Category Archives: Places

Neighbors Oppose Aquarion’s Proposed North Avenue Water Tank

For nearly 2 years, on-again, off-again construction of a new water pump directly across from Staples High School slowed traffic and disrupted neighbors.

Now a group of North Avenue residents is alarmed at the next project. Aquarion wants to build 2 storage tanks — each holding 2.5 million gallons of water. They would replace the one current 1.5 million gallon tank, built in 1956.

Aquarion says the tanks are necessary to address future town growth. Fire chief Robert Yost supports the proposal.

Opponents disagree. Their petition to the Planning & Zoning Commission says:

We, concerned neighbors surrounding and adjacent to the area of the proposed water tank construction project on North Avenue, hereby urge you reject Aquarion Water Company’s Special Permit Application #17-043 to allow the installation of two 2.5 million above ground concrete water storage tanks at 63-67 North Avenue, Westport.

We believe that Aquarion’s construction of the tanks, along with their permanent siting on this property, will have a deleterious effect upon our quality of life, neighborhood safety, North Avenue traffic, visual landscape, and home values.

Our objections are as follows:

1)  The proposed 39 foot above-ground height of the two tanks far exceed the 24 foot height of the one existing tank, as well as the heights of all homes in the surrounding area. This will have a significantly negative impact on the character and quality of the residential neighborhood surrounding it, effectively changing its appearance from residential to commercial.

2)  As proposed, construction of these tanks will take 2 years but is very likely to take longer, based on Aquarion’s previous record of construction of its pump station, which was projected to take 6 months but actually took 18 months. During that time the ensuing noise of construction activity, all-night presence of high intensity construction lights, debris and operation of construction equipment had a severely negative impact on the peaceful enjoyment and quality of life of our neighborhood. Additionally, landscaping besides 6-foot trees, has never been restored since then. With the proposed project we expect this impact to be magnified due to its much larger scale, and Aquarion’s lack of concern for the neighborhood be repeated.

The Aquarion water tank, during recent pump station construction.

3)  Construction activity will severely exacerbate traffic conditions on North Avenue which already suffers from chronic traffic backups and congestion due to the daily volume of cars and school buses traveling to and from Bedford Middle School and Staples High School. This will make travel to and from the schools virtually impossible for both staff and students, and guaranteed to result in school delays.

4)  We are very concerned about the impact on the safety of this residential neighborhood, where so many children live and commute to school, due to the siting of two huge water tanks at this location. When at the June 28 informational meeting Aquarian was asked precautions have been taken regarding the storage of five million gallons of water in a residential neighborhood, Aquarion’s response was “nothing will ever happen.” We find this response irresponsible and unacceptable.

5)  It is highly objectionable that Aquarion did not adhere to the Site Plan and Special Permit requirements, as follows:

a) Aquarion informed and invited only 13 neighbors to the June 26 informational neighborhood meeting, instead of all 27 neighbors in the 250 feet radius from their property.

b) The neighbor list was not distributed to the neighbors in that invitation, as required.

c) Important details were not communicated during the meetings, such as the fact the application had already been filed.

6)  Siting of these highly visible, unsightly structures in our neighborhood will be unpleasant and will adversely affect our property values to a significant extent.\

7)  Given that Aquarion filed the Special Permit Application only on June 21, the last week of school when many families are involved in graduations or traveling, insufficient time has been given to neighbors to review and weigh in on the proposed project. Aquarion has thus far failed to provide answers to our questions including:

What is the basis for the project?
Capacity: Why is there a need to increase the current tank capacity by almost 400%, from 1.5 million gallons to 5.75 million? Population in Westport has been relatively stable since 1970, during which time we have not been made aware of any serious water shortages in our area.

Why situate two huge tanks next to each other in a residential area?
a) Alternative sites: What other options have been considered?

b) Can the second tank (if need has been proven) be situated on a different piece of land?

c) Why is such a large (62.5%) increase in tank height necessary?

A photo in the position shows the height of the proposed new water tanks.

Finally, we are dismayed and concerned that the Planning & Zoning Commission has agreed to review and presumably rule on this Special Permit Application along such a rushed time frame, with so little consideration given by Aquarion to neighbors who wish to review and weigh in on the application. Thus far, few of our questions have been answered to our satisfaction, and few of our concerns addressed. We would expect that in your roles as advocates for us, the Town’s residents, Planning and Zoning Commissioners will not allow this process to be rushed. We are counting on you to insure that our concerns are addressed and alternatives proposed.

In conclusion, we once again respectfully urge the Planning & Zoning Commission to reject Aquarion’s Special Permit application pending further review, consideration of alternatives, and input by Westport citizenry and other public officials.

Thank you for consideration of this very important matter. Yours truly,

North Avenue Neighbors including: Dr. Stefanie and Marc Lemcke; Michael and Kusumarn Fleming; Jennifer and Andrew Kobettisch; Claudia Steinman, Alfred and Mirian Popkin; David and Dawn Chaskin; Jodi and Russel Hardin; Jennifer and Jeffrey Watzman; Jennifer Stein, 12 Terhune Drive, and many concerned neighbors of Westport.

3.454 M: The Sequel

On Monday, I posted a photo of a mysterious sign.

It read “3.454 M,” underneath another one warning of an 11’8″ railroad underpass on South Compo Road.

Alert reader Peter Flatow got the answer — and a promise — from Public Works director Steve Edwards:

Actually we have 4 such signs on our low underpasses. They were installed under the Diane Farrell administration. The signs were given to us by the Department of Transportation under a metric conversion initiative. We never bothered to check the conversion. [“06880″ NOTE: 3.454 meters is less than 11’4″ — a far cry from 11’8”, though at least it’s an error in the “right” direction for a truck driver carrying a high load.]

Good catch by an astute resident. Since the initiative failed miserably, all the metric signs will be removed.

That’s why we love Steve Edwards. But his response got me thinking: There are other signs in town that can be removed too.

Here are a few:

“School Bus Stop Ahead.” There’s one on Wilton Road, and others all around town. Come on — wherever you drive in Westport, there’s always a school bus stop ahead. And if you fail to see a big yellow vehicle with flashing red lights, you probably shouldn’t be driving anyway.

Oh my God! What is that? What should I do?!

“Blind Child At Play.” I’m paraphrasing here, but there’s something like this on South Compo, between Greens Farms and the Post Road. Perhaps it was useful once, but it’s been there for several decades. That “child” is probably now a grandparent. And no disrespect meant, but I’m sure that back in the day, the blind child didn’t play in the road.

I’m sure every “06880” reader has his or her “favorite” signs that they’d like Steve Edwards’ crew to remove.

What’s yours? Click “Comments” below.

Baron’s South “Arts Campus” Returns To P&Z

In May, the Westport Arts Center and a group of arts advocates presented a pre-application to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The goal was to create an “arts campus” at the Baron’s South property. The 3-prong proposal included these ideas:

  1. The Westport Arts Center would lease and restore Golden Shadows — the main building that served as the home for Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff (“The Baron”) — retaining most of its decorative interior, for use as offices, classrooms and gallery space.
  2. The WAC would lease and restore the  Tudor revival guest house at 70 Compo Road South as additional gallery space.
  3. They would lease the 2 units at 52 and 52B Compo Road South, for use as artists’ residences.

The P&Z was not thrilled with the plan. They called the plan too intense for the “light use” for which the 32-acre property is zoned.

Many Westporters, on the other hand, thought it was great. “06880” was flooded with positive comments.

Golden Shadows: the centerpiece of the Westport Arts Center Baron’s South plan.
(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The whole idea of a pre-app meeting is to get a sense of the P&Z’s mood. The WAC and arts advocates listened to the commissioners.

Tomorrow (Thursday, July 6, 7 p.m., Town Hall) they’ll present a formal proposal. They’ve reworked the use of the artists’ residences, and other concepts.

They also hope to show that the work they’ll do on-site will help the public enjoy all the open space surrounding the arts campus.

The meeting is open to the public.

Hooray For The Red, White, Blue And Green

The view from the road in front of 15 Guyer Road is nice.

But Dale Wehmhoff’s aerial photo makes it look even more impressive:

How cool are your 4th of July decorations? Send photos to dwoog@optonline.net. We’ll post a few tomorrow!

Pic Of The Day #60

Beautiful roses, at the Greens Farms post office. (Photo/Ed Simek)

Pic Of The Day #57

5:15 a.m.: Full strawberry moon over Nyala Farm (Photo/David Squires)

Pic Of The Day #49

Hundreds gathered — and hundreds more participated — in today’s 8th annual Push Against Cancer for Kids at the Levitt Pavilion. The event was a fundraiser for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. (Photo/Joey Bairaktaris)

Brandon Malin Drones Over Westport

The skies over Westport are filled with drones.

But Brandon Malin’s occupies a special place.

He’s still a middle school student. (He moves up to Staples from Coleytown later this month.) But that hasn’t stopped Brandon from producing a video that shows off our town in fresh, intriguing and loving ways.

For more than a year, he compiled footage of Westport from the air. It took 3 months to edit down to the finished product.

Brandon plans to continue filming Westport — and locations beyond — with his quadcopter.

How’s that for a head’s-up!

Levitt Looks Lovely

The Levitt Pavilion’s summer season opens soon.

In addition to another 50 nights of free entertainment, concert-goers will enjoy enhanced landscaping. (If you’ve wandered outside the library, you’ve seen it already.)

What you may not know is that it’s largely thanks to one man.

Alfredo at work.

The other day, an alert — and appreciative — “06880” reader noticed Alfredo weeding the hill.

“That’s a big job,” she said.

“Yes,” he smiled at her. “I’m lucky I have the work.”

When that was done, he began mulching.

A few more plantings are coming soon.

When the summer series begins, I hope Alfredo will be there — relaxing to both the music and the flowers.

Pic Of The Day #42

Yesterday, Boy Scout Troop 39 placed flowers on the graves of veterans, at 5 Westport cemeteries. Here, they decorated the entrance at North Kings Highway. The flowers were donated by VFW Post 399. (Photo/Amy Schneider)