Category Archives: Real estate

Glamping!

Harvey Weinstein wears an ankle bracelet — part of his $1 million bail deal.

He sold his Beachside Avenue estate. But — in an agreement with the new owner and a New York judge — he can stay there until February.

So what’s with the couple of dozen big white tents that suddenly appeared on his property, next to Burying Hill Beach?

Were they part of a news media blitz, sheltering reporters as they uncover a new scandal involving the now-disgraced Hollywood mogul?

Perhaps they’re part of anti-Weinstein protest?

Maybe a special Greens Farms/Bankside Farmers version of a Civil War reenactment?

(Photo/Kathleen Fazio)

Nope.

Turns out there’s a big wedding today, at another large Beachside mansion. The tents are for glampers.

Glamping — if you’re not cool enough to know — is “glamorous camping.”

You know: sleeping under the stars, in just a tent with a floor and queen bed, set up by workers, near other tents providing food, and plenty of high-end port-a-potties.

There are lights too, because that night sky can be so pesky.

The wedding guest glampers roughed it last night. They’ll be there tonight too, following today’s main event.

No word on whether they’ll hike down Beachside Avenue to the wedding, or be driven there in a glamping-style all-terrain limo.

(Want to know more about glamping? Click on the official website: Glamping.com.)

More Post Road Changes: Kowalsky Out, Assisted Living In

In the 1940s, Joe, Paul and Ed started Kowalsky Brothers Construction Company. Their headquarters was on the Post Road, where Westport Hardware is today.

In the 1960s they moved across the street, to the former site of Patio.com in the Fresh Market shopping center.

A decade later they moved again: down the Post Road, just east of what was then Parsell’s Garden Mart (and later, Geiger’s).

Kowalsky Brothers headquarters, 1141 Post Road East.

Kowalsky Construction — now owned by Jay and Edward, the 2nd generation — is once again relocating.

This time, it’s much further: to Stratford. They need more room than their current 5.4 acres. A spot near I-95 exit 30 is perfect.

Kowalsky — you don’t need the rest of the company name — has been part of the Westport community for nearly 80 years.

They built Parker Harding Plaza, behind Main Street. (Evan Harding — who helped plan the project — was friends with Joe Kowalsky.)

The company dredged and built Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club. Every year, they provide the trucks and manpower to prepare Compo Beach for the summer.

After Hurricane Sandy slammed Westport in 2012, CL&P trucks were scarce. But Kowalsky Brothers was out early, clearing Compo Beach and environs.

“We’ve done literally hundreds of projects — parking lots, roadways, you name it,” Jay says.

Kowalsky gives back plenty too. They provide many of the flatbed trucks that serve as floats in the Memorial Day parade. When floats were a thing at Staples High School Homecoming, they donated those too.

“We’ll still bid on jobs here,” Jay promises.

Right now, they’re excavating the new apartment complex across from Greens Farms Elementary School — next door to their soon-to-be-vacated headquarters.

Those apartments are a visible symbol of a changing Westport.

So is what will move in when Kowalsky moves out.

The new owner — LCB Senior Living of Boston — is building an assisted living facility.

It will be 3 stories high, 97,194 square feet, and have 96 rooms.

If you think this fills a need in Westport: You’re right. The most recent senior facility in town is Westport Rehabilitation Complex next to Kings Highway Elementary School, clear across town.

Originally called Mediplex, it opened in 1964.

Kowalsky Construction has always been a good neighbor. For years, they’ve maintained the handsome garden at the Sherwood Island Connector, around the corner from their headquarters.

Wilton Road/Kings Highway Apartment Proposal: It’s Back!

Just over a year ago, the state Appellate Court denied a plan to build a 7-story, 48-unit apartment complex at one of the busiest, most environmentally sensitive spots in town.

The ruling was based on grave concerns about safety, and damage to wetlands adjacent to the 1.16-acre parcel at 122 Wilton Road — right at the Kings Highway North intersection.

Undeterred, the owner has come up with a smaller plan. Garden Homes of Stamford wants to build a 19-unit, 3-story, 20,078-square foot rental complex. With 31 parking spots at grade, that would total 4 stories.

There would be 4 1-bedroom units, 8 2-bedroom units, and 7 with 3 bedrooms.

The site plan for 122 Wilton Road. Wilton Road is at the left; it intersects with Kings Highway North (Willows Medical Complex location) at the top.

The project is being submitted to the Planning & Zoning Commission with 2 affordability plans. The default sets aside 30% of the units as “affordable,” according to state 8-30g regulations. An alternative plan offers 60% as affordable — “if certain conditions are met by the P&Z and other Westport town bodies and staff.”

The goal of the project, Garden Homes says, is “to enable low and moderate income families with children the opportunity to live in Westport and have access to its excellent public schools and amenities.”

The developer submitted a traffic impact study. It included 2 proposed roadway improvements: lengthening the westbound left-turn lane for Kings Highway North by 50 feet, and adjusting the traffic signal at that intersection.

“With these improvements,” the report said, delays there “during the critical weekday peak hours will be shorter than those under the 2015 existing conditions.”

Traffic concerns were only part of the opposition to Garden Homes’ previous proposal.

Another reason was the location: abutting the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

Safety was another major issue. Westport Fire Department officials worried about access to the site.

Former fire chief Andrew Kingsbury reviewed the new proposals. Many concerns remain.

Access is still a major issue: The emergency fire lane is not wide enough, has a tight turning radius, and can only be approached from the south. The access driveway on the east side is also too tight to accommodate Westport’s aerial apparatus.

Kingsbury adds that congestion in the area during rush hour hampers firefighting efforts.

The developer no doubt hopes that a scaled-down version of the previous proposal — and inclusion of 8-30g housing — will carry the day.

“Garden Homes” is a bucolic-sounding name. But I’m betting the reception to this new proposal will not be all peaches and cream.

(Hat tip: Wendy Pieper)

Developer Withdraws Morningside South Demolition Applications

The Westport Historic District Commission has a full agenda for next Tuesday’s public meeting (August 14, Town Hall, 7 p.m.).

They’ll hear a request by the Westport Historical Society to place a commemorative plaque in a new downtown area — the former site of a largely black boardinghouse to acknowledge the contributions made by African Americans in Westport.

They’ll talk about demolition permits for Bulkley Avenue South, North Main Street, Bayberry Lane, High Point Road, Island Way and Compo Road South.

But they won’t discuss the proposed — and very controversial — demolition of 20 and 26 Morningside Drive South.

Those are the sites of an 1853 house, and nearby studio and shed, formerly owned and used by noted artists Walter and Naiad Einsel.

As reported on “06880” earlier this month, a long battle pitted a developer against preservationists.

Now the battle has halted. Tuesday’s HDC agenda — published yesterday — says that all 3 demolition proposals were “withdrawn by applicant.”

Somehow though, this does not seem like the end of the war.

Walter and Naiad Einsel’s South Morningside Drive house.

Developer, Preservationists Battle Over Artists’ Property On Morningside Drive

The last time I wrote about Walter and Naiad Einsel was in 2016. The story was about their estate sale. Collectors flocked from many states to the 1853 Victorian farmhouse that for over 60 years had been home to the husband-and-wife artists. Both were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Walter and Naiad Einsel

Walter and Naiad Einsel

The couple were Westport icons. They worked together and independently on book and magazine illustrations, posters, ads and package designs.

They were the first married couple to create stamp designs for the US Postal Service. They also produced 55 figures — with intricate details and moving parts — for Epcot Center.

And they were important members of Westport’s arts community. Naiad designed our Bicentennial Quilt, sewn by 33 women and on display in Town Hall since 1976. She earned a Westport Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

Most importantly for this follow-up piece: In 2006 the Einsels received a Preservation Award for their South Morningside Drive home.

Now, in 2018, that house may not be preserved much longer.

In fact, a demolition permit has just been filed for the entire property.

As far back as 2007, Naiad was thinking about what would happen after her death (Walter passed away in 1998). Morley Boyd — then chair of the Westport Historic District Commission — spent plenty of time on her porch, discussing her vision for the future.

Ultimately, Naiad applied for a Local Historic District designation for her 2 contiguous properties. She and Walter had previously subdivided, facing the possibility that they might have to sell 1 lot — a square one, in front of Walter’s gallery — to fund their retirement.

Walter and Naiad Einsel’s South Morningside Drive house.

The Historic District Commission supported the designation. They hired a professional architectural historian to document the property’s history, and assess the structures’ architectural integrity.

That report cited the historic and cultural heritage of the structures, while noting that the site reflected the rich agricultural history of Greens Farms — and represented fast-disappearing open space.

Naiad died in April of 2016. The property was marketed as sub-dividable, and sold to a developer.

The development company redrew the lot lines, extending 20 Morningside Drive South all the way back to wetlands. The firm then submitted a Certificate of Appropriateness application to the HDC, to build a house at #20. Preservationists and historians called the design “stylistically inappropriate,” and warned it would  damage the historic integrity of the structures and their setting.

The Commission denied the request, citing historic open space and farmland as additional considerations. In response, the developer sued the town of Westport.

In the late 1960s, Naiad Einsel’s “Save Cockenoe Now” posters were seen everywhere in town.. Eventually, Cockenoe Island was saved: a nuclear power plant was never built there.

Next, the developer submitted plans to subdivide 26 Morningside South. Two new houses would be stuffed around the historic building.

The Historic District Commission — with only advisory powers — voted unanimously against recommending approval of the subdivision application. They sent their comments to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The developer responded with a vague commitment to preserve the historic structures.

Assistant town attorney Eileen Flug offered her opinion: Open space and historic significance may be considered by the P&Z when weighing a plan to sub-divide.

The Greens Farms Association weighed in too. They said that the proposed subdivision of #26 — coupled with the development proposed for #20 — “drastically degrades if not destroys the district.”

They added: “We cannot imagine that crowding out one of the few remaining mid-19th century farmhouses in the town of Westport with 4 new homes aligns with town guidelines in favor of open space and historic preservation.”

The P&Z voted down — with only 1 abstention — the request to subdivide.

Which brings us to the present. Demolition permits have been requested for all 3 structures on the property: the 1853 farmhouse, a small barn that is believed to date to the same period, and Walter Einsel’s culturally significant barn-style studio.

Demolition would allow for “new construction.”

One of the demolition notices on the former Einsel property.

Neighbors, artists and others throughout town wonder: Who would buy an entire Local Historic District, knowing it had been the home of 2 beloved Westport artists, understanding all the regulations that apply —  then set about surrounding it all with other inappropriate buildings?

And — when that doesn’t work — destroy it all. Literally.

“The preservation of these structures and their setting is ensured by an ordinance enacted by the RTM,” Boyd says.

“That’s because it was determined by experts that the conservation of this collection of historic resources — together with their original setting — was in the public interest. And because the property owner at that time (Naiad Einsel) wanted it that way.”

I called Fred Ury — attorney for Morningside Drive Homes LLC, the Greenwich-based entity associated with the properties.

Citing ongoing litigation, he said he could not comment.

(Hat tip: Greens Farms Association and president Art Schoeller)

1177 Post Road East Meets The Beach

Westporters have watched with interest as 1177 Post Road East — the new 4-story, 94-unit apartment complex — nears completion.

It’s hard to miss: It takes up much of the land between North Morningside and North Turkey Hill, directly opposiste Greens Farms Elementary School.

Which means it’s nowhere near the water.

An artist’s rendering of the 4-story rental property at 1177 Post Road East.

That’s not stopping its marketing company.

A website showing off the property is — let’s say, “interesting.”

The headline reads “11/77 Greens Farms” (or perhaps “Greens 11/77 Farms” — it’s hard tell).

Technically of course the building is not in Greens Farms. The Post Road is the dividing line. Children moving into the new apartments will go to Long Lots Elementary School, not Greens Farms.

But okay, the Greens Farms neighborhood starts right across the street. Perhaps that’s why the marketing materials boast of “a coastal enclave rich with history and character.”

Without mentioning it by name, the website touts “Westport’s oldest neighborhood, lined with old stone walls weaving between pre-war colonial homes and beautiful estates, vast open meadows and saltwater marshland.”

There are no architect’s renderings of what the apartment building will look like.

There are, however, beautiful photos of:

  • A stand-up paddleboarder
  • Sherwood Mill Pond
  • A beautiful bedroom, and
  • What appears to be a woman wearing a comfy fall sweater.

A screenshot from the marketing website.

Besides “11/77,” there is one nod to the Post Road. It’s this, tucked away in a headline that once again references the water (the closest beach is Sherwood Island — 1.9 miles away, according to Google Maps):

“Combining Westport’s coastal charm with the convenience of shops, restaurants and services of the Post Road.”

The website says that studio apartments rent “from the $2000s,” while 1-bedrooms begin at $2,850. Extended-stay options are available for business travelers.

(Of the 94 units, 29 — 30% — are considered “affordable” under state 8-30g regulations.)

Want to know more? Or just curious how “11/77 Post Road” is being marketed to the world? Click here!

(Hat tip: Greens Farms Association and president Art Schoeller)

81-Unit Housing Application Withdrawn; Aquarion Meeting Still On

You know that controversial plan to build 81 units of housing on the small parcel of land between Post Road West, Lincoln Street and Cross Street? The one that was going to draw a huge crowd to tonight’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting?

It’s off the table — for now.

Cross Street LLC has withdrawn its site plan application. P&Z director Mary Young said it will be resubmitted. Public hearings will begin again September 6.

But there’s still plenty of action at Town Hall tonight. The P&Z meeting has been switched to Room 201/201A.

Moving into the auditorium — also at 7 p.m. — is a Public Utilities Regulatory Authority public hearing.

The topic: Aquarion’s proposal to build 2 large water tanks on North Avenue.

 

And The Most Affordable Beach Town In The US Is …

… Westport.

No, not the one in Massachusetts. Or Washington state.

Yes, the one in Connecticut.

That’s not me talking.

It’s not the Westport (and Weston) Chamber of Commerce.

It’s WNBC. Channel 4.

Before you go all #FakeNews, read what the tri-state TV station had to say:

If you want beachfront property with oceans views, forget Florida or Hawaii — try Westport, Connecticut instead.

Yes, Westport.

The affluent Connecticut town actually ranks as the most affordable ocean-facing beach town in America, according to a new WalletHub survey released Wednesday.

This is the photo WNBC used to illustrate its story on Westport’s spectacular beach town ranking score. Based on the waves, it was not taken anywhere near Compo Beach.

The study compared 161 ocean-adjacent cities in 6 different categories, and Westport ranked 1st for affordability (calculated primarily by housing costs, household income and property taxes).

It also ranked 1st for education and health, which was based on the quality of the school system and local hospitals.

Overall the town ranked 9th, making it the only Top 10 city not located in California, Florida or Hawaii.

WNBC did not provide a link to the survey — unless you clicked on the one labeled “America’s Worst Ocean Beach Town To Live In Is In NY,”* which (with 1 more click) did lead to “Best Ocean Beach Towns.”

In addition to learning that we live on “the ocean,” the survey shows that our #9 score lands us just above Key West (!) in the overall rankings that combine affordability, weather, safety and economy.

But we are indeed the most affordable beach town — #1, Numero Uno, the Big Kahuna** — on the affordability index.

A typical home in the very affordable beach town of Westport. It was listed at a mere $8,850,000.

We lose points for the weather (duh). Perhaps that’s why we trail (in order, from #8 to #1) Kihei, Hawaii; Boca Raton, Florida; Santa Monica, California; St. Augustine Florida; Mill Valley, California; Sarasota, Florida; Naples, Florida, and the absolute bestest beach town in the entire USA, Lahaina, Hawaii.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Mill Valley is even less on “the ocean” than we are.

But who you gonna believe: National Geographic or WalletHub?

(Click here for the full survey. Then print it out and save it, for the next town budget discussion.) 

*It’s Shirley, Long Island

**Appropriate, considering that 2 of the Top 10 Beach Towns are in Hawaii.

We do lose points for weather. (Photo/Samuel Wang)

(Hat tips: Rick Leonard and Hedi Lieberman)

Beltas’ Plan: Keep Part Of Family Farm

Five years ago, I wrote about Belta’s Farm.

My story began:

Bayberry Lane is like many Westport streets. There’s a mix of homes: handsome converted barns; stately Colonials; 1950s split-levels; modern, multi-gabled McMansions.

Nothing — not a sign or a peek through the trees — indicates that the driveway at #128 leads to a 23–plus-acre farm.

It could be Westport’s best-kept secret: There’s a working farm a few yards from the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

Four generations of Beltas — the farm’s founding family — live there. Dina is the widow of Jimmy Belta, who first farmed the land in 1946. Greg is her son. His children and grandchildren are there too.

How much longer, though, is uncertain.

An aerial view of Belta’s Farm from several years ago shows fields, greenhouses, a compost pile (near the top), and the family’s two homes (bottom).

Five years later, the farm — which has supplied Stew Leonard’s for decades, and since 2012 offers fresh produce and eggs through Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions — has edged closer to its next chapter.

The Belta family cares deeply for its farm, and the neighborhood. As Westport — and their lives — change, they’ve worked hard to come up with a plan they believe will enhance the area, while helping settle their patriarch’s estate.

On July 26, they’ll present a proposal for a text amendment to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

They hope to create an Agricultural Heritage Overlay District. It will enable them to build 9 single-family homes, on 1-acre lots — and retain 8 acres of the property for use as a working farm.

Four generations of Beltas would be able to stay on the land.

A site plan for the proposed Agricultural Heritage Overlay District.

Over the years — especially after the death of Jimmy Belta in 2012 at age 88 (a farmer to the end) — many developers have approached the family. Each time, they said no. The plans were not in keeping with the Beltas’ concept for the future of their farm and homestead.

The Agricultural Heritage Overlay District would, they say:

  • Allow the family to retain its 2 primary residences, both over 50 years old
  • Retain 8 acres of rich farm land in perpetuity, growing the same amount of produce as they currently sell at their farm stand
  • Develop 9 additional building lots that complement the farm property
  • Provide a buffer area with neighboring properties, and preserve the farm’s natural beauty.

Current zoning regulations permit 2-acre lot subdivisions. So they could sell the entire property, to be filled completely with homes.

The Beltas’ say their proposal is “a unique land use concept that will enhance the surrounding neighborhood.”

Belta’s Farm Stand provides great produce to Bayberry Lane and beyond.

For over 70 years, the Beltas have been good neighbors — and great providers of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to Bayberry Lane and beyond.

They no longer raise poultry and livestock there. The slaughterhouse is gone. Times change.

This time, they’re asking the town to help them move forward.

Without leaving their farm behind.

The greenhouse and outbuildings, today.

 

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.