Category Archives: Local politics

Hook’d: The Back Story

The controversy over Hook’d’s management of the Compo Beach and Longshore concession stands, and the golf course halfway house, is not half-baked.

I’m old enough to remember when the contract came up for approval, way back in the spring of 2020.

A few months earlier, Joey Romeo and the town had ben unable to agree on terms of the lease for the food service he’d run at Compo for over 30 years, plus the 2 Longshore operations. (Click here for the first “06880” story; click here for Joey’s statement to his customers.)

Joey Romeo, in a typical pose.

On March 31, 2020, I posted a story about the upcoming approval of a new concessionaire: Upsilon Entertainment Group of Larchmont, New York (click here to read).

The piece drew 33 comments. Readers wondered about the bid process, and the decision not to choose a local vendor. Both King’s Kitchen and Norwalk’s Sunset Grille — connected to Westport via ownership of Jr’s Deli — were interested, but not considered.

The money quote came from Jay Walshon. He wrote:

A modicum of internet “research” finds that Upsilon Entertainment Group, registered in 2017, is “Permanently Closed”. Principal is Itai Shoffman. Address is 4 Durham Rd, Larchmont, NY.

Upsilon Ventures, Principal is also Itai Shoffman, registered address 4 Durham Rd, Larchmont, NY, is also “Permanently Closed”.

Real estate usage and event management. No evidence of retail restaurant experience, restaurant history, food reviews, menu, pricing, financials, etc.

4 Durham Rd, Larchmont appears to be a family colonial home rather than being a corporate building or established business entity.

The word on the street is that this company was chosen over local ones because this Larchmont company offered the Town more money for the concession contract – perhaps even $25,000 more. Tried and true local restauranteurs with proven track records may have been turned down on this basis….

This concession is no small thing. Compo is arguably Westport’s most precious crown jewel, beloved and utilized by virtually every Westport resident, parent and their children. If we are to be hostage to this singular provider, WE should make that decision.

For so long we have incessantly heard business leaders admonish us to support local, buy local, choose local. Here we have a major opportunity to do just that and instead we look to Larchmont NY??? Really?

The shuttered beach concession. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Three weeks later, Upsilon passed muster by the Planning & Zoning Commission (acting in its land use capacity) as the concessionaire. (Click here for the full story.) I wrote:

(Parks & Recreation Department director Jen) Fava said that 3 groups were interviewed by a committee of representatives from the RTM, Parks & Rec Department, Parks & Rec Commission, and Department of Public Works.

They selected Upsilon for a variety of reasons. One was (that it offered the) highest fees (which top out at $120,000 a year or 12% of gross revenues, whichever is higher, in the final year of the 5-year contract). An opt-in clause covers 2 additional 5-year terms.

Fava said the committee was enthusiastic about Upsilon’s previous experience, which included operations at New York’s Bryant Park, Prospect Park and Hudson River Park.

The menu would include “typical beach food,” plus “healthier options like smoothies and salads.” They would offer special food nights, like Italian cuisine, and events like cheese tastings.

The company will use biodegradable packaging, and will compost materials. They committed to hire local staffs, and sell Connecticut-based products.

“They’re very professional,” the Parks & Rec director said. “They want to be partners with us, and involved in the community.”

The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen later okayed the contract.

Westporters waited eagerly for the concession stand’s return.

There were 23 comments on that April 24, 2020 story. Added to questions about the bid process and lack of a local vendor were concerns about the menu and promises made.

Peter Blau revisited the worries about the operators themselves:

It’s worth looking at the company’s website, as well. They are not a restaurant or food service company, but a “Project development, marketing, hospitality, and production firm specializing in public-private partnerships and the use of public spaces and real estate for iconic attractions, sponsor activations, events, consumer engagement, temporary retail, and other revenue generating opportunities.”

In other words, they specialize in making deals with deep pocket entities, no doubt with a very sophisticated marketing pitch, but when it comes to making the burgers, they hire that out to someone else.

How it’s possible to get a better deal by hiring an event marketing company as the middleman between the town and the actual food service escapes me.

2020 was a tough year for any business — especially a new one. COVID had just hit, when the contract was signed. With fears about indoor dining high, the concession stand did not open; instead, a food truck late in the summer served a limited crowd of beach-goers.

Hook’d finally opened last May.

The rest is history.

Employees posed in May 2021, ready to serve. (Photos/Dan Woog)

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Baron’s South Committee: Golden Shadows Needs Work

Every few years, the First Selectman’s Maintenance Study Committee issues a report on the condition of Baron’s South.

The latest draft — delivered recently, following similar reports in 2014, 2018 and 2019 — was based on an inspection of Golden Shadows, former home of Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff. It was conducted by committee members 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, committee chair Joseph Fuller, John Broadbin and Jack Klinge.

Golden Shadows: in 2015. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The report called for more frequent reviews of the building. Now used by the town for “light storage of first aid and critical response items,” it is one of several buildings in the 22-acre park between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue. The rest is open space.

The report noted that apart from minor maintenance and renovations, Golden Shadows has not received any attention since the town took possession more than 20 years ago. The town spends approximately $50,000 a year on maintenance, the report said.

Since then, “major cracks” have appeared and grown. In addition, the report said:

  • Bricks are deteriorating
  • Front steps are spalling
  • The front stone patio is leaking, and has become a liability issue.

Golden Shadow patio and front steps.

  • The site and grounds remain “somewhat overgrown.”
  • Chimney repainting is warranted.
  • Caulking is peeling.
  • The heating system is functioning.
  • Most of the walls are in satisfactory condition, though some sills are rotting.

Peeling wallpaper, inside.

  • Woodwork appears satisfactory, though ceiling paint is peeling.
  • Floors need cleaning.
  • Roof slates appear to be in good shape, though gutter work should be done.

A drone photo in the draft report shows where gutter work is needed.

The committee recommends consideration of  exterior improvements “almost immediately.” The same recommendation was made in 3 previous reports.

Interior work is needed too, “if the building is to be kept.” Costs are mounting: “A simple residential renovation” today would be over $1 million.

The report also recommended site work, including driveway repairs, grass cutting, and removal of one large tree.

Finally, the report noted that a restored building “could be rented like 3 other adjacent residential buildings on the property.”

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker is reviewing the report.

Westporters toured Golden Shadows years ago, after the town bought the property.

Roundup: Affordable Housing; Car Thefts, Traffic, Tax …

The Planning and Zoning Commission adopted a 5-year affordable housing plan last night. The bipartisan vote was 5-0, with 2 abstentions.

Highlights include:

Creating a new affordable community designed specifically for families.

• The formation of a town-funded Affordable Housing Trust Fund to direct resources towards future development of affordable housing.

• The immediate development of location specific plans for town-owned land to meaningfully expand and/or renovate existing rental housing/structures to create affordable housing, and potentially partner with nonprofits engaged in this work.

• Allocation of the approximately $1,700,000 in the town’s Real Property Fund to acquire land for future development of affordable housing.

• The deed restriction of existing town-owned rental properties so that they are affordable and remain affordable to renters.

• The adoption of a new zoning district at Powell Place to ensure that existing deeply affordable housing (40% State Median Income or less) can be more intensively redeveloped with flexible parking requirements reflecting the availability of public lots nearby.

There is much more in the 5-year plan. Click here for a full “06880” report.

Part of the 5-year affordable housing plan envisions a “model pocket neighborhood/cottage commons” design. (Courtesy of Ross Chapin AIA)

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You’d think by now everyone would have gotten the message.

Nope. Here’s the latest Groundhog Day news from the Westport Police Department:

On Saturday, several cars were broken into. All were unlocked. Go figure.

This often happens at night. However, these crimes occurred in late afternoon and early evening.

The WPD once again reminds Westporters to lock your cars and bring your keys or fobs inside. And never leave valuables — cash purses, wallets, electronics — in your car.

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The Police Department also offers this advice, for the June 30th fireworks:

Spectators should arrive early. Traffic delays are inevitable.

Compo Beach closes at 4 p.m. Only vehicles with fireworks passes can remain.  Parks & Recreation staff will collect passes. The beach should reopen to ticket holders by 5 p.m.

Vehicles with tickets can access the beach through South Compo Road only. Hillspoint Road south of Greens Farms Road will be open to residents who live south of that intersection.

Firework attendees should display their ticket prominently on the dashboard. It will be collected at the parking gate.

All ticket holders must be inside Compo Beach by 9 p.m.  No beach traffic will be allowed south of the Minute Man monument after that time.

Vehicles without tickets will not be allowed any further toward Compo Beach than the Minute Man.

Uber, Lyft or taxi users will be directed straight past the Minute Man, on Compo Road South. They can be dropped off at Soundview Drive. Return service will not be available until after 11 p.m., due to 1-way traffic leaving the beach.

When the fireworks end, there will be 2 lanes of 1-way traffic only on Compo Beach Road and South Compo, to the intersection of Greens Farms Road. Residents of that area returning from elsewhere should expect a delay of 1 hour or so.

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The fun doesn’t end with the fireworks. On Saturday, July 9, Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race returns. There’s a new location — Jesup Green — but the same family fun.

The day begins with a 10 a.m. Fun Fair in the Westport Library parking lot. Activities include a Nerdy Derby, face painting and bubble machines.

At 1 p.m. on Jesup Green, 3,000 plastic ducks will slide down a 160-foot sluice course. Each wears a number, matching a $20 raffle ticket. The first 10 ducks down the course win money for their ticket holders. First place is $5,000. Second place wins $1,000. The next 8 finishers get $500 each.

The event is a major Sunrise Rotary fundraiser. Proceeds support charitable endeavors in this area, the state and around the world.

Click here for tickets, and to learn more about Sunrise Rotary. 

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When Dick Lowenstein received his 2022-23 tax bill yesterday, he was surprised to see that the gross assessment had risen on his 2 vehicles. The dollar amounts were not huge, but the percentages were: 29% higher for his 2002 Lexus, 11% for his 2014 Honda CRV.

He called tax assessor Paul Friia. The immediate response: Gross assessment is based on standard information provided to the assessor. “Presumably, because of supply shortages, new car production has been delayed. Many people are instead buying used cars, which has driven up their value,” Dick reports.

I wonder what this Maserati will be assessed at next year. (Photo/Jerry Kuyper)

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Yesterday’s rain postponed the Remarkable Theater showing of “Caddyshack.” The new date is Monday, July 11 (8:30 p.m.; gates open at 7:30 p.m.).

Click here for tickets, and more information.

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Our “Westport … Naturally” feature is open to everyone. We run photos of anything “natural” in town: animals, birds, flowers, trees — you name it. If it lives, we want to showcase it.

We are especially interested in images from young readers. Today we welcome 15-year-old Benji Porosoff, who captured this scene:

(Photo/Benji Porosoff)

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And finally … on this day in 1969, the Stonewall riots began in New York. The uprising — sparked by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar — is considered the start of the LGBTQ rights movement.

Ten years later, Diana Ross commissioned Chic founder (and current Westporter) Nile Rodgers to create material for her new album. One song was inspired after he saw drag queens dressed as Diana Ross at a New York club. It is now considered an anthem of the LGBTQ community.

(“06880” is supported solely by readers. Please click here to contribute.)

[UPDATE] New Life For Old Nursing Home?

This story has been updated to include an artists’ rendering of the proposed renovation of the Post Road West building.

It’s a jarring sight.

On one side of Post Road West, heading toward town, sits the classic-looking Kings Highway Elementary School.

A few yards away — on the other side of Burr Road — looms an industrial-type building, showing its age.

The current name is nondescript: Westport Rehabilitation Complex. So was the previous one: Westport Health Care Center. Many Westporters still call it “Mediplex.”

Connecticut Rehabilitation Complex. In the background: Kings Highway Elementary School.

It looks like a stereotypical “nursing” or “old age home.” Sure, those are outdated terms.

But so is the structure.

Next Monday (June 27, 7 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing on a text amendment that would substantially change the look of the building.

And adapt its use to more modern “senior care.”

Connectictu Rehabilitation Center’s current Burr Street entrance …

Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm, who has been involved in Westport projects like the renovation of Richmondville Mill and the conversion of 136 Riverside Avenue to housing for adults with special needs — hopes to expand the current standards for nursing homes to include a new medical facility specializing in Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairment care.

The new proposal would gut renovate the interior, and redo the façade and roof, but essentially maintain the current footprint. Additional square footage would be added to the top 2 floors, to accommodate the new use.

The existing 120 beds would be reduced by almost half, to 68 units. Redniss notes that memory care — a growing segment of eldercare — requires a less intense use of staff than a skilled nursing home, too.

The property would be modernized and enhanced, with better landscaping and protections for nearby residents. Redniss says the height and feel of the renovation will complement the elementary school directly across the street.

… and the proposed renovation. The look and feel of the building mimic Kings Highway School, across Burr Street.

This is not the first time a new use has been proposed for the old site.

During the past few years, the landlord has submitted applications or pre-application requests to either change the use to a luxury hotel, or demolish the existing structure and construct a new assisted living facility.

Both proposals faced obstacles, and were withdrawn.

The timing now is important. Westport Rehabilitation has an option to extend their lease, and continue to operate as they have been. An agreement in place would allow this new project to proceed.

Redniss says that feedback from town departments and engineers — as well as a pre-application meeting with P&Z — has been included in this current plan.

(The June 27 public hearing will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. at westportct.gov,  Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent prior to the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov. Interested parties may offer live testimony via Zoom.)

(“06880” reporting relies on reader support. Please click here to contribute.)

New Life For Old Nursing Home?

It’s a jarring sight.

On one side of Post Road West, heading toward town, sits the classic-looking Kings Highway Elementary School.

A few yards away — on the other side of Burr Road — looms an industrial-type building, showing its age.

The current name is nondescript: Westport Rehabilitation Complex. So was the previous one: Westport Health Care Center. Many Westporters still call it “Mediplex.”

Connecticut Rehabilitation Complex. In the background: Kings Highway Elementary School.

It looks like a stereotypical “nursing” or “old age home.” Sure, those are outdated terms.

But so is the structure.

Next Monday (June 27, 7 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing on a text amendment that would substantially change the look of the building.

And adapt its use to more modern “senior care.”

Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm, who has been involved in Westport projects like the renovation of Richmondville Mill and the conversion of 136 Riverside Avenue to housing for adults with special needs — hopes to expand the current standards for nursing homes to include a new medical facility specializing in Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairment care.

The new proposal would gut renovate the interior, and redo the façade and roof, but essentially maintain the current footprint. Additional square footage would be added to the top 2 floors, to accommodate the new use.

The existing 120 beds would be reduced by almost half, to 68 units. Redniss notes that memory care — a growing segment of eldercare — requires a less intense use of staff than a skilled nursing home, too.

The property would be modernized and enhanced, with better landscaping and protections for nearby residents.

This is not the first time a new use has been proposed for the old site.

During the past few years, the landlord has submitted applications or pre-application requests to either change the use to a luxury hotel, or demolish the existing structure and construct a new assisted living facility.

Both proposals faced obstacles, and were withdrawn.

Connecticut Rehabilitation Complex;s Burr Street entrance. 

The timing now is important. Westport Rehabilitation has an option to extend their lease, and continue to operate as they have been. An agreement in place would allow this new project to proceed.

Redniss says that feedback from town departments and engineers — as well as a pre-application meeting with P&Z — has been included in this current plan.

And, he adds, the height and feel of the renovation will complement the elementary school directly across the street.

(The June 27 public hearing will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. at westportct.gov,  Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent prior to the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov. Interested parties may offer live testimony via Zoom.)

(“06880” reporting relies on reader support. Please click here to contribute.)

[OPINION] Longshore Survey Is Odd, Flawed

Scott Smith has taken the town’s “Longshore Community” survey. Like several other Westporters who commented on “06880,” he finds it focused too much on certain areas, not enough on others.

Scott — an ardent environmentalist, and a golfer — is not some Johnny-come-lately-to-Longshore. Over a decade ago, he chaired the 50th anniversary celebration of the town’s park purchase.

He writes:

I’ve taken the Longshore Club Park survey, and, frankly, I’m alarmed. With its odd insistence on parking and flooding issues, and in light of recent public comments about selling off precious riverfront property inside the park, the effort fairly shouts “hidden agenda.”

For starters, why was Stantec, a Canadian firm, hired to formulate the questions, and whose interests do they serve? And why was any discussion of the fate of Longshore Inn largely omitted? Anyone who is familiar with Longshore operations knows the future of the public park is inextricably linked with the prospects for the property’s landmark inn, restaurant and banquet facility.

Inn at Longshore and 18th hole (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

Then there’s the sorry history of the town’s ineptitude of managing our public assets, Longshore included. For all the talk of parking problems, know that for decades the town has hogged spots in the marina lot to warehouse trucks and other equipment, very little of which is actually used at Longshore. The town has long used and effectively trashed the green building next to the tennis courts. Once the starter shack for the golf course, why keep this prime property as a work shed? (The golf maintenance company has its own well-equipped facility in the middle of the course.) The town has also allowed the refuse dump in the middle of the park to sprawl into an unsightly mess of a dumping ground.

Like any lover of Longshore, I have my own ideas and dreams for this crown jewel of 06880. I can’t imagine Longshore without its pool complex, though surely the locker rooms could stand to be refurbished. And I’ve long argued for constructing a new, much-needed multi-purpose clubhouse, to serve not only golfers but all users of the park, including those who seek more access to Westport’s scenic waterfront.

I like the idea, long promoted by Sean Doyle and other golfers, to tear down the ramshackle golf building and situate the new clubhouse on the knoll between the two parking lots adjacent. With the state’s forthcoming dredging of the river, and the recently announced plans to add a ferry service from the envisioned “Hamlet at Saugatuck,” it makes perfect sense to add launch facilities for the growing numbers of kayakers, paddleboarders and other low-impact water enthusiasts seeking to enjoy the harbor and river.

And though I served on the Golf Advisory Committee for over a decade, I can see giving up the driving range, in favor or a coastline walking path and pollinator gardens, perhaps with an expansive “Himalayas”-style putting course for families. (I wouldn’t dream of building on the point, as who knows what toxic nightmares lurk under the surface of that onetime dump.) Heck, I’d even be willing to give the pickleballers a couple more courts, as long as they promise to shut up about their sport.

The point is, everybody has their own “what you oughta do” at Longshore. Starting that process with a guided, biased survey and lack of transparency is no way to begin the conversation.

(The Longshore Community Survey is available through June 14. Click here to see.)

Another view of Longshore.

Roundup: Hiawatha Lane, Abortion Ban, Salsa Fresca …

Though Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger dismissed a suit by Hiawatha Lane residents against Summit Saugatuck — developer of the 157-unit apartment complex by I-95 Exit 17 — the neighbors vow to fight on.

Carolanne Curry writes: “A close analysis by (our) attorney of the findings in Judge Berger’s decision, would show the Judge’s decision to be weak enough, flawed enough, and sufficient enough to warrant an immediate and vigorous appeal. During a conversation on Friday our attorney relayed that the merits of an appeal were convincing and justifiable. (Read the decision dated May 31, 2022  here.)

“We have come too far to simply relinquish our sincere efforts and the many successes we have achieved, especially while there are viable pathways to further success that are still within our reach. Our chances of success today are like all the chances we’ve continuously embraced for nearly 20 years. We’ve gone ahead each time and achieved many wins. We still remain an affordable working class neighborhood. We still remain a community with history… and hope. We still remain committed to stopping something so very wrong.”

An appeal would take 12 to 18 months, Curry says. That would put a hold on construction.

The biggest challenge, she says, is funding. Her email included a goal of $50,000 to cover the current balance owed, and legal fees going forward. Click here for details, and more information.

One of the Hiawatha Lane homes on the demolition list.

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With 23 sponsors, it was already clear that a “sense of the meeting” resolution supporting a woman’s right to abortion would pass the 36-member Representative Town Meeting.

But — after impassioned debate — the non-partisan legislative body enacted the member without dissent from the 29 members still on the Zoom call.

The RTM has weighed in on national issues before. In 1969, they voted 17-15 to oppose the Vietnam War. After the Sandy Hook massacre, they resoundingly called for an end to gun violence.

District 4 representative Andrew Colabella told “06880” after last night’s vote:

“Tonight the RTM, men and women, stood together and in unison, eloquently and passionately to adopt a resolution asserting that Westport supports the constitutional rights and principles established in Roe v. Wade, and opposes the elimination of those rights by any subsequent Supreme Court decision.

“Putting aside individual beliefs and political affiliations, this nonpartisan body, like always, setting precedent by discussing and taking action voiced, loud and clear with great enthusiasm while holding back tears.

“The future is terrifying. We are fortunate and lucky  to live in such an educated and strongly passionate diverse and inclusive town that, like our state, goes above and beyond to protect women’s rights.

“Furthermore, the best health care is provided free of political interference in the patient-physician relationship. Personal decision-making by women and their doctors should not be replaced by political ideology. This was affirmed in our unanimous vote.

“And like the people that we are in this town, ready to give a helping hand, will take pride in helping those beyond our borders whatever decision is rendered.”

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No such thing as a free lunch?

Don’t tell that to the crowd at Salsa Fresca yesterday.

The Post Road healthy Mexican spot gave away free lunches — and dinners — all day long. It was “Customer Appreciation Day.”

Lines were long, but they moved fast. No one worried about swiping credit cards, or fumbling for cash. Customers definitely appreciated that.

Gracias, Salsa Fresca!

A small part of Salsa Fresca’s long line.

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When newly minted teacher Haleigh Donovan put out a plea for books for her underserved 4th grade classroom, “06880” readers came through.

Dozens of Westporters donated hundreds of books. Others sent gift cards, for the 2014 Staples High School and College of Charleston master’s graduate to purchase too.

Soon, she and her parents — Staples grads Dan and Nicole Donovan — will pack up a car, and head south. Haleigh will spend the summer setting up her classroom.

With each book, she’ll be reminded of the generosity of hometown friends and strangers.

Haleigh Donovan, with a small portion of Westporters’ large donations.

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Former 2nd Selectman and Board of Finance chair Avi Kaner — named last year one of the “Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life” — just returned from a B’nai B’rith trip — to the Vatican.

He and his wife Liz were part of a private audience with Pope Francis.

The pontiff said: “The promotion and deepening of Jewish-Christian dialogue has been something close to my heart since I was a young boy, because at school I had Jewish classmates; it is a dialogue made up of encounter and concrete gestures of fraternity.

“It is good that we should help one another, because in each one of us, in every religious tradition and in every human society, there is always a risk that we can hold grudges and foster disputes against others, and at times do so in the name of absolute and even sacred principles.”

The delegation responded: “Your Holiness, we hope that all people will stand together against antisemitism, against anti-Christian discrimination and against intolerance directed at Muslims. In recognition of our common home and common destiny, let us protect the environment, care for the most vulnerable and promote mutual understanding rather than mutual recrimination. Thank you, Your Holiness, and may God bless all people everywhere with shalom, with peace.”

Pope Francis shook Kaner’s hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Pray for Peace.”

Pope Francis and Avi Kaner.

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It’s been a while since we checked in with the Fresh Market ospreys.

Carolyn Doan reports: “There is at least one chick in the nest. There are probably more, but this was the most visible, sitting right up front with mom. Dad brought in a fish. All is well.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)

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It could take years — if ever — for the improvement project at the Main Street/ Weston Road/Easton Road intersection near Merritt Parkway Exit 42 (first reported yesterday on “06880”) to be completed.

Let’s hope there’s some routine maintenance done of the traffic island there before then.

If it looks like this today, just imagine a few years from now.

(Photo/Terry Brannigan)

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On the other hand … there are plenty of handsome entrances to private Westport roads.

But can any of them beat today’s “Westport … Naturally” beauty?

(Photo/Valerie Szeto)

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And finally … Jim Seals — half of the ’70s soft-rock duo Seals & Crofts — died Monday in Nashville. He was 79.

I knew (but never really cared for) the group’s hits like “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl.”

But I did not know — until I read his obituary — that Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were part of the Champs, who had a 1958 hit with “Tequila,” another song that did nothing for me. (They joined after it was a hit.)

Nor did I know that Seals’ brother Dan was a member of England Dan & John Ford Coley (“I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”). You guessed it …

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“Confusing Intersection” Sequel: Previous Plans

The state Department of Transportation’s announcement of possible work on the Route 136/Route 57 intersection — where Main Street, Weston Road and Easton Road meet in a confusing number of ways — is welcome news.

But it’s not the first plan.

Nor is it the second. Or even the third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh.

Former 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner sends along a slew of previous solutions to the confounding confluence. All were prepared by ConnDOT, and discussed with town officials between 2004 and 2006.

Here they are. Click on or hover over each image to enalrge.

One envisioned 3 small roundabouts:

Another showed one large rotary:

Five others involved some combination of road widening, adding turning lanes, and eliminating or modifying the center island:

As the saying goes: Whatever goes around, comes around.

Or, in the case of the roads near Exit 42, whatever goes around may crash into whatever else goes around, unless everyone going around pays close attention.

Jessica Bram’s Invocation

Each month, a different Westporter gives an invocation before the RTM meeting.

Most are earnest, but unmemorable. (Trust me, I know: I’ve given one myself.)

Last month, Jessica Bram departed from the usual aren’t-we-all-lucky-to-live-in-Westport platitudes. Instead — peaking directly to her colleagues — the RTM member confronted important issues head-on.

I asked Jessica if I could post her words here, so au audience greater than a few dozen legislators and local policy wonks could see — and reflect — on them. Here’s her invocation:

I moved to Westport over 24 years ago. A single mother when I arrived, I didn’t know a soul here. I raised 3 sons who now have successful lives because they went through our extraordinary Westport Public Schools – that school system that we are here to talk about tonight.

Jessica Bram

(Incidentally, I will mention that one of my sons married his Staples High School girlfriend— he went to Bedford, she to Coleytown—  and they just had their second child.)

When Coleytown Middle School was shut down, I remember saying – because our school system is so critical in this town—that this was the single worst thing that ever happened to Westport in my 24-year memory.

To lose an entire middle school … to be forced to cram one entire school population in with another! Remember what a crisis that was? The worst that could ever happen.

Then came COVID.

And instead of being upset because our kids were in crowded classrooms after Coleytown moved in with Bedford (remember we were upset because so many had to have lunch so early?), now there was COVID. And now all our kids had to stay home from school.

Our whole town changed. Businesses failed, people lost jobs, restaurants shut down. Perhaps worst of all, we couldn’t be together.

Two years later, here we are, at our RTM meeting, still on Zoom.

Yes, we disagree on so many things. We all have opinions here (as you know I have opinions on everything, you’ve all heard them).

But let’s think about what our differences are about, and the values that they reflect.

We argued about using ARPA funds for beach repair. But wasn’t that about protecting the environment? Being responsible stewards of our shoreline, our town’s greatest asset?

Yes, we fight about gas-powered blowers. But isn’t that because each of us wants to hold so tightly on to the Westport that we all came here for, the homes and lives we built for our families, regardless of whether that’s quiet afternoons or beautiful lawns?

Yes, we have argued for and against offering public transportation. But what a gift we received from that conflict! That gift of having received over 100 heartfelt emails — each one different, each expressive, none of them boiler plate.

I learned so much that I didn’t know about … what it’s like to have an infant at home and only one car… what it’s like to be a worn-out commuter.  So because of that conflict we got to know so much about our neighbors’ lives, in personal, truthful ways.

The Wheels2U debate elicited many personal emails and phone calls.

We argue vehemently about P&Z issues such as affordable housing, 8-30g, and the zoning problems that that legislation causes. But although we may vehemently disagree about zoning issues, we do respect our town bodies that allow our disagreements to be spoken aloud and acted on in orderly, non-combative ways.

One thing I do know is that regardless of how we feel about 8-30-g, we all do care about, and have compassion for, families, either struggling or wealthy families, who all want to have safe, affordable homes where we can raise our children.

And don’t we all support our organizations such as Homes with Hope, that are working so hard to end homelessness — whether we offer that support philanthropically, or by cooking and serving lasagna in our newly renovated Gillespie Center?

Let me point out that we are, after all, a town that has a youth center, and homeless shelter, a block away from a Tiffany’s. All of which says something about what we in Westport care about. Not just the homeless shelter. But Tiffany’s too, because it does speak of the lives we unapologetically want for our children.

The Gillespie Center is a few feet away from Tiffany. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

Yes, some of us cling furiously to our causes and our pet issues and our political affiliations.

Yes, we may disagree on so many things.

Yes, our RTM meetings can at times stretch agonizingly long into the night.

But let’s remember who we are.

With all our disagreements, in all those exhausting, contentious, boring RTM meetings, we are all doing it just to make things right.

Let’s think about the values and principles that we share at the heart of it all – our families, our first responders, our overworked teachers. And yes, even our noisy neighbors.

Let’s remind ourselves – and applaud ourselves for — living in a town not of things and real estate, but of principles. That what we’re here for – especially those of us on the RTM — are principles of honesty and fairness —and what’s really important in our troubled world.

Because that’s who we are.

And know that in the end, we care for, respect, and yes, even  a little bit, love each other.

RTM members march in the 2018 Memorial Day parade.

“06880” Podcast: Danielle Dobin

Nearly every Westport issue — affordable housing, traffic, a changing retail environment, trees — involves development, and the changes Westport undergoes, embraces, accepts, rejects or otherwise undergoes.

Which means they all involve, in some way and at some point, the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Chair Danielle Dobin sees it all. The other day, I chatted with her in the Westport Library’s Verso Studios for the latest “06880” podcast. She spoke candidly and insightfully about the pieces of the P&Z puzzle we all see — and those most of us never think about.

Click below for our podcast: