It’s not easy living in a flood zone. Superstorm Sandy made the risks real. Since then, dozens of Westporters living near the water have raised their homes, using piers or pilings.
That may no longer be the only option.
Gloria Gouveia reports: At last Thursday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, 2 local design professionals presented a potential amendment to Westport’s flood zone requirements.
The pre-application process gives applicants the opportunity to explore ideas with the P&Z in a brief, informal, non-binding discussion, saving the time and expense of a formal application.
Citing a desire to provide full basements for homes in some Special Flood Hazard Zones, the proposal would permit filling properties to FEMA-mandated elevations in lieu of raising residential dwellings on piers or pilings.
A home being raised on Compo Cove.
The applicants testified that the benefits associated with raising the height of the land and the use of flood-proofing, versus elevating the structure, included: more (basement) floor area: egress at grade: enhanced flood protection and improved esthetics.
Typically, residential construction in SFHZs requires elevating and supporting structures with piers or pilings that are less of an impediment to flood waters than traditional foundations.
P&Z staff and several commissioners expressed concerns about the effect of foundations and basements on subservice drainage, and neighboring properties at lower grades.
Other issues addressed by staff members included the impact of future sea level rise, and the departure from best practices which support raising flood prone structures over raising the grade of flood prone lots.
Current zoning regulations prohibit the use and/or placement of fill for any purpose in Special Hazard Flood Zones.
Starting July 1, the Senior Center will reopen. It’s limited, sure — but it will be wonderful for the thousands of Westporters who rely on our great center.
The phased reopening will include in-house, outdoor, hybrid, televised and Zoom classes all summer long.
Director Sue Pfister and her staff have meticulously established safety protocols. They includes enhanced air-handlers, sanitizers, and other CDC-guided precautions.
There’s also a canopy over part of the back patio, to extend outdoor space.
The congregate luncheon program will remain closed until September. In addition, summer plans will not include drop-in visits or congregating during the initial reopening phase. Water fountains will not be available, so participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle from home.
For months, Westporters have wondered about the fate of the Kowalsky property. The large tract of land on Morningside Drive South and Clapboard Hill Road is some of the last privately owned open space in town.
Perc tests and a Conceptual Plan are now available outlining a proposed 8 Bedroom home, Infinity Edge Swimming Pool and Septic. Build your dream home on this prestigious 2.0 Acre property in a well established Greens Farms neighborhood.
This property is truly majestic with part ownership of a man made pond, and several character outbuildings. This sought after location is less than a mile to Metro North/Greens Farms train station and Burying Hill Beach. Two homes on Morningside Drive South (# 90 and # 88) have SOLD within the year, both currently in stages of being torn down for over a million dollars an acre. There is value here on this special piece of land.
This is a Land listing. The home on the property is ‘As Is’. As with any Land listing, buyers to perform their own due diligence.
Plenty of people like Hook’d on the Sound, the new Compo Beach concessionaire.
Plenty do not like the fact that it closes at 6 p.m.
The previous snack bar tenant — Joey’s by the Shore — stayed open till dark. Two years ago, he relocated to the former Elvira’s, around the corner across from Old Mill Beach.
Now Joey’s has introduced a delivery service to Compo. It’s available Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
You can order online. Enter “2 Soundview Drive” as the delivery address. Your food will be delivered — in a thermal bag, with no extra charge — at the pickup/ dropoff location next to the Compo volleyball courts.
The undefeated, nationally ranked Staples High School rugby team kicked off its national tournament quest in Kansas City yesterday with a 26-22 win against St. Thomas Aquinas. The Wreckers are ranked #5; Aquinas was #4. The temperature at the start was 100.
Little Barn The Little Barn in Westport is the local site for viewing. The next match is tonight (6 p.m.), against #1 Herriman from Utah.
Watching yesterday’s game at Little Barn. (Photo/Terry Brannigan)
Previewing the tournament, a rugby publication described Staples as “the best-kept secret of the tournament. (They have) compiled one heck of a season up in Connecticut. Winners over big dogs Xavier, Greenwich, and Fairfield, these boys are battle-tested and battle-accomplished. Jot them down as your dark horse now.”
For more information on the national rugby tournament, click here.
Wakeman Town Farm kicks off its farm stand season tomorrow (Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
Every Saturday, the Cross Highway stand features farm-grown veggies, baked goods, honeys, Shearwater coffee, Wave Hill breads, Kneads pastries, Pam’s Jams, Guardians farm goat soap & lotion, plus logowear.
Tomorrow’s fresh produce offerings include collard greens, lettuce, kale, peas, radishes, garlic scapes, Chinese green onions, strawberries (limited quantities!), and herbs.
This year, WTF expands its offerings with a rotating list of local guest vendors. This week they welcome Lorenza Arnal, creator of Alma de Mexico’s homemade salsas, and Sk*p, a sustainably packaged hair & body care line with local roots.
Staples High School’s Class of 1976 is planning their 45th reunion. And — in the spirit of ’76 — they’re doing more than their share.
The July 30-31 weekend includes parties at the Black Duck and Compo Beach. They’ve added a “Great Gatsby” town tour.
And — because several classmates volunteer with CLASP Homes, the supportive housing organization for people with developmental disabilities (and Tracy Flood works there), the reunion-goers will do yard projects at the site. (They might not even know that CLASP was founded in 1976!)
One of Westport’s thorniest housing controversies has been solved.
A proposed 6-story, 81-unit apartment complex between Lincoln and Cross Streets, off Post Road West will be scaled back to 68 units. It’s been redesigned almost completely, eliminating a section that would tower over homes on Riverside Avenue. Fire safety and parking concerns have been addressed to the satisfaction of Westport’s fire marshal.
And the developer includes 30% affordable housing.
Tonight, after weeks of negotiations between the Planning & Zoning Commission, the developer Cross Street LLC and neighbors,the P&Z voted 5-0 in favor of the settlement. Newly appointed commissioner Patrizia Zucaro abstained.
The settlement substantially lessens the impact on Lincoln Street, just south of Cross Street.
In October 2018, the P&Z unanimously rejected the 81-unit plan. Their concerns included fire access, traffic and historic preservation.
Cross Street LLC appealed. Last July, a Superior Court judge sustained the appeal.
However, discussions between the P&Z, the developer and neighbors — many of whom live in historic properties that are some of the most naturally occurring affordable homes in town, with on-street parking that would have been lost — bore fruit.
The Fire Department is now confident they could access and fight any fires there. The new version eliminates the looming design that would have altered the look of the neighborhood. On-street parking has been saved.
And the 30% affordable units will help Westport toward the state’s 8-30g mandate for increasing that housing stock.
“With this settlement, Westport has not just turned the page but closed the book on all outstanding 8-30g related litigation,” says P&Z chair Danielle Dobin.
“I want to compliment the Lincoln Street and Riverside Avenue neighbors for working collaboratively with the Commission under the most challenging of circumstances; the developer for choosing to redesign this project to be both fire safe and less physically imposing, and my fellow P&Z commissioners who worked together as a team to negotiate an amicable resolution to this litigation.
“The redesigned project will provide mixed income rental apartments within walking distance of schools and downtown, further diversifying housing in a central Westport location.”
The Netflix crew that’s spent several weeks filming “The Noel Diary” in Westport has inconvenienced some residents. They’ve also taken taken over the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot, for use as a staging area. Several large trucks are camped there. Closure of the lot has upset some dog-walking regulars, who prefer that spot to the North Compo lot.
But some were particularly upset yesterday, at the mess left in the northeast corner of the lot. A temporary tent used by the production crew was gone.
Lisa Doran’s Greens Farms Elementary School distance learning 1st graders welcomed a very special visitor yesterday.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe took time out of his day to pop into her classroom — via Zoom — to chat.
The students were enthralled — and inquisitive. When one asked what Marpe likes best about his job, he got up from his desk, and grabbed the giant pair of scissors — a present from his wife after his first election. He uses them at ribbon cutting ceremonies, which he says is his favorite task.
Another student asked if he knows everyone in Westport. He said that he knows quite a lot of people — especially since COVID, when he met so many Westporters online.
The next student asked if he was like the president of Westport. That’s a great analogy. And Doran’s class thanked the “president” for spending some quality time with them.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe (lower right), Greens Farms Elementary School teacher Lisa Doran (top row, 2nd from left), and her students on Zoom.
For 2 years, Rosemary Cass has enriched the lives of people 55 and older.
Her “Seeing it Clearly Now” blog inspires everyone — retired or not — to learn new things, find purpose, and explore the arts.
Rosemary has just added a 2nd blog. It’s aimed at a special niche: grandmothers.
She says that “This Granny Rocks” — clever name, no? — provides a place where “grannies can brag about their perfect grandchildren, without everyone rolling their eyes. No judgment here.”
Readers can submit stories, their grandkids’ photos and clever sayings, and warm, nostalgic stories about their own grandmothers. The site will also offer helpful granny information, and advice on the art of grandmothering.
It launched with stories from Joan Isaacson (Westport author of “The Red Velvet Diary”), and Sharon Citrin Goldstein of Fairfield. To learn more, click here.
The arts are crucial to Westport. But — like anything beautiful — they must be nurtured.
To help, MoCA Westport is hosting an open meeting. Representatives from local arts organizations and 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker will talk — and listen — about the best ways to support our arts institutions and community.
The event is next Monday (June 21, 5 to 6 p.m., outdoors at MoCA, 19 Newtown Turnpike. It’s free; no registration required. Questions? Email email@example.com, or call 203-222-7070.
Connecticut is one of the healthiest states in the country. Yet there are huge disparities between white people, and those of color.
Wesport’s Unitarian Church — long devoted to social justice — hosts a webinar about health inequities, and what can be done about them (including what audience members can do).
“Racial Health Inequities” is set for June 28 at 7 (p.m.). Guest speaker is Rev. Robyn Anderson, director of the Ministerial Health Fellowship. The event is free to all, but advance registration is required.
The webinar is the Unitarian Church’s second in their series “Revealing History: How We Got Here, Why it Matters.”
And finally … on this day in 1967, the 3-day Monterey Pop Festival opened in California. Over 50,000 people were there for the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix, the Who and Ravi Shankar; the first large-scale public performance by Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience.
If you never watch another “06880” music video, you can’t miss Otis:
Some residents praised it as much-needed technology. Others feared it would ruin the view of our “gateway to the beach.”
After several months of hearings, comments and hand-wringing, the applicant — North Atlantic Towers — quietly dropped the proposal.
Now, Tarpon Towers II has retained All Points Technology. They’re evaluating a “wireless communications facility modification” at the same site: 92 Greens Farms Road. That’s on the south side, abutting I-95 and not far from Hillspoint Road.
The cell tower was — and is again — planned for the house on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
The facility would include a 124-foot tall monopole tower with a new 35′ x 64′ gravel-based fenced equipment compound. An access drive and underground electrical and telephone service would extend from Greens Farms Road. The new tower and equipment compound would allow for multiple service providers to be located there in the future.
To comply with the National Historic Preservation Act, the public has until July 7 to submit written comments regarding any potential effects of the facility on historic properties. Send to: All-Points Technology Corporation; Attention: Jennifer Young Gaudet; 567 Vauxhall Street Extension, Suite 311, Waterford, CT 06285. The phone number is 860-663-1697 ext. 231; email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A cell tower.
Although the proposed tower facility location is at a private residence, under state law the Connecticut Siting Council has exclusive jurisdiction over telecommunication facilities like this monopole.
Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission and other local land-use bodies have no jurisdiction over such a facility. If Tarpon Towers continues to seek this location for its proposed tower, the CSC will have oversight going forward.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe says, “As noted, we have dealt with this specific request once before. It is at the very preliminary stage of a larger process.
“Following the evaluation of the proposed tower facilities on historic properties, Tarpon Towers would be expected to file a petition with the CSC and seek consultation with the town. It is anticipated that the town attorney will seek to understand the necessity of the proposed tower facilities, as well as whether other sites may be available.
“Depending upon timing and procedure, eventually, there would be a public hearing on the matter. The town will make every reasonable effort to keep the public apprised of additional requests for input or revisions to the proposed plans.”
Doug Tirola — one of the founders of the Remarkable Theater — is a native Westporter, and father of a Staples High School student. He know we’ve got some remarkable members of the senior class — and that they had a remarkable year.
Tomorrow Doug — whose day job is filmmaking — wants to hear about their experiences. He’s making a short feature starring Staples seniors. It will play before (naturally) the drive-in screening of “The Breakfast Club” later this month.
High school seniors are invited to a quick interview tomorrow (Wednesday, June 16, 3 p.m.) at Staples’ front entrance.
NOTE: Seniors who are not yet 18 should email email@example.com for a release form, to be signed by a parent prior to film.
“The Breakfast Club”: Quite possibly the best high school movie ever made.
But the young staff — overseeing kayaks, paddleboards and the increasingly crowded Saugatuck River — has major responsibilities.
Yesterday, owners Taryn and Robbie Guimond brought Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services staff onto the Riverside Avenue site. EMTs ran everyone through every imaginable safety scenario and protocol.
The entire Westport Paddle Club staff is now certified in CPR, first aid and “stop the blood.” They’re ready for anything — and for you.
“With so much negativity about police in our country, we feel lucky we have a Police Department that responds quickly and professionally to our needs, on many levels.
“On Sunday around 2:30 p.m., my husband Larry and I, 2 Westport friends and our puppy were stranded on our small boat in the Sound. It just stopped, and refused to start again no matter what we were tried.
“To our much appreciated rescue came 2 police officers: a man and a woman. With efficiency, respect and utmost professionalism, we were towed to our marina on Saugatuck shores.
“We are privileged to live in a town with such an incredible Police Department. Thank you!”
The Lefkowitzes’ boat, after being towed to safety.
For weeks, Pequot Trail neighbors have been upset about the clear-cutting done in preparation for a teardown and new home.
Yesterday, News12 reported on the issue.
As noted in the report, owners can do whatever they want with their property. But, Tree Board chair Monica Buesser notes, trees play many roles beyond beauty — including noise abatement and reduced flood risk.
Marketplace at Franny’s of Westport celebrates its first year as a local pop-up partner this Saturday (June 19, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
The Bedford Square shop will be filled with live music, free samples and giveaways. Tracey Medeiros will sign copies of “The Art of Cooking with Cannabis,” and Franny Tacy — founder of Franny’s Farmacy — will be on hand too, to say, um, “hi.”
The world is opening up. But plenty of neighbors are still in dire straits.
To help fill Person 2 Person’s Norwalk food pantry, Westport Sunrise Rotary members will collect food donations in the rear of Saugatuck Congregational Church (Saturday, June 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
They urge folks to include these items on upcoming shopping trips: hearty soups, snack and granola bars, pasta and sauce, 1-pound rice boxes, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, canned tuna and chicken, canned fruits and vegetables, dried and canned beans, pancake mix, cold cereal, oatmeal and shelf-stable milk.
Among the most needed household and personal items: laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, dryer sheets, toothbrushes and toothpaste, disinfectant wipes, hand and body soap, kitchen sponges, deodorant, liquid dish detergent, diapers and wipes (especially sizes 5 and 6), tissues and Kleenex.
From left: Greg Dobbs (Person2Person food pantry site manger) with Westport Sunrise Rotarians Rob Hauck and president George Masumian.
Meanwhile, summer is actually almost here. That means more folks walking, jogging, biking and driving past the former Positano restaurant on Hillspoint Road.
For over a year, permit violations have halted construction on what was to be a private residence. The building — half-finished, swathed in blue, surrounded by weeds — has become a neighborhood eyesore.
A security fence now encloses the property. That makes it safer.
Speaking of politics: On Tuesday night, the Representative Town Meeting affirmed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision to allow 157 units of housing to be built on Hiawatha Lane.
The decision to settle with the developer — Summit Saugatuck — and put an end to 3 lawsuits seems to be final.
However, Carolanne Curry — a resident of the area, and founder of Save Old Saugatuck — vows to keep fighting.
“SOS will continue efforts,” she says. “Neighbors will continue to meet and share ideas and concerns. We will continue to do our collective research and telephoning. Motivated more than ever to save this community and keep our homes, we will find other paths to victory.”
SoulCycle has reopened its indoor Westportstudio, at 50% capacity. They’ve redesigned their space, emphasizing safety, comfort — and of course, the importance of cycling for physical and mental health.
The RTM decision was 30 to 2, with 1 absention and 1 recusal. Twenty-four votes — 2/3 of the entire RTM — would have been needed to overturn last month’s P&Z decision to settle 3 lawsuits brought by the developer, Summit Saugatuck. The special RTM meeting was held following a petition by over 60 electors.
This is Peter Gold’s report on last night’s special meeting, held via Zoom. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.
The RTM’s second meeting of the month considered overturning the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to permit Summit Saugatuck to build a 157- unit housing development, including 47 affordable units, at Hiawatha Lane. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the development as part of a settlement of 3 lawsuits brought by Summit.
The suits seek to overturn the P & Z’s earlier denial of the project, revoke the town’s moratorium from the requirements under Connecticut statute 8-30g (which permits developers to disregard most town zoning regulations so long as their developments contain at least 30% affordable housing), and eliminate the town’s ability to approve sewer connections for developments.
The town has already been to trial on all 3 lawsuits. Absent approval of the proposed settlement, decisions in all 3 cases are expected shortly.
Artist’s rendering of one of the buildings at the Hiawatha Lane development.
Town attorney Ira Bloom explained there were 2 main questions for the RTM to consider. First: Should the town continue to control development by retaining its moratorium and the right to approve sewer connections? Equally important, he said, is how to “best balance the interests of the Hiawatha Lane neighborhood against the interests of the town as a whole.”
He stated that fire safety is the key issue in the case seeking to overturn the P & Z’s denial of the project. Summit’s proposed development meets all the requirements of the fire code. However, the P&Z initially rejected the proposed development on the advice of fire marshal Nate Gibbons, who felt additional safeguards — particularly a second access road to the site — were needed.
Fire safety concerns have been a major issue with the proposed Summit Saugatuck development.
Bloom said that recent cases where towns have sought safeguards over and above fire code requirements, including another Westport case involving a proposed development on Cross Street, have been decided in favor of developers. Courts have held that meeting the fire code requirements is enough to let the development proceed. Bloom said that the town does not have a high probability of winning this case.
Summit also challenged the 4-year 8-30g moratorium the Department of Housing granted the town 2 years ago. In March, the DOH notified the town that it intends to revoke the moratorium because it can no longer justify the moratorium points given for the Hidden Brook housing development. Without those points the town would not have enough points for a moratorium.
Based on settlement negotiations, the DOH told the town it is now “tentatively on board to keep the moratorium.” If the settlement is not approved, Mr. Bloom said the town will probably lose the moratorium, exposing the entire town to 8-30g affordable housing applications at many other sites.
The last suit challenged the current requirement that town approval is required for all connections to its sewer system. Westport denied a sewer permit. Summit sued and won; the town appealed and prevailed; Summit then appealed to the state Supreme Court. As with the other 2 cases, a decision is on hold pending the RTM’s decision on the proposed settlement.
Danielle Dobin and Paul Lebowitz, the Planning and Zoning Commission members most involved in the settlement negotiations with Summit, explained the consequences of losing the lawsuits if the settlement is not approved and the benefits of the proposed settlement.
Though all P & Z commissioners sympathized with the plight of the Hiawatha Lane area residents affected by the proposed development, Dobin and Lebowitz said the P & Z felt the consequences to both the neighborhood and the town as a whole of continuing to oppose the development in court justified the settlement.
Summit Saugatuck’s site plan. I-95 is at the top; Saugatuck Avenue is at the right.
Under the settlement, all lawsuits would be dropped and could not be reinstated. This would preserve the town’s moratorium and ability to approve sewer connections, both crucial for controlling and guiding development in town.
Summit would build 157 units instead of 187 units, including 47 affordable units; eliminate one building from the project; include several 3-bedroom units for families, and provide additional fire safety features. It would also repair roads in the area, fix a culvert to eliminate flooding, and preserve open space.
A major concern of Hiawatha Lane area residents is the increase in traffic generated by the proposed development. Dobin explained that courts do not consider traffic congestion when deciding 8-30g cases. First Selectman Marpe promised that the Board of Selectman, in its role as Traffic Authority, would work with the residents and the state Department of Transportation to take steps to mitigate the traffic.
It was noted that the Office of State Traffic Administration would also need to approve the development, as it would be considered a major traffic generator. However, OSTA approval would not be sought until after the settlement is approved or the lawsuits are resolved. If OSTA requests changes as a condition of its approval it is likely Summit would make such changes.
Several Hiawatha Lane area residents spoke against the settlement. They felt the P & Z did not negotiate hard enough; traffic and pedestrian safety issues were ignored; the existing affordable housing in the area should be preserved, and that residents displaced from their homes by the proposed development should be given priority for the new affordable units.
Dobin and Leibowitz explained why they thought the settlement was the best deal that could be obtained, pointed out that traffic and pedestrian issues are not considered under 8-30g, and that federal fair housing laws do not allow for preferential placement.
RTM members expressed sympathy with the Hiawatha Lane area residents, but felt their plight was outweighed by the town’s need to preserve the 8-30g moratorium and keep control over sewer access. Members also expressed a desire for the town to “do something” to assist the residents who would be displaced by the proposed development.
Many expressed their feeling that the town failed to adequately plan to meet the requirements of 8-30g over the past years as other towns — notably Darien and New Canaan, which have received several consecutive moratoriums — have done, leaving Westport in its current situation.
It was also pointed out that the settlement would have to be approved by the court, giving concerned residents one last chance to make their concerns heard.
Voting against the proposed settlement were Lou Mall and Carla Rea. Arline Gertzoff abstained, while Matthew Mandell recused himself.
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