Category Archives: Politics

Roundup: Town Budget, Basketball Finals, Startup Westport …

Westport’s 2 budgets — $136,287,710 for the Board of Education (plus $7.7 million in debt service), and $81,932,340 for other town operations — were approved unanimously last night by the Board of Finance.

They now head to the Representative Town Meeting for final approval.

For a detailed look at the 2023-24 budget numbers approved by the Board of Finance on Thursday, click here and here.

Where our money goes …

… and the town operations (non-education) portion of it.


One team’s fans will drive 2 miles. The other will drive 80.

But Staples High School’s boys basketball supporters will be out in force Sunday, when the Wreckers take on St. Bernard’s-Uncasville at the Mohegan Sun arena, in the state Division II basketball championship game.

Tipoff is 6:15 p.m. (March 19). The game can be heard on WWPT-FM (90.3) and You can watch it on the proprietary Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) website, but must subscribe ($11.99 a month; cancel anytime) — click here for details.

Staples is going for their first Connecticut boys hoops crown since 1937. No wonder plenty of Westporters will make the trip to the casino/arena.

And … if you missed Wednesday night’s astonishing comeback — down by 18 points in the 4th quarter, they beat Fairfield Warde in overtime — no problem. Click below for the entire, did-they-just-do-that?! game.


Last night marked the official launch for Startup Westport.

Tech and other entrepreneurs gathered at the Westport Library, to discuss ways of making Westport a “special, suburban center of an ecosystem of tech people and investors.”

Click here for details of this public/private partnership.

Leading the way at last night’s Startup Westport kickoff (from left): Matt Gorin, Sam Hendel, Jay Norris, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Stefano Pacifico, Peter Propp.

Staples High School junior Tucker Peters (right) was at the Startup Westport event, to soak up ideas. He met Jay Norris, a co-founder and Westport Library trustee.


Also last night:

The actual porch at The Porch at Christie’s rocked, as owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello hosted over 100 Club 203 members for a St. Patrick’s Day Eve bash.

The event included Irish dancing, bagpiping, green-themed food and desserts, a “lucky rock project” from MoCA Westport, and boundless energy from many volunteers.

Club 203 is the local organization for adults with disabilities. Click here for their website.

Club 203’s St. Patrick’s Day party, at The Porch. (Photo courtesy of Stacie Curran)


And one more from last night. Doris Ghitelman writes:

Yesterday around 6:18 p.m., a SpaceX Falcon 9 streaked across Westport. The mission was Stronger Together, for Capella Space. They sent 2 satellites into low earth orbit (Leo).

She sent this photo …

(Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

… and says: “The white streak is the contrail. If you expand the image you will actually see the black SpaceX rocket.”


The Westport Weston Family YMCA has long championed inclusivity for people with disabilities and other differences.

This spring, they’ll run 4 great programs: Adaptive Gymnastics, Adaptive Yoga, Soccer Shots Empower and Adaptive Swim.

The goal is for youth of all abilities to learn new skills, enjoy different experiences, make friends, and have fun in a safe, welcoming environment.

Click here for more information, or contact Kathy Giglio:; 203-571-6040.


Westport has seen several excellent restaurants open recently.

But occasionally restaurants close.

The latest: Parker Mansion.

It’s been shut for a week. A phone call last night was not answered.

Parker Mansion opened in 2016. It replaced Mansion Clam House, a mainstay on Riverside Avenue by the William F. Cribari Bridge for decades.

Parker Mansion (Photo and hat tip/JD Dworkow)


Did you miss Wednesday’s State Legislature hearing on HB 6890 — the “Live Work Ride: An Act Concerning Qualifying Transit-Oriented Communities” bill that proposes withholding, withdrawing, and possibly clawing back discretionary state infrastructure funding from communities that fail to adopt regulations permitting greater density, with limited parking and a prescribed affordability component, around transit?

No problem! Just click below.

Be sure to allow some time, though. The hearing was 6 hours long.


Kids love the Grinch, Horton, Cat-in-the-Hat. Dr. Seuss had it right: Let kids be kids.

Which is one reason Bedford Acting Group director Ryan Smith chose “Seussical Jr.” as this spring’s 6th grade production.

He’s created a safe, inclusive environment, helping young performers find  and nurture skills.

It’s a BMS community effort. Parents are designing fish, while each ensemble member crafts their own props, to suit their personality.

The set was designed by Joe DeTullio — who does that stuff professionally for “Saturday Night Live.”

“Seussical Jr.” will be performed March 24 (7 p.m.), March 25 (3 and 7 p.m.), and March 26 (3 p.m.).

Families with young kids can purchase an add-on ticket to enjoy a Saturday matinee pre-show soirée (March 25, 2 p.m.), with a character meet-and-greet, crafts, sweets and more.

For tickets and more information, click here.

The cast — and set — of “Seussical Jr.”


Yesterday was an important one for caregivers — and the kids they care for.

Cultural Care au pairs visited Westport Fire Department headquarters. The fire marshal’s office taught them how to keep their host children safe — and gave them fire safety takeaways, to bring home and share with their families.

Westport Fire Department officials, with au pairs and their children.


There’s nothing better for a sweet tooth than Rice Krispies treats.

Unless they’re topped with candy.

Westport moms Melissa Rutstein and Rachel Dymond combined their passions for food, entertainment and fun. The result is SugarKrisp: a “sushi-themed candy company.”

SugarKrisp treats

Both women moved to Westport in 2020. A mutual friend got them together. The rest is confectionary history.

SugarKrisp has quickly become a local favorite. They’ve also partnered with a number of non-profits and schools, offering auction items to raise money. Sweet! 

Follow them on Instagram @SugarKrispco.

SugarKrisp founders Melissa Rutstein and Rachel Dymond.


Weston EMS celebrates their 60th anniversary on March 25, at Rolling Hills Country Club. The event includes 2 auctions: silent and live.

And the silent auction is already, well, live.

There are items from Don Memo, Earth Animal, NEST, Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse, Nômade, Bridgewater Chocolate, Bartlett Tree Experts and Karen Callan Jewelry, along with golf at top-ranked clubs and more.

Over 70 prizes Fairfield County artists, rounds of golf at top-ranked golf clubs, local Fairfield County retail favorites and many great lifestyle items.

Click here to bid on silent auction items (and buy raffle tickets). Both are open through March 25.

Click here for tickets to the gala. Questions? Email


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Westport Animal Control officer Peter Reid joined Westport Animal Control “guest” Parker in matching green plaid sweatshirts on a day when everyone – including canines– is Irish.

Parker is just one of several dogs available for adoption. Click here to learn more.


One more St. Paddy’s Day item:

It’s not a holiday unless Jolantha gets dressed up. Here’s Weston’s favorite pig, wearin’ the green:

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)


Turning to another animal, today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature highlights this guy, on Rayfield Road:

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)


And finally … Irish or not, let’s all St. Patrick’s Day, with this beautiful rendition of “my” song:

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[OPINION] Westport: Watch Your Water Bill!

Smart Water Westport was formed in 2017, during the Aquarion North Avenue water tank debate.

Since then, that group of residents has followed the state’s water activities. Last year, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority granted intervener status to Smart Water Westport in Aquarion’s rate case, allowing them to review thousands of documents and asked questions.

Smart Water Westport says:

Wednesday was an important day in Connecticut. For the first time in decades, the state’s utility regulator (PURA), rejected a requested rate hike by a utility.

Aquarion — our water company — sought a 30% rate increase over the next 3 years. In a 2-1 decision, PURA denied the request.

While this sounds like good news for customers, Westporters still face substantial increases — and still need to pay close attention. Here’s why:

1. Aquarion lost its bid for a rate hike because PURA found that it did not provide enough evidence to support the increase. This is a clear win for customers.

But those of us with yards, lawns or pools will still see an increase of up to 80%, because of a new rate structure that charges a premium for any water beyond what is deemed “essential.” The end result: Before you install a new lawn or turn on your irrigation system, think twice. At the very least, be sure to fix leaks — and plan for bigger bills.

2. Aquarion will most likely learn from this loss. We expect they will try to make a stronger case next time.

When they do that, it’s important that the town get credit for its conservation efforts, which are considerable.

It’s estimated that Westport’s water consumption will soon be down by 30% from the 2016 level, significantly more than Aquarion expected.

Unfortunately though, we won’t get credit for those savings. While we saved a great deal — mainly due to irrigation restrictions — we are seen as a wealthy town that can afford higher rates.

We need to fix that, so next time we can make the case to PURA that savings should be taken into account.

Westport’s water usage — including what’s stored in these North Avenue tanks — is down substantially, from 2016.

In fact, based on PURA’s decision, we estimate water bills in Westport are approximately twice as high as needed.

We are already paying 50% more than our neighbors in Norwalk. The difference is that Norwalk owns its water utility, while Westport is served by Aquarion, a private utility owned by Eversource.

This public/private distinction is a big part of the problem. But there are other reasons for our high rates as well.

For example, under current rules we wind up paying for Aquarion’s rate case proceedings. The cost of those proceedings is significant. This last proceeding alone would allow Norwalk water customers to cover their entire legal budget for the next 500 years (you read that correctly).

3. While water is certainly a critical resource, and we all agree that infrastructure investments are necessary, we are not sure we can trust Aquarion on these issues.

During this last go-round, for example, Aquarion basically told PURA that if they didn’t get their way, we could wind up like Flint, Michigan — a prophecy that even the regulators found “outlandish.” (PURA still approved $600 million in infrastructure investment, despite finding that Aquarion had not provided evidence for its “prudence,” as required by law).

Do we really need the new work that Aquarion is suggesting, or are they simply doing it to push more water around the state and/or make more money? We must be vigilant about these types of issues moving forward.

4. Finally, this is only the beginning: Aquarion is likely to appeal the decision.

We need to involve Westporters in the process and in a discussion about the state of water in our state, the future readiness of the system, and who will pay for it.

That’s why a group of us formed the non-profit Smart Water Westport, and are participating in the proceedings.

But we face huge hurdles, including that neither the state nor anyone else knows about the infrastructure situation because of a recognized “asymmetry of information.” (That basically means it is impossible to verify any information provided by private utilities).

But there is hope. As PURA’s chair recently noted, “If there is a message coming out of today, it is simply that PURA is prepared to hold regulated utilities accountable. And that’s what this decision does.”

Smart Water Westport encourages you to listen to the court’s deliberation on YouTube (below), where the 9-month process is summarized in a mere 20 minutes.

Please actively comment and support the decision. Even if you disagree, please consider commenting. Based on our experience, any comment is looked at and helps the state to improve the system for all of us.

If you have questions, please email Thank you!

(Water is necessary for life. And donations are necessary for “06880” to publish. We’re a non-profit, and rely on reader support. Please click here to contribute — and thank you!)

Roundup: Sweetgreen, Y Memories, March Madness …

As reported last July on “06880,” Sweetgreen will be opening in Westport.

The salad-and-bowl fast casual restaurant — with over 150 outlets in more than a dozen states — will replace Organic Krush.

Although Sweetgreen representatives went before the Architectural Review Board with plans for their new restaurant in July, Organic Krush protested vociferously that they were not leaving.

But as WestportMoms notes this morning, the Sweetgreen website lists the 374 Post Road East location as “opening soon.”

The WestportMoms post drew over 700 likes, and more than 70 comments. “Love SO much!” one said.

“My prayers have been answered,” added a second.

And this: “Best news ever. My son and I just literally high-fived in the kitchen.”

A few of Sweetgreen’s many salads.


After 100 years, the Westport Weston Family YMCA knows plenty of folks have lots of memories. And memorabilia.

As part of their century celebration they ask members, former members and everyone else to haul out their photo albums, think back on the past, and share what they find. Click here to submit.

All year long, the Y will feature those photos and stories on their lobby monitor, website and social media, and in email newsletters.

Click here for the dedicated web page. Click below for a sample submission.


There are many ways to enjoy March Madness.

A great “06880” connection: Dave Briggs.

The media celebrity (Fox News, NBC Sports, CNN) is hosting “March Madness Fast Break” for Turner Sports. It’s noon to midnight, Thursday through Sunday on and the March Madness Live app.

Dave calls it “Red Zone for college basketball with the best live action, analysis and social media reaction.” He partners with a pair of legends: Kentucky’s Tony Delk and Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress.

Dave Briggs, ready for all the action.


Speaking of basketball: Tonight’s state Division II boys semifinal between #7 Staples High School and #3 Fairfield Warde is easy for fans to get to.

The game is at Westhill High in Stamford. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

The winner advances to the Connecticut championship this weekend, at Mohegan Sun.


The Levitt Pavilion season is still 3 months away. But — to help raise funds for over 50 nights of free entertainment — the riverside outdoor venue has just announced 2 special ticketed events.

Samara Joy — 2023 Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album — takes the stage June 3. Triple Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby follows with the Noisemakers on July 1. Both Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

Member pre-sales start today (Wednesday, March 15) at 10 a.m. Public sales start Friday (March 17, 10 a.m.).

Tickets are already on sale for the June 24 show: Michael Franti & Spearhead Big Big Love Tour, with Phillip Phillips.

Click here for tickets, and more information.


Representative Town Meeting member Matthew Mandell joins other elected officials this morning (Wednesday, March 15, 10 a.m.; Zoom).

They’ll speak prior to the state General Assembly Planning & Development Committee’s public hearing on HB 6890, the “Live Work Ride” bill that proposes withholding, withdrawing and perhaps clawing back state infrastructure funding from communities that fail to adopt regulations permitting greater density, with limited parking and a prescribed affordability component, around transit areas.

Mandell and his colleagues are part of “CT169Strong.” It’s a statewide non-partisan group “dedicated to local control and oversight, and protecting the unique qualities of Connecticut’s 169 towns.

Click here for a link to Mandell’s meeting. The ID is 455 019 2513; the passcode is 6C436A.


We missed Pi Day yesterday (3/14 — get it?).

But there’s still a bit of pi left over.

Check out this web site created by our Westport neighbor, Michael Winser.

It calculates the value of the famed mathematical constant to, oh, about a squintillion places, on a scrolling page.

Geek away!

Staples High School math teacher Kevin Cuccaro celebrated Pi Day yesterday, with appropriate food and a t-shirt. (Photo courtesy of Humans of Staples)


Love the Westport Library? Want to help make it even better?

The Library and Representative Town Meeting are seeking candidates to fill vacancies on the Library board of trustees.

Trustees work closely with the executive director, in areas like funding, policies and planning. They develop long-range plans, monitor the budget and help oversee fundraising. The board meets monthly; there are also committee meetings.

Trustees must be Westport residents. There are 20 members. Half are appointed by the RTM, half by the Library board itself.

More information about the role of trustees is available here.

Applicants should email a resume and letter of interest to rpowell@westportlibrary,org. by April 17, with information on how past work and experience qualify them for consideration as a trustee.

Westport Library. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


How can parents and caregivers support healthy identity development in young children?

Many ways. And you can learn about them at “Supporting Healthy Identity Development in Young Children: Race, Culture and Beyond.” The Westport Library keynote (April 4, 7 to 8:30 p.m.) is led by Takiema Bunche Smith, founder and CEO of Anahsa Consulting and a noted executive leader, advisor, coach and educator.

The session will explore “how adults socialize young children into racial, cultural and other social identities, and what that means in the context of an inequitable US society.”

Click here for more information. The event is sponsored by TEAM Westport.


Laurie Sorensen took this photo of snow drops a couple of days ago — before yesterday’s way-less-than-fierce “snow storm.”

But the snowy idea works well for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Laurie Sorensen)


Bruce Hornsby is playing and touring now with the Noisemakers (see Levitt Pavilion story above).

But he started his career — and had the biggest hit of his career — with The Range.

That’s just the way it is.

(Whew! There’s a lot going on in Westport. And “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)


[OPINION] Legislative Watch III: “Live Work Ride” Act Addresses Transit Area

As chair of Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission, Danielle Dobin keeps an eye on Connecticut’s state legislature.

There’s a lot going on in Hartford. Here — writing as a private citizen — is what Danielle sees and hears: 

HB 6890 — “Live Work Ride: An Act Concerning Qualifying Transit-Oriented Communities” — proposes withholding, withdrawing, and even potentially clawing back discretionary state infrastructure funding from communities that fail to adopt regulations permitting greater density, with limited parking and a prescribed affordability component, around transit.

In simplest terms, for Westport to continue to receive discretionary state infrastructure funding (for example, millions of dollars for sidewalks and bridge replacement), our town would be required to adopt a “reasonably sized” 20-unit/acre zoning transit-oriented district that meets the approval of a newly appointed State Responsible Growth Coordinator.

The “Live Work Ride” bill would impact Saugatuck, near the train station. (Drone photo/Patrick Sikes)

My take: What’s interesting is that Westport already has 4 non-residential zoning districts surrounding the Saugatuck train station permitting multi-family across 30.92 acres at 18 units/acre, with a minimum of 20% affordability component.

The newly adopted GBD/Saugatuck Marina zone directly adjacent to the train has an even greater 25% affordability component for off-site affordable units within ¼ mile of the train station.

Applying the Live-Work-Ride requirement of 20 units/acre in Westport would result in an increase of only 63 units permitted over the entire district of 30+ acres. This analysis does not include the Summit Saugatuck/Hiawatha parcels, which are actually zoned at an even far greater density.

Two issues stand out locally:

Special Permit Oversight. Westport must retain our special permit review process which provides critical oversight of each proposed development, given the massive traffic issues in this area and environmental issues related to developing adjacent to the river and in the flood zone.

Our town must be permitted to require that developers – who will sell or rent the vast majority of units for sky-high luxury pricing – provide adequate parking for residents, especially those in affordable units who can’t afford to “buy” spaces in private lots. Residents of multi-family units deserve the same consideration regarding parking as residents in single family homes.

People in most Connecticut towns, including Westport, require cars to get to work, preschool, after-school activities, medical appointments and food shopping.

A staffer for a group advocating for the adoption of this legislation spoke at a recent subcommittee meeting, and suggested students could walk to and from the train station area to school. That would take an hour and a half to our middle school or high school.

Franklin Street already has some of the most affordable housing in Westport — and limited parking.

Leaving the subjective approval of each transit district to an as-to-be-appointed “coordinator,” the identity of whom will change over time, is deeply problematic.

Any statewide proposal must make clear that towns may continue to require special permits, that parking can be reasonably required given real world conditions, that there be a minimum reasonable size (for example, 10 acres) for the transit-district, and that communities that have already zoned for multi-family with a healthy affordable component be rewarded, not penalized.

Westport has added, and continues to add, hundreds of multi-family units. It is absurd to suggest that the state should withdraw or claw back funding for sidewalks, bridges and other infrastructure funding that encourage residents in multi-family and single-family homes to walk and bike to school and work.

A pro-transit legislature should not adopt legislation making it harder for people to go green. There is also no imaginable justification to limit funding for brownfield cleanup in Westport — certainly not next to a tidal river flowing to Long Island Sound.

Our ecosystems are interconnected, and the remediation of toxic pollutants should be prioritized statewide.

Readers should note that as currently drafted, the bill’s language is contradictory, with one section (12[b]) stating that non-compliant towns will simply receive less priority for transportation and brownfield remediation funding, but a different section (12[f]) stating that a municipality will be required to return any discretionary infrastructure funding unless that municipality enacts qualifying zoning reforms.

I urge all residents to share their thoughts with the Legislature. Of all the proposals put forth this legislative session, this seems most likely to be adopted, as Governor Lamont provided for implementation funding in his proposed budget.

(To view the full bill, click here. For background information, click here. To testify in person or remotely at a March 15 hearing on the bill, click here. To submit written testimony, click here.)

(“06880” roams to Hartford — when it affects Westport. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Roundup: Patriot Front, Church Lane, Kids’ Tutors …

“Patriot Front” stickers — advertising what the ADL calls “a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else” — were found on signs in Saugatuck Wednesday.

They were small, and in some cases old and tattered. The Westport Police Department contacted the Connecticut State Police Hate Crimes Unit.

According to the ADL, Patriot Front “justifies its ideology of hate and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of its members’ European ancestors.”

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker said, “I am grateful to the police for managing the issue with expediency and professionalism. This does not represent Westport and is unacceptable. Nor does it diminish the qualities of our community that focus on volunteerism, neighborly engagement, and civil discourse. We are proud of our residents and business and civic leaders who work tirelessly to make Westport a better place.”

Tooker asked community members to report any suspicious activity to Westport Police. Anyone with information or evidence of those responsible for placing the stickers in Saugatuck should call the Detective Bureau: 203-341-6080.

Patriot Front stickers.


The closure of Church Lane — begun during COVID, and continued in following years thanks to the popularity of outdoor dining and leisurely strolling — has been approved for 2023.

The Board of Selectwomen gave their consent this week. The short stretch of road between Elm Street and Post Road East will be closed to traffic beginning April 1, through November 6.

Evening on Church Lane (Photo/Ed Simek)


Kids helping kids:

Staples High School students are on hand at the Westport Library now through April 27 for drop-in tutoring in a range of subjects, for children in grades 2-8.

Sessions take place in the Children’s Library. The schedule:

  • Mondays: History and math (4- to 6 p.m.); Language arts (6 to 8 p.m., beginning March 20)
  • Tuesdays: Language arts (4 to 5 p.m.,), math (5 to 6 p.m.)
  • Thursdays: Language arts and math (4 to 6 p.m.).

The tutors are all Library volunteers, looking for more ways to give back.

Youngsters should bring homework and workbooks for which they need help. Adults with students under age 12 must stay in the Children’s Library while their children are being tutored.

Westport Library children’s section. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


Tickets went on sale today for CLASP Homes’ 17th annual Taste of Westport benefit.

This year’s event (May 10, 6 p.m., the Inn at Longshore) features over 2 dozen restaurants and beverage suppliers, live music by the Bar Car Band, and a very cool silent auction.

Food and drink — as much as you want! — comes from:

  • Artisan
  • Bridgewater Chocolate
  • Fifth State Distillery
  • Grumpy Dumpling
  • Little Pub
  • Mrs. London’s Bakery
  • Nordic Fish
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Tablao
  • Black Bear Wine & Spirits
  • Cold Fusion Gelato
  • Gabriele’s of Westport
  • Isla & Co.
  • Mionetto
  • NewSylum Brewing
  • Post Oak Barbecue
  • Romanacci
  • Tarantino
  • Boathouse at Saugatuck
  • Gruel Britannia
  • La Plage
  • Magic 5 Pie Co.
  • Nômade
  • Rive Bistro
  • SoNo 1420
  • Walrus Alley.

Click here for tickets, and more information.


Speaking of food (and Taste of Westport’s Walrus Alley):

The downtown Southern-inspired restaurant is now open for lunch on Fridays.

On the menu, in addition to their fried chicken sandwich: lighter options like salads, vegetarian jackfruit tacos, tofu stir-fry, and an Impossible McWalrus Burger.

Walrus Alley serves Friday lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour is available Wednesday through Friday (3 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Dinner starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, while brunch is available Saturday and Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Marinated beet salad, at Walrus Alley.


Still speaking of food:

In January, Spiga — a popular New Canaan Italian restaurant — announced they’d add a second location. They would replace Tarry Lodge on Charles Street. The target for opening was late March.

Not so fast.

A sign in Mario Batali’s former restaurant identifies the new place as Zucca Gastrobar, opening in April.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

The website says that it is currently hiring, for front and back of the house. (Hat tip: Les Dinkin)


Middle school students identify with Percy Jackson. That makes “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” a great choice for Coleytown Middle School’s next musical.

The curtain rises March 31 (7 p.m.), April 1 (1 and 7 p.m.), and April 2 (1 p.m.).

Based on a best-selling book series by Rick Riordan, “Percy Jackson” explores themes of friendship, betrayal, self-discovery and parent-child relationships (complicated by parents who are immortal and have superpowers).

Coleytown Company vocal director Clay Zambo calls the show “a great choice for middle school students, because it’s about the issues kids this age are facing. The ‘magical powers’ and family issues are a metaphor for what they may be discovering in their own lives.”

Click here for tickets, and more information.


In a town filled with volunteer opportunities, myTeamTriumph stands out.

The program pairs children, teens and adults with disabilities (“captains”) with volunteers (“angels”) who help them participate in triathlons and road races. In those events, everyone truly is a winner.

The next big event is the Westport Young Woman’s League’s Minute Man 10K and 5K Runs, and 5K Walk, on April 23.

MyTeamTriumph always looks for more captains (special needs athletes). They’re also short of angels (volunteer runners). This is their first time participating in the Minute Man.

They’re excited to provide an opportunity for people with special needs (and their families) to have increased visibility, and be involved in a great community event.

There is no cost. Angels can be any ability of runner or jogger.

Captains and angels can click here to sign up. MyTeamTriumph will take care of race registration.

Questions? Email For more information on myTeamTriumph, click here.

Sami Leskin, racing with myTeamTriumph in the 2018 Westport Triathlon.


Longtime friends and Staples High School classmates Mark Mollica, Dan Asher and Joe Izzo join Mark’s college roommate Dylan Connor — the headliner — tomorrow (Saturday, March 11) at Fairfield Theatre Company.

Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show begins at 7:45. Click here for tickets, and more information.


William (Bill) Barron — a Weston resident since 1954 — died last week.  He was 77.

The Detroit native earned a BA degree from Yale University in 1967, and a JD from Cornell University Law School in 1970.

Barron worked with several law firms before joining Alston and Bird in 1977 as a partner. He later became a partner at Franzino and Schur.

He was a member of the Art Law Committee of the International Bar Association, the Yale Russian Chorus Alumni, Kiwanis International, and a longtime member of Norfield Church in Weston.

Barron joined the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston in 2017. He participated in the Book Club, bridge, the Classical Music Society and the Global Issues discussion group.

He is survived by his wife Jennifer, sons David and Will, 6 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 18, 11 a.m. at Norfield Congregational Church in Weston.

Bill Barron


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows what Molly Alger calls “1/3 of the Whitney Street” deer herd.

They blend in well with their surroundings.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … Topol, the Israeli actor who took played Tevye on stage and screen all over the world for decades, died yesterday at his home in Tel Aviv. He was 87, and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Click here for a full obituary.

(From local politics to restaurant and arts news to obituaries, “06880” is your source for whatever is happening in Westport [and Weston]. Please click here to support this hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

BMS Inspires Westport’s Sister City Youth

More than 70 years ago, Marigny was recovering from World War II.

Westport adopted the French town as our sister city. We sent clothes, food and gifts. Students here joined the effort, writing letters to their counterparts. Decades later, recipients of those notes have not forgotten how much that meant.

Today Westport has another sister city: Lyman, Ukraine. The personal tradition continues, at Bedford Middle School.

When physical education teacher Dan Barberio heard about the Lyman connection, he wanted to help. He and fellow Spirit & Leadership Team members Don Savage and Sara Harding got every 7th grade student involved.

The youngsters found many ways to connect. Some wrote notes. Others drew pictures, or created origami.

They described their lives here, and expressed concern for the war-torn town. “You got this!” one BMS student wrote.

“I know how strong your country is,” another said. “I have so much respect for you.”

Some of the messages were written in Ukrainian — by a few students here who know the language, and by others using Google Translate.

Two languages, one message.

There 200-plus letters and pieces of art will be delivered — personally — to Lyman next month. Ukraine Aid International — the non-profit organization formed by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer — will ensure that students in our sister city receive the messages of support and hope.

Inspiration through origami.

Their schools have been destroyed. Their lives have been shattered.

But they will know that at a school called Bedford, in a town named Westport, strangers — now friends — care.

8-30g Panel Offers Affordable Housing Insights

The threat of snow closed the Westport Library early yesterday, forcing the much-anticipated 8-30g panel to Zoom.

There, nearly 200 Westporters got a cold dose of reality. The innocuously named state regulation, which mandates affordable housing percentages for municipalities — and used by developers to gain approval for much larger market-rate projects — is here.

It’s not going away.

But, the panelists noted, Westport can take proactive steps to mitigate some of its most onerous effects.

The evening — organized by Representative Town Meeting member Nancy Kail, and led by RTM moderator Jeff Wieser — began with a bit of history.

The first 8-30g proposal came 25 years ago, in 1998: 10 units on Cross Street, 3 of which were deed-restricted for 40 years as affordable.

Others followed: 41 units on a small parcel at the Wilton Road/Kings Highway North corner (a rare denial in court). 81 units on Lincoln Street. 19 units at Morningside Drive North.

122 Wilton Road — site of a proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh. The Planning & Zoning Commission’s denial was eventually upheld in court.

The infamous Saugatuck Summit development, which began as 55 townhouses on 10 building lots, ballooned to 187 units, and ultimately was settled at 157.

1177 Post Road East — across from Greens Farms Elementary School — was a “friendly” 8-30 go, without battles between the developer, town officials and neighbors.

All told, Westport now has 32 affordable units, created by 8-30g legislation. When Summit Saugatuck and other projects are completed, there will be 108.

Overall — including units built before 1990, when 8-30g was enacted — there are 390 units deemed affordable.

When projects currently in the pipeline are completed, approximately 6% of Westport’s housing stock will be affordable.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg called the 8-30g regulation “a blunt instrument.” But, he noted, Westport has done “a great job. We’ve built affordable housing, and we’ve embraced an inclusive housing plan.” He called housing “a national crisis.”

Yet the town’s 4-year moratorium on 8-30g proposals expires this Saturday (March 4). At that point, town attorney Ira Bloom said, developers can file applications.

One is already in the works, for 30 Maple Lane in Greens Farms. “The gate will open,” he predicted.

30 Maple Lane — between Greens Farms Road and New Creek Road, near the Greens Farms train station — is the site of an 8-30g application that may be filed soon.

“But Westport is not alone,” Bloom added. “There’s an intense focus by developers on Fairfield County.”

There is, he noted, a true need for affordable housing in the area. But developers also use 8-30 for their own ends.

The regulation makes it almost impossible for municipalities to prevail. Towns have lost 75% of all cases that have gone to court, Bloom said.

And “developers know it.”

Local officials who turn down an 8-30g application must prove their decision was driven by “a significant public interest.” However, traffic, even safety, are not always reasons for denial. (Wetlands can be a reason, however.)

“The process does not make it easy to negotiate once an 8-30g application is filed,” Bloom said.

A questioner asked whether the 8-30g formula includes beds in homeless shelters, like the Gillespie Center. The answer: No.

Units at The Saugatuck — the Bridge Street co-op limited to to buyers below an income threshold — also do not count for 8-30g.

Though its apartments are income-restricted, The Saugatuck co-op on Bridge Street is not included in Westport’s housing stock for 8-30g purposes. (Photo courtesy of SmartMLS Inc.)

Planning & Zoning chair Danielle Dobin believes the town can reach 10%. But, she explained, “it will take collaboration between town boards, and residents getting behind it.

“Westport believes in affordable housing. What we don’t want is density, or building on wetlands.”

The RTM can play a key role, she told the Zoom audience.

She urged the legislative body to create an affordable housing fund. Using town-owned land, developers could built low-density projects.

One example: Linxweiler House, on Post Road East between Fresh Market and McDonald’s. The historic home there could be renovated, and moved closer to the road. Cluster housing could be built behind it. Homes with Hope could provide supportive services to residents — who would have access to public transportation, almost at their door.

Linxweiler House, on Post Road East,

Another possibility, which town officials have explored for several years: the state-owned Department of Transportation maintenance facility on Post Road East by Parish Road West, just east of Walgreens.

Of course, even with funding, finding willing developers is not easy. Developers make much more money on market-rate housing than on affordable units.

It was an informative Zoom evening. Nearly all 200 attendees stayed on to the end.

They — town officials, residents, those who hope to become residents, and developers — will follow the next steps in the 8-30g saga closely.

Beginning Saturday, when Westport’s moratorium officially ends.

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[URGENT] 8-30g Meeting Tonight Is Zoom Only

The Westport Library is closing tonight at 6, because of the impending snowstorm.

Tonight’s special panel on affordable housing — “The Impact of Connecticut State Statute 8-30g: What We Can Expect for 2023” (Monday, February 27, 7 p.m.) — will still be held. However, it will be a Zoom session only. Click here for the link. 

Panelists include State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Westport town attorney ira Bloom, Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin and Connecticut Center for Ending Homelessness CEO Evonne Klein. The event will be led by Westport Representative Town Meeting moderator Jeff Wieser.

[OPINION] Legislative Watch II: “Fair Share” Bill Debated In Hartford

As chair of Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission, Danielle Dobin keeps an eye on Connecticut’s state legislature.

There’s a lot going on in Hartford. Here — writing as a private citizen — is what Danielle sees and hears: 

On Tuesday (February 28), the Housing Committee will discuss HB 6633: “An Act Concerning a Needs Assessment & Fair Share Plans for Municipalities to Increase Affordable Housing.” (Click here to see.)

This bill would profoundly impact Westport. It is complicated. Here is a brief synopsis, and my thoughts.

Zoning power in Connecticut is derived from the state Zoning Enabling Act, which encourages communities to plan for the thoughtful and ordered development of land.

The proposed bill responds to the statewide housing affordability crisis by requiring almost every town and city to revise their zoning code. It would make development of “affordable and extremely affordable” housing the primary purpose of a zoning code via adoption of a 10-year plan to affirmatively zone for each municipality’s “Fair Share” of their region’s to-be-determined need for affordable/deeply affordable housing.

Essentially, “affirmatively zoning” means providing private developers with an economic incentive to create affordable and extremely affordable units. This would permit a far greater density of market rate units to offset the cost of creating affordable and extremely affordable units with 40-year deed restrictions.

If this proposal is adopted, a community’s failure to adopt an appropriate Fair Share plan (as approved by the state), or failure to meet milestones in the form of actual certificates of occupancy for affordable and extremely affordable units developed every few years, would result in automatic default zoning of as-of-right multifamily throughout an entire town, with 20 units as-of-right permitted anywhere there’s a sewer.

This default zoning would eliminate single family zoning throughout the entire town. The predicted “Fair Share” for Westport – based on the Open Communities Alliance’s website Fair Share map (click here to see) is 1,808 new affordable and extremely affordable units, far more units than required for compliance with state Statute 8-30(g).

A “Fair Share” map. The darker the blue, the more units of affordable housing are needed.

“Interested parties” would be encouraged to sue towns to show a lack of compliance with Fair Share zoning, with towns responsible for all legal fees for advocates and developers.

My personal opinion:  This proposal is well intentioned but ill-considered, and would be extremely harmful to the state. If adopted, Fairfield County would be flooded with luxury market rate units, but adoption of this proposal will not result in the development of an impactful number of affordable or extremely affordable housing units in most of the state, or even Fairfield County.

Municipalities all over the state will be bankrupted by legal fees, taking money away from education, public works, and public assistance.

This proposal is reductive. It assumes that lack of development only results from zoning, when the reality is far more complicated.

Although we live in a free market economy, this proposal forces individual towns to be responsible for lack of development, when the real reasons for the lack of development of most market rate — much less affordable and extremely affordable units — often relates to economic factors (high cost of land, materials, money), lack of infrastructure, or lack of any demand for market rate multifamily to offset cost of affordable units.

For example, in Westport hundreds of multiple mixed income units have been approved but not built, for a variety of reasons: developers are busy with other projects, building costs have risen, credit markets have tightened, neighbors have litigated, etc.

1177 Post Road East is a relatively new mixed-used development.

This legislation would require towns to attempt to pro-actively zone based on a needs assessment. But it ignores that development is driven by market considerations, not by whether there is a need for affordable housing. Put simply, this legislation fails entirely to reflect that development by the private sector is driven by profitability.

Under the Fair Share analysis published by the Open Communities Alliance, both New Canaan and Canaan are required to increase the number of affordable units by between 16% and 18% of their overall number of dwelling units.

However, market factors driving development in these towns are very different. Even allowing a skyscraper in rural Canaan (where the average home price is $299,000) wouldn’t result in the meaningful development of extremely affordable units there because a developer could not sell out the market rate units at a cost to make back their money, or earn a profit on the market rate units — much less extremely affordable units.

Legislators should note that there are zero 8-30g applications in most towns in Connecticut, because developing in those towns makes no economic sense. Fair Share does nothing to address this.

Additionally, the formula in HB 6633 specifically prescribing percentages of types of units and level of deed restriction reduces all flexibility for developers to make money even in towns where there are current applications. This will lead to a lack of compliance with a town’s Fair Share plan resulting in litigation.

Litigation is part of nearly every project in Westport that includes affordable housing. The 187-unit Summit Saugatuck development was mired in 8-30g controversies for years.

The Fair Share quotas are unrealistic, and fail to include numerically the massive creation of market-rate units necessary to offset the development of the Fair Share units.

In order to develop 1,808 affordable and extremely affordable units in Westport, developers would need to build approximately 10,000 new units overall over 10 years (80% market rate units to offset the affordable and deeply affordable units), which basically doubles the size of the town. This is an absurd level of densification for towns on every level – infrastructure, traffic, etc.

The Fair Share goal for other towns like Easton and cities like Stamford and Norwalk are similarly unrealistic.

Issues like storm water drainage, retaining open space and massive traffic issues are legitimate issues in Westport and many other towns. Density on this scale would force a town to ignore these issues. It is easy for out-of-towners to decry stormwater issues as exaggerated if they haven’t driven around Westport right after a heavy storm, when culverts flood, brooks became raging rivers and intersections turn into lakes. Thoughtful planning matters.

Legislation attempting to create the missing extremely affordable housing in our state should focus on creating a public funding mechanism for entirely affordable projects. It is this funding, especially for lower density, entirely affordable projects — not the zoning — that is the issue in many towns.

Zoom our Affordable Housing Subcommittee meeting this Tuesday (February 28, noon) to hear how Westport is pro-actively working on creating a low density, entirely extremely affordable plan for town-owned land on Post Road East. Click here for Zoom details,

Click here to sign up to testify or submit written testimony on the proposed state bill. The registration deadline is 3 p.m. Monday, February 27.

Ukraine — And Westport — Mark Grim Anniversary

One year ago yesterday, Brian Mayer was working at a tech job in New York.

That day, the Russian army matched across the border to Ukraine. The largest war in Europe since World War II began.

Mayer and his brother Marshall — Westporters, who grew up here — quickly pivoted. They headed to Ukraine, and put their organizational skills to work.

Addressing 2 of the greatest challenges — fundraising, then ensuring that goods and materials reached their intended targets — the Mayers formed Ukraine Aid International.

In one year, the non-profit has achieved astonishing success.

They and their partners on the ground have delivered over 1 million pounds of aid directly to civilians on the front line.

They’ve supported more than 100 communities in liberated areas, and driven over 100,000 miles to provide aid to the hardest-to-reach towns, and most-impacted villages.

Every day, they provide over 125,000 Ukrainians with infrastructural support (electricity, heat and cleaning water).

That’s the big picture. Equally remarkable, Ukraine Aid International has been instrumental in helping Westport partner with Lyman, a town in the Donbas.

The Mayers and Liz Olegov, their COO, worked with 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Lyman mayor Alexander Victoravich Zuravlov to develop an initiative. “06880” helped lead a fundraising effort that, in just 3 weeks during the holiday season, brought in over $252,000.

UAI has put the money to extraordinary use.

The first delivery — at Christmas — was 400 meals, 2,000 loaves of bread, and 491 gifts (one for every child remaining in town).

Christmas in Lyman.

In January they delivered 2 police patrol cars and 2 trash vehicles to Lyman (the Russians had taken them all when they fled), plus printers, laptops, tablets, Starlink communication devices, socks, shoes and sweaters.

This month, a 20-ton truck carried repair materials for 6 apartment buildings, and bulletproof vests and helmets for utility workers near the front lines.
Local contractors are already lined up, to ensure that 2,000 Lyman residents now living in basements and elsewhere can return to their homes this spring.

An apartment building in Lyman.

The Westport town flag now hangs in the Lyman office, and on the sides of the donated vehicles. Lyman’s flag, meanwhile, has been donated to Westport.

Holding the Westport flag (from left): Lyman’s police chief and mayor. With the Lyman flag: Marshall Mayer, Brian Mayer, Liz Olegov.

Much more is on the way — for Lyman, and other devastated areas in Ukraine. 

It’s been a brutal year for the war-torn nation.

But it’s also been a very productive one for 2 Westport brothers who saw a need. They thought they could help.

They moved mountains — in the form of countless tons of building material, communication equipment, clothes and more — to make a difference.

The war continues. It’s now in its second year.

So, fortunately, is Ukraine Aid International.

Ukraine Aid International continues to raise funds for Lyman, and the rest of the country. To make a tax-deductible contribution, click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).