Category Archives: Real estate

2 More P&Z Members Resign

Chip Stephens’ resignation last night from the Planning & Zoning Commission surprised many Westporters. The 3-term member — and native Westporter — has taken a new full-time job in Maine.

But his resignation was bracketed by 2 others. Al Gratrix resigned hours earlier, after 7 years as a full commissioner, and the past 4 as an alternate.

This afternoon, former chair and 13-year member Cathy Walsh submitted hers too. 

All 3 are Republicans. Jon Olefson is the lone Republican remaining, on what should be a 7-member board. By statute, the remaining commissioners choose the trio’s replacement. All must be registered Republicans.

Today, Stephens offers these tributes to his fellow former P&Z members. 

Al is the poster boy; the jack of all trades. He brought wisdom, understanding and service to the commission.

He knows the regulations and how they related to the applications at hand. He is well versed in all building technicalities, codes and everything else, and he gave his wisdom and guidance to all his fellow members.

From left: Al Gratrix, Cathy Walsh, Chip Stephens.

Additionally, he co-chaired the Enforcement Sub-Committee that dealt with all types of offenses and issues that went against the rules that 95 percent of time are followed, but when broken must be addressed, fixed or handed to lawyers.

Al also held a volunteer position on the Tree Board for 3 years. He earned expertise as a Trumbull firefighter and policeman, a part-time builder, and through various degrees in biochemistry and environmental biology.

Al initiated the Westport Evergreen Land Initiative, which helped create the beautiful Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum adjacent to Earthplace.

Al and his vast knowledge of planning, zoning, conversation and landscaping will be sorely missed by the commission, the staff and most of all Westport. Please thank Al for his service. And if you see his wife Nancy Austin around town, thank her for her patience and support of his time spent for our town.

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Cathy, meanwhile, was the non-partisan leader as chair, and even more so when not in her official role.

She is smart, savvy, and always had her say, win or lose (she did not lose very often).

She led the commission on town character, local land knowledge, landscaping and planning initiatives that faced almost every submission, study or issue that came up.

Cathy, along with Al, Jack Whittle and I, spearheaded the Save Baron’s South open space project. She created over 6 open space park designations, maintaining sparse valuable open land in Westport for all.

Cathy Walsh and Chip Stephens, at a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.

She got her smarts and strengths from her upbringing in Pennsylvania steel country, and her hard-driving success trading steel as a profession.

Her local smarts come from her relationships and many friends in Westport and statewide. Fairness and firmness is always Cathy’s modus operandi.

Although she is thorough and fair in her deliberations and decisions, you don’t want to mess or cross Cathy.

On her soft side, Cathy is a huge proponent of outdoor dining and dancing events.

Cathy co-chaired the landscape committee with Al Gratrix, sat on the Downtown Plan Committee, the Saugatuck Transit District Plan Committee, and dozens of other plans and committees. She always won the most votes when she ran.

Westport will be hard pressed to replace Cathy. Hopefully she will stick around and help newbies as they come aboard. After all, she still has her full-time steel business, and 2 daughters and their 6 kids.

You better thank Cathy when you see her around town!

Belta’s Farm Subdivision Preserves Open Space

It’s one of Westport’s best-kept secrets: a working farm a few yards from the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

Since 1946, 4 generations of Beltas have worked the land. Gone are the poultry,  livestock and slaughterhouse. The farm no longer supplies Stew Leonard’s with a ton of tomatoes a day, as it did in the 1970s.

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

But for over 70 years the Beltas have been good neighbors — and great providers of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to the neighborhood, plus any other Westporters savvy enough to stop at their stand.

Belta’s Farm Stand, right on the road.

Last week, the Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved a plan to subdivide Belta’s Farm into 9 building lots.

The 23-acre site will be developed as an Open Space subdivision. P&Z regulations permit a reduction in lot size, in exchange for land used as open space.

The open space set-aside totals almost 5 acres of the site. Two of the newly approved building lots will be retained by the Belta family, along with existing residential structures.

A proposed new Beltas Farm Road — without an apostrophe, at the request of emergency services — will extend nearly 1,000 feet from Bayberry Lane. It will be served by 2 fire hydrants, and landscaped with 20 shade trees.

The 23-acre Belta’s Farm, at 126 and 128 Bayberry Lane, is outlined in red. Bayberyy, (dark on the left), is partially obscured by trees.

An earlier subdivision plan was denied by P&Z in 2019. It proposed more dwelling units per acre than currently allowed, an agriculture site for farming in lieu of open space, and a seasonal farm stand.

The Belta siblings said, “As we transition to the enjoyment of our retirement years, the time has come to provide for a zoning-compliant and environmentally sensitive development of our property for single family homes.

“We could not be happier with this outcome. It will provide almost 5 acres of open space and conservation easements on over 2 additional acres of the property.

“Our family plans to retain 2 lots for our use. We are very pleased about this. It is good to know that the Beltas can remain a presence on the property and in Westport, as we have for over three-quarters of a century.”

There is no timetable yet for site development.

Connie and Greg Belta, in the field in 2013.

Friday Flashback #237

As the real estate market continues to sizzle, Seth Schachter sends a couple of reminders that Westport has long been a favored destination.

And that realtors have long used lots of prose to sell homes.

The September 1925 edition of “Country Life” noted that “Amid century old trees … there is an old Colonial home available to him who seeks the peace and seclusion of the old order, together with the improvements of the present day.”

The 9-room, 2-bath (!) house featured old-fashioned fireplaces. However, it was also “equipped with electricity.”

The property included a large barn, old smokehouse and trout stream. Plus, of course, 49 acres of woodland and open fields.

All yours, for just $27,500.

Much has changed in the past 96 years. For example, Westport is now further from Grand Central than 75 minutes.

A second ad, also from “Country Life,” highlighted a “Charming Island Estate in the exclusive residence colony at Green’s Farms, Connecticut.”

The 35-acre waterfront property boasted 2 houses, “large stone garage with housekeeping apartments for chauffeur and gardener,” a stable, large poultry plant, piggery, well-stocked aviary, greenhouse and boathouse; beautiful sunken garden, extensive vegetable garden, and broad, sweeping lawns, meadows and wooded land.

The main house, with 6 mater bedrooms, had 4 servants’ rooms (in a separate wing). The smaller included 3 master sleeping rooms, plus double maids’ rooms.

The clincher: “Owner wiling to divide if required.’

Roundup: Oystercatchers, Drive-In Concerts, Clear Cutting …

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Tina Green reports that the American oystercatcher pair has returned to Compo Beach for the season.

“Their loud. distinctive calls announced their early morning arrival for all to hear yesterday,” she says.

“No doubt they will try to nest again in the same area of the beach just north of the cannons. The pair successfully raised and fledged 3 juvenile birds last year, due in part to the beach being closed because of COVID. They had the beach to themselves until May, along with the piping plovers.

“Compo visitors — especially those with dogs — should keep away from the oystercatchers and give them some space. Westporters are very fortunate to have a front row seat to watch nature up close and personal in our hometown.

American oystercatchers at Compo Beach yesterday. (Photo/Tina Green)

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Besides the oystercatchers, there’s another returnee to Westport: drive-in concerts.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library sponsor 2 next month. The site is the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Sophie B Hawkins — a great talent, and Westport resident —  opens the season on Friday April 23rd. The show — featuring her 5-piece band is a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Deep Banana Blackout follows on Saturday, April 24. The 8-piece band is an area favorite, with a high-energy mix of jam, funk and blues.

Tickets for each show are $150 per car (5 person max). Tickets for Sophie B Hawkins go on sale on this Monday (March 29, 10 .am). Deep Banana Blackout will go on sale Tuesday, March 30, also at 10. Click here to order.

Sophie B Hawkins

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Speaking of entertainment: Jamie Mann — the Staples High School senior who stars in Netflix’s new hit, “Country Comfort,” which premiered Friday — has written a great piece for Backstage on the highs and lows of being a young actor.

He writes honestly about his love for dance, the “dead zone” when child actors grow too tall and add braces, the mentors he found in Westport like Cynthia Gibb and Jill Jaysen, being just another cast member with Staples Players, and more. Click here to read.

Jamie Mann (Photo/Curtis & Cort)

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John Noble writes: “I live near Earthplace, and walk by this house on Woodside Avenue almost every day.

It’s a teardown. I totally get it — but why did the developer take down over 17 large mature trees to create this eyesore of a lot now? There’s always 2 sides to a story, but as a neighbor this tree obliteration really bugs me.”

(Photo/John Noble)

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The Westport Library is seeking candidates for its Board of Trustees. Of particular interest: people with expertise in finance, fundraising and development for non-profits; knowledge and understanding of current trends in digital media and information technology, or a background in municipal government and/or not-for-profit law.

Trustees serve 4-yeare terms. Click here for more information.Interested candidates should email a resume and letter of interest to rpowell@westportlibrary.org. The deadline is April 19.

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Westporter Ana Cristina Purcell died on March 16. She was 68.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she immigrated with her parents to the US in the 1950s.

Ana was a graduate of Staples High School. She served as the office administrator for Purcell Moving Corporation, a family-owned business, for over 20 years. She enjoyed traveling, the beach, and spending time with family and friends.

She is survived by her husband Lawrence; daughter Cristina; son Shane (Jennifer Soyeck); sister Julia Huber; niece Rachel Greene; nephew Philip Huber, and grandchildren TJ Altman, Kroy Purcell and Camilla Purcell.

Harding Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Services will be held at Assumption Church this Saturday (March 27, 11 a.m.). After, close friends and family are welcome to their home to share memories of her life.

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And finally … happy 67th birthday to legendary University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

They beat High Point by a whopping 102-59 on Sunday. Tonight (9 p.m.) they face Syracuse. Go Huskies!

Special Needs Housing Planned For Riverside Avenue

One of the Westport’s greatest needs — supportive housing for people with special needs — is moving through the regulatory pipeline.

136 Riverside Avenue is a 12-room 1880 Colonial Victorian just north of Saugatuck Elementary School. Owned by the town, it’s used now by the Board of Education.

A few years ago it was considered for special needs housing. That opportunity has come around again.

Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm — has been exploring possibilities for “off-site affordable housing” for developments like 41 Richmondville Avenue and The Residence at Westport for several years.

That’s the process by which approval is granted for new market-rate housing at one location. In exchange, builders create affordable housing units elsewhere in town.

136 Riverside Avenue.

Redniss has met with parents of special needs individuals and Westport’s Commission on People with Disabilities to determine the best design. Based in part on a Darien model, he realized that if individual units include a private bath, kitchenette (to help with independent living) and deed-restricted lease, they count toward the town’s moratorium points (granted for showing that a municipality is actively building affordable housing).

The current plan would convert 136 Riverside to 5 apartments. Four would be for people with special needs; one would be rented to a staff member, who also would qualify under regulations for affordable housing.

Abilis — the 70-year-old nonprofit serving over 800 people with special needs — sees this as an excellent opportunity. They’ve been collaborating with the 41 Richmondville Avenue developers to make this a reality. Redniss has met with neighbors, and continues to address concerns.

The proposal — which includes remodeling that respects the original architecture, and enhanced landscaping — is going through the 8-24 (municipal improvement) and special permitting process. It’s on the agenda for the Architectural Review Board’s March 23 meeting.

If approved, 136 Riverside heads to the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Finance and RTM, for lease oversight.

Snowbirds: Handling Homes Hassle-Free

When Nicolas Ancel was offered a job in the US 14 years ago, the French family took a chance.

Their daughters were teenagers. It was not an easy move. But they found what they were looking for, Nicolas’ wife Dorothée says: “Freedom. The ability to create whatever you want. If you have a good idea, you can can get it done.”

Today, all 5 Ancels are American citizens. And Dorothée’s idea has become a thriving business.

In 30 years of marriage, she and her husband have always had a side interest in real estate. They owned small condos all over France.

After coming to Westport they bought a second house. Then they purchased one for their daughter near the University of Connecticut. A rental home followed.

Dorothee Ancel holds a bachelor’s degree in international business, and a master’s in international purchasing.

Each time they had to find contractors, landscapers and repair companies. Dorothée became adept at property management. Her organizational skills, common sense and reliability were a natural fit.

To learn even more, she earned a real estate license.

In July 2019, good friends moved to California. Their departure was rushed, so they asked Dorothée to represent them at the final walkthrough.

The new owners were a young couple from New York, with 3 children. They planned to move in 9 months later, after renovations were done.

They wondered: Who could keep an eye on their house in the meantime?

Dorothée had an idea. And in true American spirit, she got it done.

Snowbirds — her new company — provides home watch services to people who spend part of the year away from Westport. (Our town is filled with snowbirds — men and women who live at least 6 months and 1 day in the Sunshine State, for tax purposes. Well, at least Westport is filled with them a few months a year.)

When they return, Dorothée arranges airport pickups and ensures that the refrigerator is full.

She also prepares homes for newcomers. She facilitates their arrivals; coordinates with contractors and deliverers and the pool maintenance guys; does exterior and interior checks, and performs the bajillion other small but crucial tasks that make them feel comfortable and welcome.

The usual helpers — cleaning ladies, landscapers and the like — are not always up to those jobs. “Someone forgets to lock a door,” Dorothée says. “Or they close the wrong one, and everything in the closet gets musty.”

Managing a home is never easy — particularly if you’re away for a while. (Photo courtesy of Compass)

The other day, heat was off in a home’s 3rd floor. Dorothée realized a thermostat battery had leaked. Someone inexperienced in property management would not have thought to look.

Dorothée has several clients from overseas. She helps them with the daily chores we take for granted: registering for school, navigating the DMV, you name it.

Every day — and home — is different. Each client has different needs and expectations. “The sky is the limit,” Dorothée says.

So far, she has never said no to any request.

“People buy peace of mind,” she notes. “I take away distractions, so they can focus on their jobs.”

Relaxing in their own home: Dorothee and Nicolas Ancel, and their daugthers.

Dorothée also finds time to teach English as a Second Language on Tuesday nights. It’s her way of giving back to the nation that has given her so much.

After more than a decade in the States, she remains impressed by the opportunities, the beauty of this area, and the wonderful people she meets.

“They are so nice!” she says. “I love what I do.”

And — whether they’re snowbird in Florida or move here from France — her clients are grateful that so many of their homeowning headaches are now hers.

(Click here for the Snowbirds website. For more information email SnowbirdsFromCT@gmail.com, or call 203-260-4281.)

Roundup: New Multi-Unit Housing, Daylight Savings, Staples Art …

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An application to convert the former Men’s Warehouse store to a 14-unit multi-family building awaits review by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Department staff.

The 950 Post Road East property sits between the (now closed) Bank of America branch, and the (also closed) Subway shop.

It’s a 2-story building. The first floor is below the main one, behind the parking lot.

The former Men’s Wearhouse property.

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Wakeman Town Farm is “egg-cited” to announce the return of “Egg-stravaganza.” Their traditional celebration of bunny, family fun is set for Saturday, April 3 (9 to 10:30 a.m.).

The egg hunt begins at 9;15 (bring your own basket!). Eggs can be turned in for a special treat bag from BD Provisions.

There’s also an egg roll and egg toss (with prizes), story time, photos with “Big Bunnies,” and animal visits (including the furry alpaca). Grownups get coffee.

First-come, first-served tickets are $10 per child or adult (free for anyone younger than 1). Click here to register.

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Don’t forget: Tonight is the night to set clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time.

Sure, we lose an hour of sleep. But that added hour of sunlight is worth it!

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Thursday’s “Roundup” featured a photo of exterior painting at 19 Soundview Drive — right next to a “Demolition” sign.

Today, the house was fully painted. And the sign was gone.

A worker said it will not be knocked down soon. Word on the street drive is that it may be cleaned up for a summer rental. Stay tuned, though: It might be knocked down this fall.

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Everyone says it, but last night — right in front of Joe’s Pizza — we had proof:

Westport’s gone nuts.

(Photo/Jeff Gray)

Six Staples High School students have earned Scholastic Connecticut Regional Arts Awards recognitions. The 98-year-old nationwide program includes a juried exhibition.

Congratulations to Silver Key winners Poppy Livingstone (painting) and Akira Maidique (digital art). Honorable Mention recipients include Kate Davitt and Nate Kolek (drawing and illustration), Matthew Genser (photography) and Alexandra Lam (painting).

Click here for the virtual exhibition.

A collage of the Staples artists’ work.

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Weston Center has been a bit lonely since Peter’s Market closed in January.

Residents were heartened recently to see these signs.

No word on timing. But it’s a start. (Hat tip: Hanna and Conor O’Byrne)

(Photo courtesy of Libby Cailen, “Parents of Weston, CT” Facebook group)

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Is there any holiday that Winslow Park Animal Hospital doesn’t celebrate?

The popular Post Road clinic is sure ready for Wednesday.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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Hot on the “heels” of news about The Joggers Club’s Junior running group, they announce for adults too.

The Joggers Club meets every Saturday at 8 a.m., at Compo Beach. Runs are designed to satisfy everyone.

You don’t even have to know how to run. Just get outside, and put one foot in front of the other.

Every week brings a different course. After each run, there’s coffee and Village Bagels treats, for a nice social hour

Click here, or follow The Joggers Club on Facebook or Strava. A year’s membership is just $50, and includes a cool customized running tank designed by Fleet Feet.

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And finally … happy 82nd birthday to former teen idol (and former Westporter) Neil Sedaka!

 

 

Roundup: Mahackeno, Teardowns, Flowers …

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Mahackeno Outdoor Center opens for members this weekend. Activities include 2 playgrounds, a large sports field, basketball court, dodgeball pit, walking trails, pavilions and (from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), giant slides.

Coming soon: sports programs (registration begins April 3), canoeing, archery, pool and splash pad (after May 1), bouldering wall, fishing, outdoor group fitness classes and more.

Click here for more information.

Two Mahackeno slides are a huge hit.

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A great local non-profit needs someone to finish a WordPress website redesign and upgrade.

The person in charge has had to stop for personal reasons, but can explain intent, purpose and what needs to be done. The project is 90% complete, and pays “a bit.”

Interested? Email encliff@gmail.com.

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Circolo Italiano — Staples’ Italian Club — has a unique way to raise funds for Centro La Tenda, a community center in Napoli that helps at-risk youth.

This is no pizza sale. Next Wednesday (March 17, 1 p.m.), they host an interactive, virtual (and worldwide — play from anywhere) trivia competition.

The cost is $3 per player, with up to 5 players per team. Venmo @StellaCorenthal, with the name of your team and all members. There are prizes for winners.  A Zoom link will be sent.

Questions? Email bg1002540@students.westportps.org.

BONUS TRIVIA FACT: The word “trivia: comes from the Latin “trivialis,” meaning “found everywhere, commonplace.”

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19 Soundview Drive is one of the oldest original — aka “un-renovated” — homes on the beach exit road. A “Demolition” sign hangs prominently by the front porch.

But right next to the sign, a workman was busy yesterday painting the brown shingles white.

Gotta look good for that wrecking ball, right?

(Photo/Karen Como)

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Meanwhile, teardown season is in full “swing.” This was the scene around the corner yesterday, at 320 Compo Road South, just east of Bradley Street:

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Also in season: Spring!

Here’s Whitney Street yesterday:

(Photo/Molly Alger)

Don’t forget: Turn your clocks ahead Saturday night. Losing an hour of sleep for more of these scenes will be worth it!

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And finally … Happy 75th birthday, Liza Minelli!

[OPINIONS] Cons, Pros Of State “Multi-Housing” Bill

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director and RTM member Matthew Mandell sends regular emails to a large list. He addresses a variety of local topics.

The other day he weighed in on State Senate Bill 1024, concerning multi-family housing. He wrote:

More than one bill being proposed in Hartford would usurp local zoning laws and single family zoning, and allow as of right multi-family housing.

One would mandate this change 1/2 mile around any train station, as well as 1/4 mile from a commercial zone.

Another would allow duplexes (2-family homes) in any single family zone.

The former, which I will focus on, would include both Saugatuck and Greens Farms areas, the swaths along Riverside Avenue and all along the Post Road. We are talking hundreds if not thousands of properties.

The Westport train station has long been the center of multi-use developments.

The term “as of right” means free to do it essentially without Planning & Zoning  approval. Any developer could come in and build 4 condo units on any property they wanted, regardless of our rules, and the concerns or living choices of the neighbors.

There is a need for affordable housing, no argument, and social inequities exist in our state. The cause of much of this is being laid, by the proponents of these measures, at the door step of our towns and more than often those towns in Fairfield County. Past zoning rules, now outlawed, fostered exclusionary practices and this, they say, still needs to be rectified. More importantly, they also say current zoning decisions still do this.

So in order to set things straight, all towns across the state would have to accept this responsibility and must allow this unfettered development.

Many legislators, senators and representatives, want to be doing the right thing. So do most of us. Being on the right side of history, by creating more affordable housing and correcting social injustices, is for the most part a no-brainer. It’s right.

But many of them yearning to help have and are being persuaded that this specific legislation is the right way to do it. It is not. It’s like many things that start with the best of intentions, if not vetted thoroughly, and yes challenged, have significant and unintended consequences

The proponents believe that legislating by fiat and across the board densification will solve the problem. Yet there is no proof offered that any of this housing would be affordable or that a great diversity of individuals would be benefited. It is a theory, it seems, without verified merit and a myopic view of how planning works.

For years, Canal Park has offered affordable housing for seniors, near downtown.

What is most bothersome to me is that this would be done without regard to how this would affect those that currently live in these towns and specific areas. At risk are the areas where economics presently support naturally affordable housing and the strivers who have worked hard to have a home with a front and backyard for their kids to play.

In the case of Westport, this legislation would actually thwart our efforts to create housing diversity. We currently mandate 20% affordability for all multi-family housing and have advanced proposals to create more. We actually have done such a good job that not only did the state award us with an 8-30g moratorium that other towns are looking at what we have done to emulate it.

If this legislation came to be, developers would snap up the choicest of properties first, most likely along the river and build million dollar condos all along its banks. This would then cascade to more and more lots, especially the naturally occurring affordable, creating more unaffordable housing, stressing water, sewer, police, fire, school and road infrastructure.

The negative environmental affects would be dramatic as the walkable community envisioned would not exist as basic household needs and jobs would still be a drive away instead of within this newly over dense community. Saugatuck would grind to a halt and Greens Farms would be a shadow of itself.

Bottom line: All transit hubs and TOD’s are not the same and top down. One-size-fits-all legislation simply does not work. The only people who this would actually benefit are developers.

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Lawrence Weisman disagrees. Because he has no mechanism like Mandell’s to respond, he asked “06880” to post his response.

Dear Matt:

It is my observation that when a debater tries to persuade an audience of the rightness of his position by offering a parade of horribles, he is almost always on the wrong side of the issue and, for want of substance, is reduced to hyperbole.
Your description of the substance of this bill and its consequences is a prime example of that tactic.

You are wrong about both the substance and the probable consequences of the bill, and your reference to those “who have worked hard to have a home with a front and backyard for their kids to play” is a classic dog whistle in favor of exclusionary policies.

Connecticut has a systemic bureaucratic problem in addition to its systemic racial problem. Government in our state is fractured. We have counties but no county or regional government with authority to address what are clearly regional problems, among which are transportation, the environment, and housing.

So rather than trying to deal with regional issues in an uncoordinated town by town basis, we are obliged to rely on statewide action to produce uniform results. That’s what this bill is intended to do and why it is needed.

Westport is not the villain in this piece. Our P&Z has done and continues to do its part to address housing inequity and the need for affordable housing, and it is even considering “as of right” accessory dwelling units.

1177 Post Road East includes 30% affordable units, according to state standards.

You say that “as of right” means without P&Z approval, thereby suggesting that it means unregulated, but what you don’t say is that these accessory units do not require P&Z approval precisely because they are limited by regulation as to size, height, building coverage, number of parking spaces, and the amount of unused permissible coverage on the lot in question.

You do yourself, your constituents and the town as a whole a grave disservice by urging a point of view which is ungenerous, ill-considered, and provincial, and by playing to the fears and ultimately the prejudices of those who are resistant to change.

We desperately need new ideas for solutions to problems which, because they have existed for so many years, are assumed to be immune to correction. This bill is a judicious and creative step in the right direction which deserves your support.

Sincerely,
Larry

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Last night, State Senator Tony Hwang held a Facebook Live meeting on proposed zoning legislation. Among the bills is the one referenced above.

There is a public hearing in Hartford this Monday (March 15). Click here for information on that hearing, as well as a video of Hwang’s discussion. (Hat tip: Cornelia Fortier)

 

Roundup: Downtown Plan, Coastal Living, Dracula …

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There’s a new sheriff downtown.

Randy Herbertson replaces Dewey Loselle as chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee. Loselle — former chief operations for the chair — resigned recently, after many years in the post.

Herbertson is president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He owns The Visual Brand, a design agency on Church Lane.

The DPIC is responsible for carrying out the Downtown Master Plan. Under Loselle, the group implemented streetscape improvements on Elm Street, new sidewalks and lights on Main Street, Veterans Green sidewalks and more.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe — who appointed Herbertson to the post — thanked Loselle for his long service.

Randy Herbertson

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Speaking of planning:

Neighbors watched warily all winter, as activity began on 12 acres of land bordered by Clapboard Hill Road, Morningside Drive South and Turkey Hill Road South.

Stakes with pink strips appeared in the ground, and a new gravel path was built from Clapboard Hill.

Is one of the town’s last large tracts of private property being developed?

Plans are underway for several new homes. There are wetlands issues, and the Conservation Commission required those borders to be withdrawn. The permitting process with other town boards is still in the early stages too.

Meanwhile, another home nearby is being built on a separate property.

(Photo/Nicholas Eisenberger)

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I usually avoid posting links to listicle stories: “50 Best Suburbs For Seniors!” “Top 500 Schools in America!”

They’re clickbait. Their methodology is dubious at best, and manipulable for their own demographics. Besides, if Staples High School is #1 in one poll, then #2 in the next, taxpayers get all their knickers in a twist.

But Coastal Living’s “Best Beach Towns: Dreamy Places to Live” issue is worth noting — if only for the writeup. It’s the way the world (or at least that portion of it that reads Coastal Living) sees us:

“You can’t imagine the volume of COVID refugees,” says Shari Lebowitz, citing the cheering sight of new families with baby strollers and slow-waling toddlers along the tidy sidewalks of this leafy enclave on Long Island Sound.”

The magazine says that Lebowitz — owner of Bespoke Designs — moved here for “a cultured little town that supported entrepreneurs. Westport, driven by small waterways with open space for wildlife, also has a charming stretch of tawny beach that serves as the town’s outdoor living room all summer long. (Dogs and their happy owners take over in the off season.)”

MoCA Westport is a “small contemporary art museum that punches well above its weight with arts education, performances, and world-class exhibitions.”

Lebowitz gets the last word: “I can make coffee and drive down to drink it on the beach every morning before work. What more could I want?” (Hat tips: Lisa Gold, Tom Feeley)

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What better way to mark the 1-year anniversary of the COVID lockdown than with a horror show?

This Sunday (March 14, 6 p.m.), a worldwide audience can fire up the computer and listen to “Dracula.” Staples Players presents the 4th in their winter radio shows via livestream, at www.wsptfm.org.

Following 6 previous radio shows this pandemic year, “Dracula” promises to be another smash. It’s a great drama. Cast and crew have been hard at work perfecting timing, sound effects, and (of course) their Transylvanian accents.

Jamie Mann, David Corro and Violet Cooper have key roles. David Roth and Kerry Roth co-produce the show; Don Rickenback is music director, and Geno Heiter oversees the audio.

NOTE: If you missed the original broadcasts of 2 previous Players radio shows — “Little Women” and “Sorry, Wrong Number” — they’ll be on the WWPT-FM livestream the following Sunday, March 21 (6 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., respectively).

The cast and crew of “Dracula.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

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On the Staples sports scene:

Last night — for perhaps the first time in Wrecker swim team history — 3 siblings swam on the same relay team.

Justin (senior), Jason (sophomore) and Jared (freshman) Lessing joined Daniel Rosenkranz. The foursome placed 2nd in the 200 freestyle relay at the Senior Day meet against Danbury. Staples’ other relay team won that race; both helped the Wreckers to take the entire meet.

Coach Todd Gordon fulfilled the Lessings’ longtime dream of swimming on a high school relay squad together. He’s a former swimmer and pitcher at Harvard University. Justin plays both sports at Staples too. This was his first meet of the year, after suffering tendinitis in his pitching arm.

From left: Jason Lessing, Jared Lessing, Daniel Rosenkranz and Justin Lessing. Daniel and Justin are co-captains.

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More Staples news: Congratulations to Students of the Month Moses Beary, Marley Brown, Gianna Amatuzzi, Camryn Zukowski, Sophie Hekmat, Quinn McMahon and Maggie Montoya.

The awardees — nominated by teachers — are students who help make Staples High School a welcoming place for peers and teachers. Principal Stafford Thomas calls them “the ‘glue’ of community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together.”

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Westport’s yard waste site resumes regular hours of operation, starting this Monday (March 15): weekdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m. to noon.

The location is 180 Bayberry Lane (by the Westport Weston Health District).

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

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Temperatures are ticking up into the 60s. Daylight Savings starts Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Avenue parking lot snow bank shows no signs of melting.

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

We will mark its progress by various dates: Easter. May Day. Memorial Day. The 4th of July …

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State Senator Will Haskell is the new chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee. He previously chaired the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.

“For the last 2 years, I’ve kept a Metro-North timetable from 1970 on my desk in the Senate,” the 2014 Staples High School graduate says.

“Over the last 5 decades those trains have gotten slower, not faster. It’s time to reverse that trend by investing in green infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs and helping our constituents get where they need to go.”

State Senator Will Haskell, with a Metro-North train.

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And finally … Lawrence Welk was born today in 1903. He died in 1992, at 89. A one, an’ a two …