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.