking/roadway/restaurants/etc. Also, constraining the river channel will increase the current and lower the silting which has and will continue to to accumulate.

  12. Bruce Schneider

    I had not realized until I looked at the rendering tonight that they were planning two way traffic with straight versus angled parking places. I think both are a big mistake and will result in numerous accidents.

  13. Elisabeth Keane

    Parking spaces should remain angled. Easier to enter and leave.

  14. Robert Harrington (Board of Education)

    Great to see this troubled plan withdrawn until stakeholders can better reflect a sensible way forward. It’s very possible!

    This shows the administration is actually listening.

    I would now respectfully request that the First Selectwoman, and the Town of Westport withdraw both the recommendation to move the Westport Community Gardens to Barons South (a rushed 11th hour change), and her plan to prioritize a full-sized baseball field over everything else.

    Furthermore, I would strongly encourage that the Long Lots new school building itself is separated from the debate around the broader land-use beyond the school building. It will have NO impact on the location of the school. Let’s get moving on the New Long Lots building and not get caught up in a side-fight over a baseball field vs the gardens. I hope the gardens will ultimately prevail – but let’s resolve this issue and land-use change WITHOUT any risk to the timing around the school building itself.

    These broader issues around land-use change (shifting from Garden to Baseball fields) run a serious risk of delaying the whole project. We can’t let this happen. (Remember if you don’t move the gardens there is NO land-use change at this part of the property).

    It is called common sense. Prioritize the New School.

    Common sense was badly missing with Parker Harding until today.

    Let’s add some common sense to the Long Lots recommendation too.

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