Category Archives: Real estate

New Daycare Coming To Saugatuck

Lost amid last night’s Planning & Zoning Commission approvals of 9 housing units at 500 Main Street, and a Post Road East dispensary, was one other item.

The board unanimously passed a special permit and site plan for a Goddard School daycare center and outdoor playground at 20 Saugatuck Avenue.

That’s the former location of AAA, a quick-mart and gym, among other tenants. It’s since been upgraded, but has stood vacant for a while.

This morning — after the vote — a few neighbors voiced concern about traffic and noise.

Of course, a previous plan for the site — ultimately withdrawn — was a Tesla service center.

20 Saugatuck Avenue is currently vacant.

P&Z Okays 500 Main Street, 1 Dispensary

Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission gave thumb’s-up last night to 2 hotly debated proposals.

By a 5-2 vote, the board approved 9 housing units at 500 Main Street (the old Daybreak Nurseries 2.18-acre site near Merritt Parkway Exit 42).

In a scaled-down version of its original plan, Able Construction will be able to build 2 2-family homes, and 5 1-family homes. All will be restricted to owners 55 and over.

The Planning & Zoning Commission approved 9 housing units for this site.

Late in the evening, the P&Z voted 4-2 (1 abstention) to allow a medical marijuana dispensary at 1460 Post Road East. The spot — around the shopping center corner from the old Pier 1 Imports — was most recently occupied by Coco Spa.

The applicant — Bluepoint Wellness — must still be approved by Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection.

If approved by the state, this will be the site of Westport’s only medical marijuana dispensary.

The P&Z denied 4 other medical marijuana proposals, all on the Post Road: the former Bertucci’s restaurant; a site near the Southport border (Stanton Miles/Jennifer Furniture); the old DXL menswear/Blockbuster store, and the Academy of Dance building.

Reasons for those denials included safety, traffic, lack of parking and location relative to zoning regulations.

P&Z Decision Likely On Medical Marijuana and Daybreak Property; No Public Testimony Tonight

Planning and Zoning director Mary Young wants “06880” readers to know: Decisions will likely be rendered by the Planning and Zoning Commission tonight at Town Hall, on applications to locate medical marijuana dispensary facilities in town.

Public hearings have been closed, so no more public testimony will be heard.

However, tonight’s meeting is public. It will be televised on Channel 79 (Cablevision) and Channel 6020 (Frontier). It will also be livestreamed at www.westportct.gov tomorrow, beginning at 7 p.m.

Five applicants have proposed medical marijuana dispensaries in Westport.  Zoning regulations adopted in 2017 authorize the P&Z to approve up to 2 locations. However, the Commission is not required to approve any.

A decision on 500 Main Street (former Daybreak Nurseries) is also anticipated at tonight’s meeting. Peter Greenberg of Able Construction returned this  spring with a new application for consideration by the P&Z to construct 9 housing units: 2 two-family dwellings and 4 one-family dwelling units, on the 2.18-acre site. All are age-restricted (55 and over).

The project was reduced in scale, compared to an application denied earlier this year by the Commission. That public hearing has also been closed, so no testimony may be received.

The former Daybreak Nurseries, at 500 Main Street.

Westport Firefighter: “Every Neighborhood Deserves To Be Safe”

Some of us look at Westport’s new, large homes and say “oh no!”

Others say “aaah!”

Nick Marsan sees them and thinks “uh oh!”

He’s a Westport firefighter. He knows that — with their open floor plan — new construction burns faster than old.

He also knows that — with just 2 men assigned to one engine in both the Greens Farms and Coleytown fire stations — the situation is dire.

Two men, one engine at the Greens Farms fire station.

Marsan is also president of Westport Uniformed Firefighters IAFF Local 1081.

So he’s decided to speak out.

“Family safety is our number one priority,” he says. “Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point where we can no longer protect you in the way you deserve.”

A 2-person engine crew has limited responses, Marsan says. They can choose to rescue a trapped family member — no easy task, in a large house. Or they can attempt to extinguish the fire.

Marsan says national standards recommend 4 firefighters per engine, to safely battle a house fire in a 2,200 square foot residence.

Westport’s average home size is 5,500 square feet, Marsan notes. He’s asking for only 3 firefighters.

The issue dates back to 2007, he says. Town officials agreed then to 3 firefighters per truck.

But the recession hit. Faced with budget choices, politicians pulled back to 2 per truck — and changed post-retirement benefits for new hires.

The new pension plan will save Westport $40 million over the next 20 years, Marsan says.

So, he believes, “now is the time to put 3 people  on every truck, in every station. The savings are there.”

Every Westporter, he adds — regardless of where in town they live — “deserves a safe and effective response.”

The Westport Fire Department “will continue to do a very professional and dedicated job,” Marsan says.

“We just want as much safety as possible — for Westporters, ourselves, and our own families.”

Soundview Home Goes Down

One of the most recognizable houses on Soundview Drive has met its end.

The longtime home of Toni Cunningham — for decades a moving force behind the Compo Beach Improvement Association — was demolished today.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Its other claim to fame: It was the only house with a driveway actually on Soundview Drive.

Every other home on the beach exit road is accessed by a side street.

The Fall Of The House(s) Of Harvey Weinstein

Yesterday, Harvey Weinstein went down to Manhattan Criminal Court, and was arrested on sexual assault charges.

Soon, several of his former Westport homes will go down too.

Applications to demolish the properties at 26 and 28 Beachside Avenue — adjacent to Burying Hill Beach — have been filed with the town.

The 8,896-square foot home, and 2 other houses, were sold in February to Andrew Bentley, for $16 million. He already owns several other properties on Beachside.

In 2012, Weinstein’s main house was the site of a fundraiser for the re-election of President Obama. Among the guests joining the president at the $38,500-per-person event: Anne Hathaway, Aaron Sorkin, Anna Wintour, Joanne Woodward, Jerry Springer and Governor Malloy.

Bentley told “06880”: “We have engaged the Westport-based, world-class architectural firm of Roger Ferris + Partners to design a house for the property. With their local roots and global vision, we are confident they will produce something that is right for the location.”

The presidential motorcade at Harvey Weinstein’s Beachside Avenue house, in 2012. (Photo/White House pool, courtesy of WestportNow)

[OPINION] Developer: In Wake Of Hiawatha Court Decision, We Plan 187 Units

In the wake of a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Westport grant conditional approval for a sewer line extension — the first step toward construction of a large housing complex on Hiawatha Lane, off Saugatuck Avenue next to I-95 Exit 17 — the developer in the lawsuit has issued a press release.

Summit Development says:

A 14-year effor to create a moderate-income housing community in the Town of Westport took a major step forward after a State Superior Court judge ordered the town to grant a conditional approval for a sewer line extension to serve proposed new development on Hiawatha Lane in the Saugatuck neighborhood.

In a ruling issued May 7, Judge Kenneth Shluger ordered the town to extend an existing municipal sewer line 1600 feet to serve the proposed development. The judge said the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority has abused its discretion by delaying the extension. The town’s 3-member governing Board of Selectmen serves as the commissioners of the Authority.

The town has maintained that it could not consider extending the sewer because a failing sewer line and related pumping station that would serve the site are inadequate to handle the additional sewage effluent the new housing would generate, and further said that an existing town policy precluded it from issuing conditional approvals.

The developer, Summit Saugatuck LLC of Southport has maintained since early 2016, when it negotiated a joint venture agreement with the Westport Housing Authority to build 155 units, that the town was not only authorized but obligated to issue a sewer extension approval conditioned upon the completion of the sewer and pump station upgrades.

In 2016, the Public Works Department set the schedule for the upgrades, which are now nearing completion. Summit’s property met all the criteria for receiving sewer service, including being within the Sewer District, and that the town’s sewage treatment plant having ample capacity.

Summit’s attorney, Timothy Hollister, said the judge’s decision supports Summit’s position that the town’s interests are fully protected by granting the extension conditioned on the upgrade being completed, and that the town produced no evidence that it has a long-standing policy against issuing conditional approvals. “There is no such policy,” he said.

Felix Charney, president of Summit Development, said: “The judge found that the town has been using the sewer system upgrade as a way of delaying creation of the moderate-income housing that is so desperately needed in Westport. In 2016, the town encouraged us to partner with the Westport Housing Authority and we came up with a great plan for 155 units including 70 moderate-income units. But when we presented the very plan the town had encouraged, the Town Board dropped its support and hid behind the sewer line issue as the way of blocking the development. Now, with the Housing Authority having lost its financing opportunity, we are proceeding on our own.”

Summit’s new proposal: 187 units.

Summit’s revised plan will feature 187 studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with 30 percent for moderate income households having maximum rent and household income restrictions for 40 years. The 8-acre site is centrally located with access to local stores, restaurants and services.  The community will be a transit oriented development (TOD), as it is within easy walking distance of the Saugatuck train station.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe has been quoted saying that the court decision will have “very little practical impact on the proposed project’s timetable.”

Charney responds: “For years we have offered compromises, all of which have been rebuffed by the town. We have a great location near the train station, are in a neighborhood where there are other multi-family apartments and are using a classic New England-style architecture that fits beautifully within the community. The real question boils down to whether Westport wants to be an inclusive or an exclusive community?”

He said Summit had offered the town a series of smaller proposals including the one in partnership with the Westport Housing Authority, but the town chose to not commit.“They left us no alternative but to turn to the courts.”

Carol Martin, executive director of the Westport Housing Authority, said the authority supports the private sector developing housing in the town. “We have reached the point where we are no longer accepting additional applicants signing up with us. With approximately 1,000 names already on the list, there’s no point. We applaud private sector developers like Summit who are willing to step in and help to address the huge need we have in Westport.”

Today, Westport’s Real Estate Market Changed. Forever.

It’s a typical Westport real estate listing:

“5 beds, 4.5 baths in 4200 sq ft on a quiet cul de sac street close to train, shopping, restaurants in a town that offers a progressive lifestyle.”

5 Ridgewood Lane is off North Kings Highway, between Wilton Road and Old Hill.

But the rest of the write-up for the 5 Ridgewood Lane home is unlike anything you’ve ever read:

Currently accepting CRYPTOCURRENCY. Climb into your very own Crypto Cryb in NYC’s backyard and diversify your portfolio. Blockchain Homes presents its first residential property to be offered for purchase in cryptocurrency. Bring your Bit Coin or Etherum to the one and only Westport, Connecticut modern farmhouse designed and inspired by the crypto climate of a cutting edge lifestyle…. Be the first to make a Blockchain Home purchase.

So how much does it cost?

“250BTC or 3,030ETH.”

That sound you just heard is thousands of local realtors going, “Oh. My. God.”

(Click here for the full New York Times listing. Hat tip: Peter Blau)

Judge Rules Against Town In Hiawatha Sewer Case

Development of multi-family housing in Saugatuck moved one step closer to reality yesterday.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Schluger announced his ruling: The town should grant an application to extend the town sewer, to serve a proposed development on Hiawatha Lane.

Two years ago, Summit Development proposed building 155 rental units on 5.34 acres. Hiawatha Lane is currently a narrow road accessible by West Ferry Lane off Saugatuck Avenue, between I-95 exit 17 and the railroad station parking lot.

Hiawatha Lane includes many rental properties — and some of the lowest housing prices in Westport. The land was originally developed to house immigrant workers who built the railroad.

Housing would include 85 market-rate units, and 70 “affordable” units, as defined by Connecticut’s 8-30 g regulation.

A rendering of the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

The court ruled that the extension request should be granted, subject to a condition that a construction permit not be issued until repair work to the force main under the Saugatuck River, and Pump Station #2, was complete. The Public Works Department anticipates construction will be done by late summer.

The Westport Board of Selectmen — acting in their capacity as the Westport Pollution Control Authority — had denied one request for the sewer extension because repair work had not yet begun, and a second request because construction was not yet finished.

The court said that the WPCA could in fact grant conditional approval, provided no work begins until the repair work is done.

Hiawatha Lane is a narrow street, filled with homes that are modest by Westport standards. It’s accessible only via West Ferry Lane off Saugatuck Avenue, next to the I-95 eastbound entrance/exit ramp.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe said, “I am disappointed by the decision. But even if the court had ruled in the town’s favor, the WPCA would have no discretion to deny Summit’s application after the improvements and repairs … were complete and certified. Ultimately, the court’s decision will have very little practical impact on the proposed project’s timetable.”

23 Years At 5 Viking Green

Matt Yemma

Matt Yemma moved to Westport in elementary school. He graduated from Staples High School in 2002. He ran cross country and indoor and outdoor track, and was inspired by English teachers like Gerry Kuroghlian and Todd Kalif. 

He majored in writing at the University of Redlands. Yemma is currently the founder and managing partner of Endeavor Communications, a public relations consulting firm specializing in financial and legal services clients. He writes:

“Come on Reggie. Let’s play football in the living room!” I remember saying.

It was the first night we were staying in the Westport house, in the fall of 1995. We had just moved from Evanston, outside of Chicago, where we had a nice house, but nothing quite as big as our new Westport house – and with no furniture yet in the house it felt cavernous. I found a football somewhere amongst our luggage and bribed my 8-year-old sister into a game in the living room. We thought we were in trouble when our father stumbled upon our game, but luckily, he just smiled and joined in.

That same cavernous living room, with the high vaulted ceilings and the large fireplace set in granite, would soon be filled with rugs and furniture and family pictures and happy memories. That living room saw more than its share of Chrismukkah dinners, nights decorating the Christmas tree – and also lighting the menorah because we are a multicultural family.

5 Viking Green

Plus birthday parties, family celebrations, bar and bat Mitzvah brunches, dinner parties, nights hanging by the fire with the dogs and friends, Staples pasta dinners, countless high school and college parties, even Reggie’s engagement party just a few years ago.

Over 23 years, that house shared in our happiness and our heartbreak – like when we sat shiva after our grandmother passed away in 2010, or when we celebrated when I got into the college I so desperately wanted to get into in 2002. Or when I returned home after losing my job during the financial crisis, feeling heartbroken, only to start my own business out of the basement of that house.

Probably the best feature of 5 Viking Green is the back deck. A 2-tiered outdoor wood deck overlooks the river and forest. In the warmer months the gurgle of the river and the sounds of the birds in the trees make it an excellent place to grill something delicious and get a fire going in the chimney.

The great deck

The forest is always full of life – deer, ducks and great blue herons in the river. An endless supply of chipmunks and squirrels kept the dogs entertained. We often joked about the ongoing war between the dogs and chipmunks. Let’s just say the chipmunk population took a hit every spring and summer.

Best of all was the family of Cooper’s hawks that ruled the trees in that forest. They’d occasionally land on the deck. or closer to the house. One summer we had a young family nesting somewhere near the house. We’d often sight the parents and babies diving down after a rabbit or smaller bird. Wild turkeys were also a common sight, funnily enough usually around Thanksgiving.

Nature, seen from 5 Viking Green.

That deck knows more of my secrets than it probably should. Like the time friends and I set off 4th of July fireworks from there, and nearly set it on fire. Or the time during a lifeguard party I jumped off the side of the deck to avoid being hit with a water balloon, and luckily just sprained my knee.

Or the time we sat on the deck discussing our grandmother’s funeral, or my parents’ plans to move on from the house, or when I broke up with a girlfriend and felt my heart shatter into a million little pieces. Thankfully, that deck always knew how to help heal broken hearts.

As we pack up the house now that it’s sold, I almost feel a constant video montage of all my memories at 5 Viking Green playing in my head. My parents have mixed feelings, they say – good memories but time to move on to their third act. They are trading the big Westport house for a 2-bedroom metro-chic apartment in downtown Denver.

All of us will miss this house. We’ll miss the late-night summer basketball we played in the driveway under the lights, and martinis on the deck and big roaring fires during blizzards. But we’ll cherish our memories, knowing that a family with young children starts a new act at 5 Viking Green.

Matt Yemma (2nd from left) and his family (from left): Andy, Melanie, Reggie and Eileen Ogintz.