Westport is a state leader among suburban communities in addressing affordable housing.
The Representative Town Meeting may soon address the issue, through a fund to pay for land and development.
And Westport’s state representative “hopes for best, and expects the worst” as Hartford addresses the issue.
Those were 3 of the main takeaways from last night’s “Affordable Housing Needs and Solutions: What Westporters Should Know and How They Can Help” Zoom meeting.
A virtual audience of 100 people heard RTM moderator Jeff Wieser lead a panel of experts: State Senator Ceci Maher, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin, RTM Planning & Zoning Committee chair Matthew Mandell, and Westport Housing Authority chair David Newberg.
Maher called Westport “a leader (in) thinking, planning for and examining all housing options.”
Dobin noted that the town needs 1,040 deed-restricted affordable units to reach the state mandate of 10% of the housing stock. Counting units now being built or in the pipeline, she expressed confidence that we are on the way to meeting that threshold.
136 Riverside Avenue has been renovated, and now houses adults with disabilities. It is off-site affordable housing, part of the new Mill project, and an example of a creative approach to developing affordable units.
She cited the 5-Year Affordable Housing Plan, adopted last year (click here to read). Drafted to “proactively create affordable housing, in a way that fits with Westport’s New England village feel,” it includes ideas for building on town-owned land; collaborating on state-owned land, at sites like the Post Road near West Parish Road; developing “cottage clusters,” and establishing a trust fund to acquire land.
Over several decades, Newberg said, the Westport Housing Authority has invested $57 million in affordable housing. They operate 4 residential communities: Canal Park, Hales Court, Hidden Brook and Sasco Creek Village.
Among Westport’s affordable housing options: Sasco Creek Village.
Their biggest challenge is finding land to develop more. “If we built 221 more units, we could fill them tomorrow,” he said.
Some of the funding for that land could come from an Affordable Housing Fund. Mandell described various forms that could take, and a variety of revenue sources for it, such as conveyance taxes by buyers of residential property.
Steinberg spoke last, and was the least optimistic. He cited 2 bills pending in the General Assembly.
HB 6633 — the “Fair Share Bill,” which could result in the loss of local zoning — is “vindictive to communities like Westport,” the state legislator said.
HB 6890 — nicknamed “Work, Live Ride” — seeks to increase housing density near transit points. It too would override key local zoning considerations.
While other towns in Connecticut look to Westport as a model for proactivity and practical solutions, Steinberg said, he worries constantly what his colleagues representing large cities will do to the suburbs.
Affordable housing units are part of 1177 Post Road East. The project helped Westport earn a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g proposals.
Wieser then turned the session over to the audience. To the question of how Westport can create more homes for first-time — presumably lower-income — buyers, Dobin reintroduced the idea of small cottage clusters, as well as a fund through which the town could purchase small “starter” homes. That would save them from demolition and the new construction of large homes that follows.
Answering a question about the next moratorium from 8-30g — the state mandate for building affordable housing — Dobin said that Westport is well on the way to amassing enough “points,” from projects underway and planned.
However, she added, there are no guarantees. A planned multi-family development at the former Men’s Wearhouse on Post Road East is now apparently off the table.
Dobin said that shows the importance of the town providing housing, on land it owns, rather than relying on developers.
Another questioner asked about the possibility of amending 8-30g. “I’ve been trying for 13 years” without much success, Steinberg said.
Meanwhile, one resident asked, what can Westporters do? “Read the Affordable Housing Plan,” Dobin urged. “Get involved with the RTM and P&Z. Go to meetings, and speak up.”
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A follow-up on the Representative Town Meeting’s recent “Community Conversation on Affordable Housing” promises to be as important and illuminating as the first.
“Our Town’s Affordable Housing Needs and Solutions: What Westporters Should Know and How They Can Help” will be held — virtually — on Wednesday (May 17, 7:30 p.m.).
RTM moderator Jeff Wieser will lead a panel of men and women who know the topic intimately: State Senator Ceci Maher, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin, RTM Planning & Zoning Committee chair Matthew Mandell, and Westport Housing Authority chair David Newberg.
As with the first session — which drew 200 people — there will be plenty of time for public questions.
Over the years, I have read many comments, complaints and suggestions about utility poles on “06880.”
I am reminded of them all each day on my morning walk, as I pass by this set of seemingly unstable utility poles on Hillspoint Road between Harding Lane and Valley Road.
For over 5 years, I wondered when the appropriate utilities will transfer all their lines to the newer replacement pole and remove the decayed one.
It seems it will never happen. But lately there has been some progress: a new black nylon band has been added to somehow supplement the existing the wooden brace clamp, the metal support arms, and bands of rope!
Just in time for Pride Month, Westport Pride has a new web presence.
The colorful, easy-to-navigate site (www.westportpride.org) builds on the non-profit’s mission to “elevate, educate and empower” the town about LGBTQ issues and community members.
Upcoming events include
Pride Celebration (Sunday, June 4, noon-4 p.m., Jesup Green)
“Light Up the Night” drag show (Saturday, June 17, 5 p.m., MoCA)
An oral history project — organized in conjunction with the Westport Museum for History & Culture — is looking for people to interview about their lives and times: in school, at the Brook Café, or anywhere else in the area. Email email@example.com.
Co-founder Christian Montgomery — a 2018 Staples High School graduate — is creating quality, comfortable clothing, inspired by the oceans.
His goal is to build a community around the brand — and one that supports mental health awareness.
One of the founders lost a friend to suicide. He had recently joined the military. So Sholder is donating 5% of profits to the Headstrong Project. The non-profit provides mental health resources to active military members, and veterans.
This Saturday (May 20, noon to 4 p.m.) they’ll run their first pop-up event at the Two Roads Vendor Market (1700 Stratford Avenue, Stratford). Sholdr will be in the hopyard talking about their mission, and selling shirts and hoodies.
The Historic District Commission’s recent 2023 Preservation Awards — honoring owners and architects of 6 homes, 2 restaurants, an office and church, who kept the streetscape bones of their buildings while modernizing the interiors — drew approving comments from hard-to-please “06880” readers.
Many also wondered: Why doesn’t the HDC preserve more buildings?
The answer is: They can’t.
But you and I can.
Today, chair Grayson Braun and vice chair Scott Springer offer a brief “Historic District Commission 101” intro course.
They note that the HDC is a volunteer organization. Members are appointed by the 1st selectperson.
The commission has an office in Town Hall, and is supported by an administrator — currently Donna Douglass — who is a town employee.
The HDC offers support and guidance to help property owners, in the service of historic preservation.
Braun and Springer’s routes to the commission are typical.
Braun and her husband moved to Westport in 1997, for “the historic feel and character” of the town. When a developer planned a project for their Gorham Avenue neighborhood, she worked with the HDC to gain “Local Historic District” status for the area, making demolition more difficult. In 2009, she joined the board.
Springer has been a Westporter since 2008. In 2014 he established his own architecture firm here. He was appointed to the board in 2019, to add an architectural perspective to the HDC’s work.
The 2 members stress: Their work is, by town and state ordinance, strictly advisory. They work with other town agencies, like the Architectural Review Board, to establish Local Historic Districts and designate Local Historic Properties.
But they cannot unilaterally stop teardowns.
The only time the HDC can prevent demolition is if a property is designated as a local historic property or a local historic district.
When a homeowner, commercial property owner or developer of any other building 50 years or older (and 500 square feet or larger) requests a demolition permit, there is an automatic 180-day waiting period.
They can apply to the HDC for a waiver. The HDC can uphold or deny that request.
That 6-month period is the maximum allowed by state regulation. Many municipalities adopted a shorter waiting time.
If the HDC denies the request, the goal is for something to happen in those 6 months. A stakeholder can come forward with an alternative to demolition. An architect may come up with a plan for zoning relief, in return for preservation.
Those things happen.
Owners Blanca and Suni Hirani of 19 Soundview Drive, for example, originally applied for a demolition permit. They were approved for a new house, with a completely new design.
But during the 180-day period, they reimagined what they wanted. They updated the structure, while keeping the outside look. The result is impressive. And it earned the owners an HDC Preservation Award.
19 Soundview Drive – before (left) and after preservation.
Another Preservation Award went to 8 Mayflower Parkway. It too was a property whose 180-day waiting period was upheld. During that time, builder David Vynerib decided the structure was worth saving — and came up with a plan.
8 Mayflower Parkway, after renovation.
The Historic District Commission pays particular attention to the street-facing part of a property. When Michael and Kim Ronemus wanted to renovate 113 Cross Highway — once a gas station, house and outbuildings just west of North Avenue — the HDC helped them retain the exterior, while adding a modern extension in back.
Braun and Springer know the public is often confused when they see a “historic plaque” on a house, and assume that’s an official designation.
It’s not. Those markers are provided by the Westport Museum for History & Culture (for a fee). The program is separate from the Historic District Commission.
The HDC’s work extends to commercial properties. One recent example: work being done on the former Remarkable Book Shop/Talbots/Local to Market building, on Main Street at Parker Harding Plaza.
The HDC also oversees Westport’s 7 Local Historic Districts. They range from 4 properties on Morningside Drive South (formerly owned by artists Walter and Naiad Einsel) to about 40 homes on and around Kings Highway North.
The other Local Historic Districts are Evergreen Avenue, Gorham Avenue, Jesup Road, Lincoln Street/Riverside Avenue, and Violet Lane.
The HDC website says:
Local historic designation assists in the retention and enhancement of property values by providing a stable market in which to invest. It creates community pride, fosters neighborhood stabilization and enhances the appearance and authentic character of a designated area.
Building materials and natural resources expended in original construction retain their usefulness and rehabilitation itself uses less energy and raw materials than new construction. Restoration conserves energy and materials while reinforcing already environmentally sustainable neighborhoods.
Two-thirds of the owners in an area must approve a vote to become a Local Historic District. That designation offers a degree of protection for exterior (street-facing) alterations.
However, it’s not something all owners want. A recent proposal to add Sniffen Road, off Clinton Avenue, to the list went nowhere. A number of homeowners felt the designation would prohibit them from selling their houses to developers, as teardowns.
Braun notes, “There are rules for everything in town. No matter how old or new your property is, you can’t just start adding on without a permit.
“The HDC has an extensive review process, but we’re no more restrictive than other rules. We realize people want to do work on their property. We are always happy to help. We even schedule pre-application and special meetings, outside of our monthly ones.”
(To learn more about the Historic District Commission, click here.)
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Cantor’s 1971 Staples High School classmate compared and contrasted his life now in Kansas City, with his hometown.
Cantor did not move as far. But he has his own tale to tell.
I enjoyed the piece written by my Staples ‘71 classmate, Mike Joseph, about the affordability of Kansas City and the option it presents in flyover country to living in Westport, where the cost of housing in particular has gone through the roof.
But I wanted to note that you can stay in the area in what were, for my wife and me, drive-through towns (on the Merritt, I-95 or Route 8), and find much more affordable home options as well.
This was exemplified by our recent move to a senior community in Stratford, where you can find nice condos at much lower prices than in Westport. The real estate taxes are higher, but the price differential more than compensates for that.
Fred Cantor and Debbie Silberstein’s Stratford condo.
There are some Westport-like amenities, such as a nice main town beach that even has a par-3 golf course. But what have been among the most pleasant discoveries are the types of area features we never would have seen simply traveling through on the highway.
For example, a traditional New England town green — Paradise Green — has a classic gazebo. It has been the site of summer concerts and a farmer’s market. Adjacent to the Green is a shopping district whose eclectic group of smaller shops includes an old-fashioned mom-and-pop bakery, Icing on the Cake.
Paradise Green gazebo.
We recently got curbside pickup of 2 brownies, 1 cannoli, a corn muffin, scone and Vermont hazelnut coffee — all for $10.40.
Holy cow! I felt as if I had been transported to Westport’s Main Street of decades ago.
Stratford also has a distinctive town park, Boothe Memorial, which sits on a bluff high above the Housatonic River.
In addition to offering nice grounds for a picnic and lovely views, it has an unusual array of historical attractions, like a section of the former Merritt toll plaza, plus a replica railway station/museum with indoor and outdoor model railway tracks that feature old New Haven Railroad trains.
Fred Cantor, at the Boothe Memorial Park Merritt Parkway toll plaza exhibit.
Being in the very north end of Stratford, taking advantage of amenities and attractions in neighboring Shelton is a breeze — exemplified by the fact that, in contrast to Westport, we have never encountered traffic problems doing curbside pickup at the nearby supermarket and other shopping venues.
The absence of significant traffic backups has been about the most dramatic change we have experienced.
For those who might miss old Westport restaurant standbys, there is a Spotted Horse very close by.
While living in Westport, we loved doing scenic drives to the Saugatuck Reservoir in Weston or Aspetuck Orchard in Easton. Here, the scenic Trap Falls Reservoir in Shelton is a short drive from our new condo. Amazingly, so are massive working farms such as the Jones Family Farms with 400 acres. And yes, they have farm stands.
Roosevelt Forest in the northern part of Stratford, visible to us on our drive to nearby shopping, is also roughly 400 acres.
The amount of open and undeveloped land has been a real eye-opener. Quite frankly, it far surpasses anything that existed even in the Westport of my youth when my family moved to town in 1963.
Now, if only Stratford had Southern California-like winter weather…
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Next Wednesday’s Parks & Recreation Commission meeting (May 17, 7:30 p.m., Zoom; click here for the link) features 3 interesting agenda items.
Perhaps because of the increasing popularity of Old Mill Beach — it now attracts more than just nearby residents — the board will vote on a request for a “porta-john.”
Then they’ll introduce and discuss (but not vote on) a “proposed smoking/vaping policy.” Details are unavailable, but a source said it relates to a ban on smoking and vaping — including cannabis — at town beaches.
Then comes discussion of the Longshore Capital Improvement Plan final report.
It will be a busy night, involving 3 key topics: money, bathrooms, and weed.
Prime spot for a port-a-potty. (Photo/Dan Woog)
The Westport Garden Club does more than plant bulbs.
They’ve sponsored a youth poetry contest on “birds, bees and trees”; provided an all-terrain wheelchair to Wakeman Town Farm; donated beach grass plugs for Sherwood Island State Park’s dune restoration, and a new greenhouse at Earthplace for young naturalists and volunteers; and given a scholarship for a student studying horticulture or landscape design.
All of that — and also maintaining 7 public gardens in Westport — takes money.
And all of that funding comes from the Garden Club’s annual plant sale.
It’s tomorrow (May 13 — a first-ever Saturday date), from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jesup Green.
On sale: over 1,000 plants from members’ own gardens, plus tomatoes and herbs.
The festive event includes an activity table for kids, a selection of garden books from the Westport Book Shop, and free saplings from Bartlett Tree Experts.
Wheelbarrows will be on standby. As always, Garden Club members offer advice on purchases.
One more idea: If you haven’t finished your Mothers Day shopping (and don’t have a green thumb), you can choose from a collection of gift-ready planters.
The annual plant sale funds Westport Garden Club displays all over town.
All of Fairfield County (and Westchester) loves Alison Milwe Grace.
On Tuesday, the rest of the country will too.
The Staples High School graduate/Weston resident/founder-owner of very popular AMG Catering & Events will be featured on Food Network’s parking lot culinary marathon show, Supermarket Steakout (Tuesday, 9 p.m.).
She taped the show in January, in California. It was her second appearance on Food Network. In 2015 she made it to the 4th and final round of elimination in an intense battle, preparing dishes that the judges praised as “creative, complex and delicious.”
Alison calls this “another opportunity, another fun show, another personal ‘cheffy; challenge, and more memories with the best network around, and the amazing Alex Guarnaschelli.
Alison’s motto is “Follow your dreams — just make sure to have fun too!”
She’s sworn to secrecy (and an iron-clad contract) to not reveal how she did ahead of time.
But hey: She wouldn’t want us watching if she burned, undercooked or otherwise messed up royally, right?
SIDE DISH: Finding Connecticut just posted a nice interview with Alison. Click here to see.
Presented by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, the Arts & Culture Empowerment (ACE) award honors individuals, organizations and businesses that make significant contributions to the area.
An artist-entrepreneur who pioneered artists spaces in Berlin, Williamsburg and now Bridgeport, he is also a curator and community organizer.
After establishing his studio in Bridgeport, and reviving art events at the historic Arcade Mall, he established Ursa Gallery in 2020. Dam organized the first Bridgeport booth at Art Basel Miami in 2022. a
Dam is currently developing real estate on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport to create working spaces for fellow artists, raise community awareness, host events, and open a coffee roaster. He also teaches children in community art and leadership programs at Norwalk Community College.
Dam receives his honor next month, at a Norwalk Shore & Country Club breakfast. A special President’s Award will be presented to Westporters Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, recognizing their significant impact on the arts, culture and children’s health in Fairfield County. The MC is Weston’s James Naughton. Click here for full details.
Westport’s spring paving program begins Monday (May 15). It continues through mid-June.
The following roads will be paved (though not in this order):
High Point Road
Adams Farms Road
Greystone Farm Lane
Chapel Hill Road
Questions? Call the Department of Public Works: 203-341-1120.
Jonathan Greenstein — the photojournalist/film director/tea importer/ athlete/world traveler/ environmentalist, whose battle with ALS inspired countless people around the world — died in 2021. He was 50 years old.
Westporters have not forgotten him.
A Wim Hof Fundamentals Workshop — teaching techniques that help patients breathe stronger and longer == is set for Saturday, May 20 (10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.).
A $225 donation benefits the Breathe4ALS Foundation. Attendees receive a hardcover book of Greenfield’s photography and log pants.
The event is free for people living with ALS. Click here for tickets, and more information.
Not long after his ALS diagnosis, Jonathan Greenfield (right) hiked in Spain with Wim Hof.
Britt Hennemuth — the 2008 Staples High School and 2012 Pepperdine University graduate, now the West Coast editor for Vanity Fair — has a great story in the May edition.
In “Suddenly, Stephanie Hsu is Everywhere,” the actress talks about her intense year, her love for Jamie Lee Curtis, and how her next movie, “Joy Ride,” defies stereotypes. Click here to read. (Hat tip: John Karrel)
Speaking of film: Generations of Westporters have thrilled to enormous, all-around movies at the Norwalk IMAX Theater.
Mountain climbers, deep sea divers, rock concerts — we’ve seen it all.
The building is being dismantled. It’s part of the state Department of Transportation’s reconstruction of the 123-year-old Norwalk River railroad span (the “Walk Bridge”).
A new 4D theater, built on the other side of the Maritime Aquarium, opened in 2021.
The 10 properties honored last week by Westport’s Historic District Commission — and 29 North Avenue, featured recently on “06880” and which should win a national award — are wonderful reminders that “new” construction need not always begin with a demolition.
Cottages & Gardens recently featured Holly Jaffe and David Stephen Johnson’s 1927 Dutch Colonial on Bradley Street, at the Norwalk Avenue corner.
Holly — principal of the boutique design firm Wowhaus — was drawn to “the Norman Rockwell-esque charm, the ‘utterly delightful neighborhood,’ and its proximity to the beach.”
The family lived in the 2,000-square foot home for more than a year before starting the interior renovation in 2021.
That allowed them time to figure out “the smartest way to move forward,” Holly says. “The entire renovation was driven by what we could do to make this the magical place we knew it could be.”
She, architect Jon Halper and Westport builder Alan Dreher maximized the space without changing the footprint.
More than 90 years after founding the Westport Country Playhouse, Lawrence Langner will be celebrated.
The Theatre Guild and Langner family will dedicate Westport’s first Literary Landmark, in his honor. The event is May 27 (1 p.m.) at — of course — the Playhouse.
He and his wife, Armina Marshall, founded the theater in 1931, on the site of a former apple orchard and tannery. It became an American cultural institution, presenting dozens of pre-Broadway plays and showcasing the top stars of the day.
In addition to the Playhouse, Langner founded the Theatre Guild. It produced “Porgy and Bess,” “Oklahoma!” and hundreds of other plays and musicals.
He also established the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre, “US Steel Hour” on radio and television, and the American Repertory Company, which toured the world.
The dedication and unveiling of the Literary Landmark are free, and open to the public. The event includes a panel on “Memories of the American Theater.” Richard Somerset Ward, author of the definitive book on the history of the Westport Country Playhouse, will be interviewed by film historian Foster Hirsch. Actors and artists who worked at the Playhouse or other Langner ventures will participate too.
The Literary Landmark’s program, which celebrates important writers and “encourages the dedication of historic literary sites,” is affiliated with United For Libraries and the American Library Association.
Seating in the reception barn is limited. To reserve a seat, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to Westport’s newest Eagle Scouts!
Xavier Rodrigo, Matthew Fleming, Henry Nowak and Oliver Saitz of Troop 36 received their sashes and pins yesterday, at Saugatuck Congregational Church.
All did their Eagle projects at Sherwood Island State Park. Xavier — now a student at Fordham University — earned his honor 2 years ago; his ceremony was delayed by COVID. The other 3 will graduate this June from Staples High School.
Eagle Scouts (from left): Xavier Rodrigo, Matthew Fleming, Henry Nowak, Oliver Saits.
The weather was perfect for yesterday’s 18th annual STAR Walk & Roll fundraiser at Sherwood Island State Park.
Ariel Levy led the event. Her Westport family has supported STAR — the 70-year-old not-for-profit that serves over 700 people with disabilities, from birth to their senior years, and their families – since she began attending its day program.
Walkers of all ages and abilities enjoyed breakfast, music, arts and crafts, dancing, a photo booth, face painting and food trucks. The event raised over $60,000, with the Levy team out front.
Westporter Laura Blair’s team raised the second highest amount.
Ariel (yellow shirt) and her “Team Levy” at yesterday’s STAR Walk.
Westport is a town filled with — and known for — teardowns. Thankfully, some building owners invest time, energy, care, concern — and money — to preserve our history.
Last night at Town Hall, the Westport Historic District Commission honored the men and women who persevere, to preserve.
WHD Preservation Awards went to the owners of 6 private homes, 2 neighborhood restaurants, an office and a church.
8 Mayflower parkway
Built in 1926, and distinguished by a classically inspired portico, 8 Mayflower Parkway (off Compo Road South) was saved from demolition by David Vynerib, founder and principal of CCO Habitats. His extensive renovation restored the home to its prior glory.
19 SOUNDVIEW DRIVE
The “Stevens Cottage” was built in 1920, and is part of the Compo-Owenoke Historic District. Blanca and Sunil Hirani purchased it in 2020 — just before it was torn down — and then enhanced the entire streetscape of the beach exit road.
21 danbury avenue
Another home in the Compo-Owenoke Historic District, this bungalow was built in 1922 by Gertrude May Allen. It was bought in 2019 by Julie and John Headland, who preserved it in the midst of other teardowns in the area.
35 POST ROAD WEST
Built in 1825, the Davis Taylor House was a single-family residence that evolved into a multi-family dwelling from the 1920s through ’60s. Today the Federal style structure is home to Peter Cadoux Architects, who faithfully restored it as their office.
39 CROSS HIGHWAY
The original house was built in 1772 by Phineas Chapman, a Connecticut Militia lieutenant. It burned in 1877 and was rebuilt by his grandson, Charles Chapman. It remained in the family until 1927, when his last descendant died. It later served as a nursery school. Designated as a local historic property by Deborah Howland and her son Galen Murray in 2018, new owners Amy Gay and Matthew Burrows recently completed an extensive renovation of the property on a very visible road.
71 HILLANDALE ROAD
Green’s Farms Congregational Church was established in 1711, when Westport was part of Fairfield. A meetinghouse was raised near what is now the Sherwood Island Connector commuter parking lot. The church’s 3rd building was constructed in 1853, on Hillandale. It expanded in phases. In 2019 — with the structure needing major renovation — the congregation quickly raised funds to repair the original foundation, restore the steeple and overhaul the organ. Click here for a full story.
161 cross highway
The Masiello family opened Christie’s Country Store in 1926, to sell produce grown on their nearby farm. They gave up farming in the late 1940s, but continued the business and added a gazebo moved from Redding Road. In 1958 the market was enlarged. It has gone through various incarnations — including, briefly, a dry cleaner’s — but longtime owner Tim Purcell renovated it. It now houses the popular Porch @ Christie’s restaurant.
163 CROSS HIGHWAY
This property, built by James Masiello in 1922 for his wife Mary, has been in the family for over 100 years. The Colonia Revival home has been lovingly conserved by Jean Masiello.
222 HILLSPOINT ROAD
Built in 1919, this is the oldest continually operating retail and food store in Westport. Designed as a small market to serve the area around Old Mill Beach, it was known variously as “Old Mill Grocery,” “Kenny’s,” “Elvira’s” and “Joey’s by the Shore.” A year ago, when sale to a residential developer seemed imminent, a group of residents formed the Soundview Empowerment Alliance. They saved it from destruction, renovated it, and turned it once again into a beloved “Old Mill Grocery & Deli.” Click here for a full story.
276 MAIN STREET
The Patrick Rice House (aka the Gray-Coley House and the Lamar Webb House) is one of the finest examples of Italianate style in Westport. Believed to be built in 1869, it is part of the Gorham Avenue Historic District. It has been lovingly maintained by a long history of owners. Current stewards Kristin Schneeman and Ezra Greenberg have meticulously maintained the property since buying it in 2011.
The Historic District Commission is chaired by Grayson Braun. She and Donna Douglass wrote all the narratives for the awards. Bill Harris donated the printing of the programs for the ceremony through his organization, the Army Aviation Associated of America.
The awards were organized by coordinator Donna Douglass; former member and house researcher Bob Weingarten; former chair and current member Bill Harris, who donated the printing of the programs through his Army Aviation Association of America, and HDC members Scott Springer, Wendy Van Wie, Martha Eidman and Elizabeth Bolognino.
(Westport’s history — and real estate — are among the most popular topics on “06880.” Please click here to support the work of your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)
Westport’s school buses may look different next fall.
They’ll still be yellow. But “Dattco” may not be on the sides.
The New Britain-based company’s contract is up for renewal this year. When the Board of Education meets Monday (May 1, 7 p.m., Staples High School), Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice will recommend that the 5-year contract beginning July 1 be awarded to First Student. They’re a national company, with a strong presence in this area.
They were the only 2 providers to bid. Scarice and Westport Public Schools CFO Elio Longo found that:
Over 5 years, the district will save $126,011 for the base transportation services provided by First Student.
Dattco offered $6 million in coverage for sexual misconduct insurance, but the RFP required $11 million. First Student provided the required amount.
Dattco failed to submit a letter from its insurance carrier stating that the minimal insurance limits required in the RFP will be met.
Dattco gave a “0” credit for use of a bus lot provided by the district. First Student provided a credit of $1,529,031 over 5 years for use of the lot.
The Board of Ed will have a busy agenda, beyond the bus contract. They’ll also discuss the Staples High School roof project, an equity action plan, and policies on weighted grading and calculation of grade point averages, credit for online courses, graduating requirements, and enrollment in advanced courses and programs.
For full details on the bus contract and other agenda items, click here.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins tomorrow.
AAPI Westport celebrates with a variety of events. They include:
The Story and Legacy of Vincent and Lily Chin (May 1-31, New Canaan Library). Learn more about Vincent and Lily Chin. His racially motivated murder more than 40 years ago galvanized the Asian American community.
Healing Asian Hate Since Vincent Chin (May 8, 6:30 p.m., New Canaan Library): Panel discussion, including Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, and Stamford DEI officer Carmen Hughes. Click here for more information. and to register.
Meet children’s book author Karina Yan Glaser (May 13, 1 to 3 p.m., Westport Library). She will discuss “What Do You Need to be a Writer?,” and talk about how being an Asian American author has influenced her work. A book signing follows. This is an all ages event; best for grades 1-6. Click here for more information.
Pamela Turnure Timmins — Jacqueline Kennedy press secretary (and the first ever hired by a first lady), and who may or may not have had an affair with her husband, President Kennedy — died Tuesday in Colorado. She was 85, and had lung cancer.
What makes her death “06880”-worthy is that she graduated in the mid-1950s from the Bolton School for girls in Westport.
Her Washington Post obituary does not explain what she was doing in this area as a teenager. But she certainly led an interesting life. (Hat tip: Allen Siegert)
Pamela Turnure Timmins
The Connecticut Appalachian Mountain Club brings one of their most popular speakers to Saugatuck Congregational Church.
David Pressler will discuss “Exploring the Californian Anza — Borrego Desert and Beyond.” The event is May 9.
From snow-covered landscapes, high mountains, lakes and the Salton Sea, to dry desert vistas and unusual lava-formed rock landscapes (that were the “American West” of movies from the 1930s to the ’50s) — home once to dinosaurs, mammoths, giant turtles and other animals — it’s a vast, beautiful place.
Wine, dinner and dessert begins at 6:15 p.m. Pressler’s presentation is at 7:30. The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members (pay at the door). For more information, email email@example.com.
For a fact-filled summary of statistics, DataHaven provides a wealth of fascinating information.
The 98-page document — based on in-depth interviews with over 40,000 randomly selected adults in every Connecticut town — is a massive collaboration involving community organizations, healthcare providers and public health departments.
Among the details:
♦ A “Community Index” — including economic, health and educational measures, with scores from 0 to 1,000 — gives the US as a whole 695 points, Connecticut 774, Fairfield County 786, and Westport 983.
Scores for other area towns: Wilton (1,000), Darien (986), Weston (960), Fairfield (952), New Canaan (912). Norwalk (740) and Bridgeport (402).
♦ The average housing value in the US is $348,000; Connecticut, $350,000; Fairfield County, $547,000, and Westport $1.55 million.
TThis11,000-square foot, 6-bedroom, 7 1/2-bath property on 3.45 acres on Charcoal Hill Road is listed for $12.5 million.
♦ Among the 8 wealthiest Fairfield County towns, Westport had the highest Grade 3 SBAC ELA (assessment) pass rate (85%); the lowest rate of suspensions per 1,000 students (12), and tied with Fairfield and Trumbull for the highest graduation rate (97%).
♦ In percentage of “students of color” — non-white, that is — Westport reports 23% (1,213 out of 5,336). The highest percentage in Fairfield County is Bridgeport (90%); the statewide average is 51%.
♦ Of Westport’s 18,830 residents 25 and older, 79% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Just 2% have less than a high school diploma.
Staples High School is a step on the road to more education, for many graduates.
♦ Out of 27,147 Westporters, just 6 were reported as incarcerated.
There are dozens more pages of stats. Click here for the full report.
(Major funders of the report include Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, Yale New Haven Health, Health Improvement Alliance, Connecticut Health Foundation, Stamford Health, Hartford HealthCare, Nuvance Health, United Ways of Fairfield County and Western Connecticut, and the Housing Collective.)
(Health, education, real estate — “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
Common Ground — the Westport Library’s project to bring civility back to civic discourse — launches this Tuesday (May 2, 7 p.m.).
The event includes a conversation with former Congressman Roy Blunt — a Missouri Republican known for his bipartisan work — and attorney Steve Parrish, whose consulting firm specializes in corporate social responsibility and public affairs.
The aim of the initiative is to host positive, productive conversations on how we work together as a civil society, encouraging respectful, constructive dialogue while tackling challenging, controversial issues.
The Library leads the effort, with community leaders representing a wide array of constituents and views. Click here for more information.
Senator Roy Blunt
A follow-up on the Representative Town Meeting’s recent “Community Conversation on Affordable Housing” promises to be as important and illuminating as the first.
“Our Town’s Affordable Housing Needs and Solutions: What Westporters Should Know and How They Can Help” will be held — virtually — on May 17 (7:30 p.m.).
RTM moderator Jeff Wieser will lead a panel of men and women who know the topic intimately: State Senator Ceci Maher, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin, RTM Planning & Zoning Committee chair Matthew Mandell, and Westport Housing Authority director Carol Martin.
As with the first session — which drew 200 people — there will be plenty of time for public questions.
New construction at the Wilton Road/Kings Highway North intersection — opposed by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission, but allowed by a judge based on Connecticut’s 8-30g affordable housing regulation — is on many residents’ minds.
The final Westport-sponsored project in Lyman, Ukraine has been successfully completed.
Thanks to $252,000 raised — in just 3 weeks — over the holidays, Westport has helped our sister city in many ways. They include:
Repairing 6 apartment buildings, housing 132 people
Purchasing and delivering 2 patrol cars, and communications and other equipment, for the police department after their station was destroyed
Purchasing and delivering 2 trash trucks, to haul away debris and garbage that piled up during 5 months of Russian occupancy
Purchasing bulletproof vests and other protective gear for utility works, who restored electricity near the front lines
Delivering food kids to hundreds of family, including holiday meals for 1,000
Delivering Christmas presents for nearly 500 children
Supplying 2,940 families with seeds for their farms and gardens.
Non-monetary support included 200 cards and artwork, created by Bedford Middle School 7th graders.
There’s still time for other Westport students — and their families — to add to the packages, which will be delivered next month.
Letters, drawings and posters of encouragement can be dropped off on the front porch of 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore’s house: 2A Baker Avenue (between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue). Blue and yellow balloons (Ukrainian colors) are on the mailbox.
The deadline is May 5. Questions: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More monetary help is needed. A new drive will begin soon. In the meantime, watch “06880” for news of a giant “thank-you” party for Westport. Save the date now: Sunday, July 9.
PS: To donate now, click here (and select “Westport” from the “Where it is needed most” dropdown menu.
The other day Wynston Browne — the non-speaking autistic Staples High School student who has made spectacular progress since learning to communicate less than 2 years ago — wowed the crowd of 200 people at the Circle of Friends celebration.
The event — celebrating teenagers who model inclusion and service to the community, by providing social experiences for children and teens with special needs — featured Wynston and his communication partner Elisa Feinman.
He earned 2 standing ovations, as he described his journey. Once thought to be intellectually disabled, he now shares deep insights about himself and the world, with many people who are eager to listen.
Also honored: Westporter Stephen Schwartz. Jenn Falik served as MC; 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Circle of Friends founder and director Freida Hecht, and Caroline Caggiano and James Dobin Smith, co-presidents of Staples’ Circle of Friends Club, offered remarks.
Wynston Browne (center) with his brothers BK (Staples High Class of 2016 graduate) and Harrison, a Staples junior, at the Circle of Friends celebration.
Pierrepont – the small, non-traditional and very low-profile private school on Sylvan Road North at Post Road West — invites everyone to a big, non-traditional but very intriguing Arts Festival.
The event begins Thursday, May 4 (3 to 5:p.m.) with lectures on raga and contemporary opera, plus poetry. There’s a 5:30 p.m. reception, then at 7 p.m. music from Voices of Hartford and a raga ensemble.
Friday, May 5 includes a 4:30 Urban Bush Woman Workshop, 5 p.m. reception and 7:15 p.m. dance performance.
The 3-day festival concludes on Saturday, May 6 with 8:30 a.m. coffee, and 10 a.m. “Conversations in Art.”
Pierrepont School, on Sylvan Road North. The entrance faces Post Road West.
“The Gospel of Soul” comes to Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church tomorrow.
The Empire Voices — regular performers at the Metropolitan Opera, on Broadway, and back-up for artists like Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Pete Townshend and David Bowie — will take the Branson Hall “stage” at 5 p.m.
The church’s own Choristers will be make a guest appearance. A reception follows.
Organizers says, “This concert will fill your soul and have you on your feet.” Click here for tickets, and more information.
The Levy Family of Westport will lead the 18th Annual STAR Walk & Roll fundraiser on Sunday, May 7 at Sherwood Island State Park.
The Levys have supported STAR — the 70-year-old not-for-profit that serves over 700 people with disabilities, from birth to their senior years, and their families –since their daughter Ariel began attending its day program.
Over the past several years, the Levy Family’s “Team Ariel” has raised over $100,000 for STAR.
The Walk begins at 10 a.m. May 7 with a 1k route suitable for any ability (walkers, strollers, wheelchairs and baby joggers are welcome). There’s a continental breakfast, and family activities including live music, arts and crafts, Bollywood dancing, a photo booth, face-painting and food trucks. Click here to register for the walk, or donate to Team Ariel or other teams. To learn more about STAR, click here.
Ariel Levy (center) with her parents.
When you live on Myrtle Avenue, sooner or later nearly everyone in town passes your house.
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