Category Archives: Environment

BREAKING NEWS: Judge Dismisses Application For Wilton Road Housing Complex

The Town of Westport has won a major land-use victory.

The Wilton Road/North Kings Highway intersection will not be the site of an enormous new housing complex.

Judge Marshall Berger of Hartford District Superior Court has dismissed an appeal by Garden Homes of a unanimous decision by the Planning & Zoning Commission. In February 2016, the board denied an application by the Stamford-based developer to build a 6-story, 48-unit apartment complex on one of the busiest, most environmentally sensitive corners of Westport.

The judge’s decision noted grave concerns about safety, and damage to wetlands adjacent to the 1.16-acre parcel.

122 Wilton Road — site of Garden Homes’ proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

Garden Homes sought approval using an 8-30g application. That Connecticut statute allows developers to override local zoning regulations if less than 10% of a town’s housing stock is “affordable” (according to state formulas).

However, yesterday Judge Berger noted that fire and environmental concerns referenced as substantial public interests clearly outweighed the need for affordable housing.

In addition, the judge criticized Garden Homes’ tactic of rushing their application through the approval process, refusing to grant the P&Z and other town officials sufficient time. The developer also failed to provide alternate plans or additional information.

For full details on the case, click here.

The Taylortown Salt Marsh, next to the proposed apartment complex on Wilton Road.

 

Backyard Visitor

Alert — and intrigued — “06880” reader Madison Malin spotted this in her Bonnie Brook Road backyard:

“Is it a young bobcat?” the Staples High School senior asks.

If you can identify this animal — and know anything about its habits — click “Comments” below.

Daniel Lanzilotta’s Trashy Art

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Which means there are tons of treasures downtown.

Take, for example, the little green (and non-biodegradable) plastic stirrers you get with your Starbucks coffee.

Daniel Lanzilotta says they cause havoc when they get into storm drains, and the nearby Saugatuck River.

So he makes them into sculptures.

That’s just one way he turns “street debris” into art. He’s got many other pieces — and they’re on view right now in the Westport Library Riverwalk (lower level) display case. Fittingly, it’s just a few steps from Starbucks.

Daniel Lanzilottsa wears one of his creations.

On Wednesday, May 31 (6:15 p.m., McManus Room) the library hosts a reception for Lanzilotta. He’ll give a talk on environmental issues at 7 p.m., followed by a discussion with Earthplace representatives.

The topic: How Westport can address and remedy some of the issues raised in his talk.

Lanzilotta is the right man for the job. An artist, environmentalist and chef, he’s seen this town from many different angles.

As a member of Celebrate Westport, he helped create the Farmers’ Market with Michel Nischan. Lanzilotta also helped design First Night Westport’s “Trashin’ Fashion” program for kids.

 

“My work brings consciousness into the waste stream,” Lanzilotta says.

In downtown Westport, he finds all the inspiration he needs.

(For more information, click here.)

Man And Beast Weather

Yesterday’s 95-degree (!) weather brought “danger” emails from 2 alert — and concerned — readers.

One worried about dogs. The other talked about people.

M. Ford — a newcomer to Westport — asked me to remind everyone that it is never safe to leave your pet in a closed car in warm weather.

She noticed a car parked — facing the sun — at Trader Joe’s.* The rear window was cracked — just an inch.

This dog is NOT locked in a sweltering car. (Photo courtesy of Dogster.com)

When she left the store 45 minutes later** the dog was in the front seat, panting. The door was locked.

Fifteen minutes later — after Ford finished some work in her car — a young woman came out, got in the car and drove away.

Ford wanted to give her a gentle reminder, but worried about offending her. She asked me to pass along the warning — and adds this informative link about car temperatures (click here).

Meanwhile, Mike Nayor writes: “When the weather turns fair the number of walkers and joggers in Westport multiplies exponentially. In theory that’s a good thing.”

However, he says, one recent evening he almost hit 3 people walking abreast in the same direction as traffic. All wore dark clothing.

Mike asked me to remind people to walk and jog against traffic, so they can see what’s coming their way.

“Responsibility for safety resides with both drivers and pedestrians,” he notes.

Always walk facing traffic. And cross only at designated areas, like these 4 fellows. (NOTE: This photo was apparently not taken in Westport, as all the cars are headed the wrong way.)

*This may be the first story about the Trader Joe’s parking lot that does not involve a terrible parking job.

** The checkout line is usually much quicker — unless there’s at least 2 inches of snow on the way.

A Farmers’ Market Tale

Today, the Westport Farmers’ Market begins its 12th season.

Its growth — from tentative beginnings in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot, to a vibrant, beloved and very popular Imperial Avenue Thursday tradition — is remarkable.

A typical scene at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Every shopper, farmer and vendor has their own story about what the Market means to them.

But none is more remarkable than this.

Each week, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission selects men to pick up extra food. They bring the produce, bread and more back to the center, where chefs make meals. They also offer recipes to folks who pick up the food that’s not cooked.

The honor to be selected to gather the goods is reserved for men who are winning their battles against alcohol or drug addiction.

Two helpers from the Bridgeport Rescue Mission pick up produce at the Westport Farmers’ Market. (Photo courtesy of CTBites.com)

“These guys are great,” says WFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall. “We get to know them well. They’re so supportive of our staff and the vendors. They stay, they help us break down the tents, they do so much for us.”

Last year, one man came every Thursday. He was excited about graduating from the Rescue Mission. But he worried he might not find a job.

At the end of the market season last November, he still did not have one. Cochran contacted a few area restaurants.

One hired him. But she didn’t know it …

… until a couple of weeks ago, when she and her husband went out for dinner at a Barcelona group restaurant.

The man approached her. He told her he was working there.

He added that he goes to church every Sunday. He has his own apartment.

And he got married.

Joyfully, he showed her pictures of his new life.

As Cochran left, the restaurant manager pulled her aside.

“All he keeps saying,” the manager said, “is that the Farmers’ Market gave him hope things would work out.”

Ginormous Plant Sale Set For Friday

How does the Wakeman Town Farm’s garden grow?

With a ton of help from the Westport Garden Club.

WTF has received a $5,000 gift from the WGC — the club’s largest single donation in its 93-year history. Funds will help create perennial gardens, at the newly renovated and enhanced property.

Front: Treaurer Katie Donovan presents the Westport Garden Club’s check to Wakeman Town Farm co-chair Liz Milwe. Top row (from left): Ellen Greenberg, WCG president; Christy Colasurdo, WTF co-chair; Carrie Aitkenhead, farm steward, Kathy Oberman Tracy, plant sale chair.

The grant was made possible by the Garden Club’s annual plant sale. This year’s event — one of Westport’s favorite springtime rituals — takes place on Friday (May 12, Saugatuck Congregational Church, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.).

After the sale, the club plans to donate any remaining plants to the Town Farm. Members will also help plant and tend the new gardens.

The Garden Club is one of those organizations whose work Westporters constantly admire, even if we don’t know it’s theirs.

Among many other activities, they plant, weed, prune and mulch sites like the Compo Beach entry and marina; Adams Academy; the Earthplace entrance; the Library’s winter garden near Jesup Green; various cemeteries, and the Nevada Hitchcock Memorial Garden at the Cross Highway/Weston Road intersection.

An astonishing array of plants are available on Friday. Among the most popular: “perkies.” These perennials come from local gardens, and thrive in our quirky Connecticut climate.

The Westport Garden Club plant sale is on, rain or shine. Exactly what you’d expect from this intrepid group, who do so much to “grow” our town.

Pic Of The Day #21

Wakeman Town Farm

Every Dog Has Its Day

Hundreds of dogs celebrate their day today.

Seen at the 2nd annual Dog Festival at Winslow Park:

Kids and their pets…

… dogs of all types …

… dog photography …

… a canine obstacle course …

… and plenty of Winslow Park regulars, like Roger Wolfe.

The Dog Festival — sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — runs through 4 p.m. today. Click here for details.

Wanted: Tree Advice

Alert “0688o” reader — and nature lover — Fred Cantor writes:

A spectacular birch tree that has stood in the side yard since our house was built close to 65 years ago has been declared DOA by the arborist who sprayed it for us every spring.

It’s possible the tree died of natural causes in old age. It’s also very possible the tree is a victim of the drought.

To help with water conservation, my wife and I never watered our grass. It looked okay even during the hottest parts of the summer.

But, I’ve learned, it’s not just newly planted trees that need regular watering. It’s also advisable to regularly water certain types of much older trees in the conditions we have faced locally in the past year or two.

Perhaps “06880” readers who are professional landscapers — or knowledgeable gardeners — can weigh in on how all of us can help preserve older trees.

Fred Cantor’s birch tree, in the 1990s.

It’s A Dog’s World

Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Winslow Park has always been Westport’s 32-acre, right-near-downtown park. It’s big, beautiful, hilly, wooded and — let’s face it — dull.

Sure, dogs romp. Their owners walk, throw balls and socialize. It’s a wonderful place. But not much really happens.

Last year, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce sponsored the 1st-ever Dog Festival there.

It was the greatest thing since flea collars.

The 2nd annual Westport Dog Festival is set for Sunday, May 7 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). I can already hear Fido and Spot pawing at your door.

Demonstrations include police dogs, emergency rescue dogs, guide dogs, hunting dogs, and and agility and training exhibitions.

Earth Animal offers prizes for best tail wagger, best dressed, best kisser, best trick, best lap dog over 50 pounds, and dog that looks most like its owner. Judges include some very important humans: Selectmen Jim Marpe, Avi Kaner and Helen Garten, and state legislators Toni Boucher, Gail Lavielle and Jonathan Steinberg.

There’s an obstacle course too. The winner gets a year’s supply of dog food.

Surrounding the main activities will be dozens of pet-related vendors, rescue/ adoption opportunities, vet seminars, caricaturists and giveaways, plus food trucks (for humans).

Choice Pet is the lead sponsor. TAILS — the local spay/neutering group — is again partnering with the Chamber.

There’s plenty of parking at the Westport Country Playhouse. Proceeds from the entrance fee ($10 per person, $25 for a family of 4) benefit non-profit organizations. Last year, the Chamber of Commerce donated $5,000 to deserving groups.

Dog owners can register for the competitions online, or at the festival. Click here for more information.

Arf!

Roger Wolfe’s small dog enjoyed last year’s large Dog Festival.