Category Archives: Real estate

[OPINION]: Save Turkey Hill South!

The saga of 63 Turkey Hill Road South continues. Built in 1920, it’s one of 4 remaining Mediterranean-style houses in Westport.

Neighbors hope to save it from a proposed demolition. Right now, it’s under a 180-day stay. Lisa Fay appealed to the Historic District Commission. She wrote:

As a resident of the Greens Farms area, and a Turkey Hill Road South neighbor for 8 years, I have witnessed the demolition of many diverse homes in the area, and the subsequent building of new homes that share too many qualities of style, size and lot coverage. I feel strongly that buyers, our neighbors – and our town — need urgently to consider what we are losing by letting these demolitions happen.

Firstly, original homes – particularly antiques – reflect a town’s history, complexity and heritage. Just by driving down Turkey Hill Road, a tourist or resident witnesses the wonderful aesthetic and cultural history of Westport. With each demolition, we diminish our town’s unique character. To make matters worse, the new homes built on these lots share few variations in footprint, roof form, and materials.

63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Secondly, many antique homes – although some in need of repair and updating – could never be duplicated with today’s costs. Antique homes possess a certain solidity, built from wood from 100+ year-old trees, not particle board. These homes have withstood decades of human life and natural disasters, and are still standing. By definition, this makes them, in some senses, priceless.

Thirdly, neighbors lose yet another year of peace and neighborly culture while living in a major construction zone. My Turkey Hill neighbors and I have withstood countless trucks, dust, dirt, traffic, noise and loss of hundreds of trees from lots that have been clear cut.

Thirdly, these demolitions exact a cost to our environment. Most of these materials from demolished homes end up in a landfill. Can’t builders try to work with what they have to minimize the impact on our environment?

Steps leading to the front courtyard at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Steps leading to the front courtyard at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Lastly, demolishing this home reflects yet another lost opportunity to get our town antique preservation benefits right. While the demolition of any antique home upsets me for all the aforementioned reasons, I sympathize with any seller who is in a situation to sell urgently, without regard to the buyer’s intent. Giving antique owners – and potential buyers – incentive to keep antique homes could help stem the tide of demolitions.

Tax relief could provide such incentive. The Mills Act in San Diego provides an example of where tax relief has helped owners maintain the character of their neighborhoods by encouraging preservation. Owners of old homes sign a 10-year renewable contract to restore and maintain their antiques, and in turn receive a 50% discount in their taxes. If Westport intends to maintain its cultural heritage in part by protecting its old homes, it needs urgently to partner with owners in this respect.

Thank you for your leadership in helping to preserve our town’s heritage and character.

Big Change On Main Street

For years — perhaps decades — the Main Street streetscape has been marred by the dilapidated condition of #257.

Just beyond Kings Highway North, as you head out of town, the handsome home had fallen into disrepair. There was often someone puttering around, but paint peeled and the roof sagged.

Recently though, work has been done.

257 Main Street

The work is not finished. But already it looks so much brighter and better.

Even the moldings sparkle.

Elm Street Swap Would Change Downtown Streetscape

As reported in March on “06880,” 36 Elm Street is the final key to creating an entirely new downtown streetscape. That’s where the Villa del Sol restaurant intrudes into the sidewalk next to the new Bedford Square retail/residential complex. And where an adjacent parking lot — near the back entrance to the old Y and the former Klein’s — is a poorly configured, hard-to-navigate, chaotic mess.

David Waldman — the Bedford Square developer — has spent months pursuing a land swap. He hopes to buy 36 Elm Street, then trade it for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. Waldman would build an 8,477-square foot building behind Lux Bond & Green.

Villa del Sol would reopen there, alongside 3 small retail stores. Small retail stores would open there. Above them would be 4 apartments — 1 of them rented under state “affordable” guidelines.

The town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking, walkways and greenery. Waldman says that despite taking Baldwin spots for the new building, the town would net a gain of 2 parking spaces in the new lot.

None of this is new news. But Waldman has just created a web site that shows  — visually — exactly what the move would look like. Here’s the view looking south, with the Brooks Corner shopping center at bottom center.

36 Elm Swap 1

Here’s another view. Brooks Corner — is at left, with Serena & Lily behind it:

36 Elm Swap 2

Here’s an artist’s rendering. The new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left; across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

Elm Street swap - 3

For more information on the proposed 36 Elm Street swap, click here.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Cobb’s Mill Officially On The Market

For months, everyone has assumed Cobb’s Mill Inn was for sale.

But it just appeared — finally — as a listing today.

Cobb’s Mill — the  only real dining spot in Weston, and for decades the go-to wedding/anniversary/memorial spot, thanks in equal measure to its rustic charm and ducks — is quite a property.

Cobbs Mill waterfall

The listing notes:

Historic Inn for sale in beautiful Weston CT right along the Saugatuck River. Breathtaking Waterfall views, voted best romantic scenery in CT, 5 minutes from the Merritt Parkway, recently remodeled, 150 dedicated parking spaces, complete with both a restaurant and a banquet facility that accommodates up to 225 guests, a waterfall bar & tap room & several rooms overlooking the lake.

It seems the “inn” is getting more attention than the restaurant. In fact, the heading reads: “Historical Inn & Banquet Hall Steps From Downtown.”

The “property type” description is “Hotel & Motel.”

And the photo shows off the cafe, rather than the restaurant.

Cobbs Mill listing

Weston is abuzz with rumors as to what might go in there.

The listing price is $2,295,000. Click here for details — or to make an offer.

Bright Vs. Blight

For years, the Weston Road/Easton Road/North Main Street rotary near Exit 42 — the unofficial “Welcome to Westport” landmark for everyone coming off the Merritt Parkway — was maintained, as a public service, by Daybreak Nursery.

But when financial problems caused the nearby business to close, the triangular plot grew grungy.

Now — suddenly — the space looks gorgeous.

(Photo/Russ Miller)

(Photo/Russ Miller)

I don’t think it was a state Department of Transportation project. But huge props to whoever got it done.

Meanwhile — across town — another “Welcome to Westport” site looks decidedly less welcoming.

(Photo/Joanne Romano)

(Photo/Joanne Romano)

Just one more reason to avoid I-95, and take the Merritt.

Bedford Square Takes Shape

For months, Westporters have watched as Turner Construction dug and built a foundation for Bedford Square. There was not a lot to see.

Now — every day — there’s something new at the project that promises to dramatically change downtown Westport.

The view from Elm Street. A parking garage -- with room for 100 vehicles -- is in the center.

The view from Elm Street. A parking garage — with room for 100 vehicles — is in the center.

David Waldman — 1 of 4 partners — says the bulk of construction will be completed by January. Then comes interior work.

He anticipates all tenants will move in by April. That’s 2 years after work began — right on schedule.

Anthropologie has already leased the YMCA’s original Bedford building, and the old firehouse.

Another 30,000 square feet will include retailers like restaurants and entertainment.

The 24 rental units — 4 of them listed as affordable, under state guidelines — will be marketed soon. (Serena & Lily, across the street, is furnishing the model unit.)

The other day, David took me on a tour. He’s proud of the big, dramatic way that Bedford Square will unify and tie together downtown, from Church Lane and Elm Street through to the Post Road and Main Street.

He’s also proud of small details. For example, the Flemish bond “will be here forever.” And the relief of little children is an exact negative of the fascia boards that graced — often unnoticed — the old YMCA.

David Waldman, with Flemish brick and the "little children" relief.

David Waldman, with Flemish bond and the “little children playing” relief behind him.

Interior space is important too. A public plaza will be open to businesses — restaurants, a chocolate shop, a juice bar — while residents can gaze down on it below. David likens it to a larger version of the one between Saugatuck Sweets and the Whelk.

Bedford Square 3

This is the plaza. The photo shows the back of the old YMCA — soon to be the site of a full-service Anthropologie store. Terrain — owned by Anthropologie — is designing a garden.

To the right of the photo above is the old Bobby Q’s restaurant. It’s not part of Bedford Square. But the owner will turn it into rental space — with the 2nd floor extending onto the plaza.

There’s a lot going on inside too, including new supports, windows, skylights — and 100% flood-proofing. The old Y gym (shown below) is 4 feet higher than before.

Bedford Square 4

The rental units range from 700 square feet to 2,200. Some are duplexes. Most have balconies. This one (below) has a killer view of Christ & Holy Trinity Church:

Bedford Square 5

Bedford Square offers many ways in and out of the rest of downtown. The archway below fronts Main Street:

Bedford Square 6

Around the corner the outside of the Y’s 1923 Bedford building remains the same:

Bedford Square - 9

In front, however, improvements are made (photo below). Bricks will match the new sidewalk on the rest of Main Street. The extended sidewalk will ease the merge from Church Lane onto the Post Road — and make crossing the Post Road easier for pedestrians too. The dedicated turning lane onto Main Street remains.

Bedford Square 7

(For more information on Bedford Square, click here.)


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Little Cottage, Big Memories

Much as many of us mock Facebook — even as we check it many times a day — it’s a great place for interesting info. There’s a lot more there than cat photos, or rants and raves about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The other day, Jerri Graham posted these beautiful thoughts:

When we first moved to Westport from Taiwan, we lived in a little cottage on the corner of Main Street and Wild Rose. One bedroom separated by a curtain, a bathroom that had more mold than tiles, and a dusty loft that I fashioned into a bedroom for my then 6-year old. She was young and small enough that I could pass off living in a storage area as cool.

We lived there for almost 4 years. It wasn’t perfect, totally overpriced, and falling apart in so many places, but it was home and part of the tradeoff of living in a town like Westport.

I wonder who purchased the big house and the little cottage where we once lived. Bob, the aging ladies’ man of a hair stylist, occupied the main house on the property. With a silver ponytail that smelled of his scented oil, he always embraced me warmly.

He moved when they sold the house a year or so ago. I’ve seen him occasionally, and am so grateful for his time in my life.

Jerri Graham's cottage, on Main Street at Wild Rose Lane.

Jerri Graham’s cottage, on Main Street at Wild Rose Road.

In this cottage my world came together and fell apart a dozen or so times. In the little kitchen, I baked my first muffins after waking up at 3 a.m. with a desire to start a business.

I tested my first granola bar recipes here, figuring out ratios and baking until I went to my real job in the morning (kale granola is not a good idea, especially when it burns in the oven of a small kitchen).

I cried a lot in this cottage. For example, when I realized I hadn’t chosen the ideal spouse, feared being homeless, and longed to escape all of the pain in my life. In the driveway, I found out my childhood best friend had killed himself. I sat kicking gravel for an hour after trying to wrap my head around it all.

There were slumber parties where 7-year olds managed to laugh, play, and have fun. There was an annual ball drop from the loft/bedroom on New Year’s Eve. There were neighbors on this street I still know and speak with regularly who will always be a part of my life in Westport.

Every day I drive or walk by this little bit of my history. I’m excited and hopeful for whoever moves into this property that they’ll have nothing but happiness there.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Greens Farms Resident Laments Housing Vote

Last night — in a 4-2 straw vote — Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission signaled approval of a new 4-story, 94-unit rental property at 1177 Post Road East. The building would replace an office complex across from Crate & Barrel.

Plans call for 30 of the units to be “affordable,” under state 8-30g guidelines. That would make Westport more compliant with the controversial regulation — and earn the town an 8-year moratorium on further affordable housing construction.

A 15-year resident of Greens Farms is concerned about traffic density and safety, particularly around the nearby elementary school. She also fears that the proposal has not garnered much public attention. She writes:

While other developments are getting attention and being fought back, this proposed development is just slipping by.

Artist's rendering of the 4-story, 94-unit rental housing complex proposed for 1177 Post Road East.

Artist’s rendering of the 4-story, 94-unit rental housing complex proposed for 1177 Post Road East.

Traffic and density has already made driving on the Post Road similar to being on I-95. Now this development, close to new construction where Geiger’s used to be, is making our neighborhood look and feel like we are becoming Stamford or White Plains.

There may be little the P&Z can do. But my neighbors and I want to figure out how best to respond and fight for our quality of life.  Awareness of this issue needs to be raised. It’s getting lost with every other developers proposal on the P&Z table.


Click here for “06880+” — the easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Save Westport Now: Stop Hiawatha’s Sewer Request

Valerie Seiling Jacobs, co-chair of Save Westport Now, sends this letter:

The Westport Water Pollution Control Authority, which is comprised of our 3 selectman, is meeting tomorrow morning (Thursday, July 21, 8:30 a.m., Town Hall auditorium) to decide whether to allow a developer to extend the sewer to the Hiawatha Lane area in Saugatuck.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has already rejected this developer’s request twice, on the grounds that the nearby pumping station and the sewer pipe that runs under the river from the Saugatuck area to our wastewater treatment plant are already in danger of failing.

Both items are on the town’s list of infrastructure repairs, but before work can start, the town needs to obtain a lot of permits and approvals from the state and feds, which still hasn’t happened. P&Z recognized that adding potential effluent to a failing system was not a smart move. If, for example, the repairs are delayed and the pipe bursts, it could have catastrophic environmental and other consequences for the Town.

Westport's wastewater treatment plant, across the Saugatuck River from the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Westport’s wastewater treatment plant, across the Saugatuck River from the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Save Westport Now agrees with P&Z’s conclusion: that it would be foolhardy for the town to approve a sewer extension before the pipe and pumping station are actually fixed/replaced. This is especially true since — no matter what we hope or the developer claims — the repairs are likely to take more time than usual, since they will need to be scheduled around other projects already planned for the area, including most notably the rehab of the I-95 overpass, the repair of the MetroNorth bridge, and the repair of the Cribari/Saugatuck bridge.

This will not be a simple or quick repair, and the Town should not risk the town’s resources just because a developer stands to lose money if he doesn’t get his way.

I hope you will attend the meeting or email the selectman’ office (selectman@westportct.gov) about the matter as well. As residents and taxpayers, we need to let our elected officials know that we care about the environment — and that we believe in smart planning. Adding effluent to a failing sewer system before we are sure when and how the system will be fixed is just not smart.

Town Fights 8-30g — And Wins

A real estate developer buys suburban land. He announces plans to build a massive number of housing units on it. Citing Connecticut’s 8-30g statute, 30% will be “affordable,” according to state guidelines.

Townspeople — worried about the impact of such a massive development — rise up to oppose it.

Sound familiar? It happens all over — including Westport.

Here’s the unfamiliar part: The townspeople won.

The town is not Westport. But it’s nearby.

Easton residents and officials just got big news. A 5-year battle against a 99-unit, 31-building townhouse complex, on 124.7 acres of watershed bordered by Sport Hill, Westport, Silver Hill and Cedar Hill Roads, has come to an end. An appellate court declined to hear the developer’s appeal of a January decision by Hartford’s housing court, which upheld Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Conservation Commission’s 2011 denial of that plan (and a previous one for 105 units).

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development.

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development. (Photo/Google Earth)

How did they do it?

Ira Bloom explains. He was legal counsel for the town commissions. He’s also Westport’s town attorney, so he knows something about 8-30g.

Unlike most zoning applications, Bloom says, if a town commission turns down an 8-30g application, the burden is on them — not on the developer — to prove they made the right decision.

There are a couple of ways to do that, Bloom says. One is to show there is “substantial public interest” in the denial. “Mere traffic congestion” does not work, Bloom notes. Traffic safety, however, may. “Substantial public interest” must clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing in that town.

Another way is to show that no possible modification of the proposal would satisfy the requirements.

Ira Bloom

Ira Bloom

“That’s a heavy burden of proof,” Bloom says. In fact, last year 9 8-30g cases were decided by Connecticut courts. 7 were won by developers. Towns prevailed in only 2 — including Easton.

Bloom argued that because the 99 units would be built on public watershed — serving most of the Easton — the town had a substantial public interest in denying the application. He cited Department of Energy and Environmental Protection guidelines that no more than 1 unit be built on every 2 acres of watershed.

In Westport, officials used the “substantial public interest” argument in denying a proposal for a large 8-30g complex on Wilton Road, near Kings Highway North. The fire chief testified there were severe safety concerns, about the ability of his department to access the proposed complex.

Westport is now writing briefs for that case. They’re due August 12. The developer — Garden Homes — then submits their own briefs.

Easton has very little affordable housing. Westport has more.

But when it comes to 8-30g, no town is out of the woods.

And, Bloom notes, the Easton developer still owns that property. A new proposal may be in the works.