Category Archives: Transportation

Daybreak Development Dawns

When Daybreak was thriving, up to 800 vehicles a day pulled into and out of the small parking lot. The business included a nursery, florist shop and landscaping operation.

Daybreak closed in 2014. The buildings were demolished last spring.

The Daybreak property, after the nursery and landscaping business closed.

New owners hope to build 12 housing units — age-restricted, generating minimal traffic — on the 2 1/4-acre site. They’ve spoken with town officials, and adapted their plans several times to meet traffic and other concerns.

Still — on the eve of Thursday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting — opposition remains.

The owner is Able Construction. During the past 25 years, the firm has built over 80 houses in town. Some are new; others are historical renovations, like 268 Wilton Road. They’re also redoing the old Three Bears restaurant — now Chabad — on Newtown Turnpike.

Able Construction owner Peter Greenberg (right) and partner Johnny Schwartz.

Able bought the Daybreak property at a foreclosure auction. At the time, owner Peter Greenberg admits, he had no clear plan for the land.

He could have built 4 gigantic homes on the 1/2-acre-zoning land. Or he could have put a grandfathered business — like a nursery or landscaping company — there.

“There” is important. The property fronts Main Street, near the heavily trafficked, highly visible and bizarrely complicated intersection with Weston and Easton Roads.

The area — including the now-vacant Daybreak site — is an important gateway to Westport. It’s a first impression for anyone arriving from the Merritt Parkway, and an early look for drivers from Weston and Easton.

Originally, Greenberg and Able partner Johnny Schwartz talked with town officials about putting a coffee shop or service station there. They also considered mixed-use — perhaps retail, with apartments or multi-family housing on a 2nd floor or behind.

The last of Daybreak Nursery was carted away in March.

The property is not served by a sewer. Greenberg asked if Able could pay to extend outside the blue line. The town said no.

Planning and Zoning members were interested in the possibility of smaller homes. But no town regulations encouraged developers to build such cluster-type housing.

Able proposed creating an overlay zone. Current zoning permitted 4 houses. Typically, Greenberg says, they’d be 5,000 square feet each, with 6 bedrooms.

Instead, his firm designed 8 2-bedroom homes, of 3,000 square feet. The total number of bedrooms was the same — 24 — but, Greenberg says, 2-bedroom homes would not typically sell to couples with children.

No kids means fewer in-and-out vehicle trips. No stop-and-start bus stops. And no additional children entering the school system, at a cost of nearly $20,000 a year.

The P&Z balked. 3,000 square feet was not small enough. The national average is 1,600 square feet. (Of course as Greenberg notes, “Westport is not average.”)

Able went back to the commission. Architect Bill McGuiness — who designed the Kensett community in Darien — envisioned 12 2-bedroom homes, averaging 2,000 square feet. None would be more than 2,400.

Designed for an older population, the homes included elevator shafts. Most of the living would be on the 1st floor, with sloped roofs and virtually no attics. Five duplexes would share a common wall. Two would be single-family units.

Front and rear views of an attached duplex.

P&Z liked the idea. But they asked Able to include an affordable or age-restricted component

Able proposed that 7 of the 12 units be limited to buyers 55 and older. (Greenberg says he’s willing to make it 100% age-restricted, if needed.)

The “smaller home development” text amendment was accepted. Public hearings were held, and a traffic engineer hired.

Able spent the past 8 months finalizing plans, and getting permits.

Views of one of the detached homes.

But at a hearing 3 weeks ago, neighbors voiced strong opposition. Major concerns were raised about traffic at that very dizzying intersection.

Greenberg notes that when Daybreak had up to 800 trips a day — including customers, employees and landscaping trucks — there were 5 driveways in and out of the property. He sited the new driveway — 1-way in, 1-way out — as far from the intersection as possible. (It’s the same direction as 1-way Daybreak Lane, to avoid cut-throughs by drivers seeking to avoid the 4-way stop.)

Able looked at ways to improve the intersection. They learned that a decade or so ago, the state Department of Transportation wanted 3 roundabouts — one there, and 2 others at the Exit 42 ramps. But Wassell Lane was a stumbling block. According to roundabout standards then in place, it was too close to other roads to feed into the mix.

Now, however, standards have changed. Wassell Lane could work. Greenberg says that town officials have contacted the state DOT about reopening discussions. They have not yet heard back.

A roundabout proposal that includes Wassell Lane. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

According to Greeenberg, a traffic study shows that at peak times, 3,000 cars an hour pass through the intersection. He says that Able’s new development will add less than .05% to the mix.

“Right now, taxes on Daybreak are about $30,000 a year,” Greenberg says. “If these 12 units are built, we figure Westport would get $180,000 a year.” He proposes that the town earmark some of those increased taxes for Westport’s contribution to intersection improvements.

“There’s no land left in Westport,” he adds. “We buy houses. We knock them down, and build new ones. That’s our business.

“But we hear from people all over town that after their kids are grown, they don’t want a big house. They want to stay in Westport, in a smaller one. These houses would help.”

Able Construction’s Daybreak site plan. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

He says his company has done everything to address concerns. A Phase II environmental study found no herbicides or pesticides left over from the nursery. There were, however, petroleum products in the soil. Greenberg promises to stockpile the soil during construction, and dispose of it if needed.

“We’re part of this town,” he says. “We want to do the right thing.”

The P&Z hearing this Thursday (Town Hall auditorium, 7 p.m.), is one of the last stops on the road to a permit for the Daybreak development.

“This property has been unsightly for years,” Greenberg says. “It’s at a very impressionable intersection. We want to put this property to work. We’ll build smaller houses, so people can age in place. It’s something the town wants, and needs.

“The P&Z told us they want more diversity in housing in Westport. This gets us closer to that.”

Pic Of The Day #237

The Cribari Bridge at Christmas. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

Nice Crosswalk — Just Don’t Cross!

It only took, oh, a year or so since the Main Street/North Compo/Clinton Avenue improvement project was completed.

But a new crosswalk was finally striped today.

Perfect!

Except for one minor detail:

Hey, no biggie! I’m sure the state will get around to removing it — and the others nearby — soon.

Like, say, a year from now.

Unsung Heroes #25

Little things mean a lot.

Briana Walegir has lived in Westport for over 15 years. She owns a holistic heatlh coaching and personal training business.

The other day morning she was near home, stretching in the Rizzuto’s parking lot prior to her usual 6-mile run.

She saw an 18-wheel tractor-trailer — obviously from I-95 — that had turned right from Riverside. The driver was about to go over the William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.

Uh-oh!

A man in the Bridge Square parking lot walked over to the rig. Briana decided to help too.

For 15 minutes, she stopped all the cars at the intersection. She cleared the remaining vehicles, allowing the driver to back — v-e-r-y slowly — into the Rizzuto lot, and be on his way.

Briana Walegir, on a beach run.

Crisis averted, Briana started her run. She thought to herself how lucky she was to have been there at that moment, and how nice it was that others jumped in too.

As she ran along Greens Farms Road, a woman pulled over. She thanked Briana, told her she’d done her good deed for the day, and asked her name so she could be nominated as an “06880” Unsung Hero.

“That made me feel so good,” Briana says. “But I try to help save people’s lives every day, through diet and exercise. That day was no different. It takes an army of wonderful people to make a beautiful community that we live in.”

(Click here for Briana’s website. To nominate an “Unsung Hero,” email dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Teresa Turvey)

On Deck For Saugatuck…

A year ago, the Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Committee — the group studying long-term development in and around the Saugatuck train station — and local citizens made it clear to project consultants that 2 ideas were non-starters:

  • No deck parking
  • No 3-story buildings.

This morning — after a year of input and study — a final draft was presented. It included:

A parking deck …

… a 3-story building …

… and, for good measure, substantial new development.

Oh, yeah. When asked what these proposals would mean for traffic in and around Saugatuck, the consultants replied that “any details on lessening the traffic burden” were “outside the scope” of their study.

Photo Challenge #152

A dozen “06880” readers knew exactly where last week’s photo challenge was.

They just couldn’t agree on how to describe its location.

Patricia McMahon’s image showed the badly corroded trestles of the railroad bridge that crosses the Saugatuck River near the train station. Some described it as Ferry Lane. Others called it Railroad Place. One just said it was near Donut Crazy.

Hey, Seth Schachter, Bob Knoebel, Jay Tormey, Peter Hirst, Seth Goltzer, Scott Brodie, Wendy  Cusick, Dominique Dwor-Frecaut, Michael Brennecke, Andrew Colabella, Suzanne Tager Obsitnik and Seth Braunstein — you’re all right! It seems Ferry Lane West turns into Railroad Place right under the bridge.

Which, by the way, sorely needs a name. Any suggestions? (Click here to see the photo of the bridge you’re naming.)

Now: Can you name this week’s photo challenge? If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Dana Kuyper)

Scott Smith’s Concrete Questions

The roads of Westport play an important — if often unrecognized — role in our lives. When we do think about them, it’s in the context of traffic, alternate routes, that sort of thing.

Scott Smith thinks of asphalt and concrete. The longtime Westporter writes:

The autumn flurry of repaving Westport’s road before the asphalt plants shut down for the winter makes me wonder about the status of some other byways around town. I’m thinking of the local streetscapes I travel that are still paved with concrete.

Three spots come to mind: the mile or so along Greens Farms Road between Compo and Hillspoint, and 2 blocks on Riverside — one heading toward the train station, the other from Viva’s to the VFW. Made of poured aggregate cement and laid down in blocks of 20 feet or so, these stretches of old roadway remind me of a time when things were built to last.

Concrete on Greens Farms Road …

But not always. Years ago, while re-landscaping a home I lived in off Imperial Avenue, I dug up a bunch of old concrete blocks. They were odd shapes, most 2 or 3 feet across and all 6 to 8 inches thick, smooth on one side and jagged on the other.

The house was built in 1960, on low-lying property, so I figured they were fill from when construction of the I-95 Turnpike tore through town. The chunks of pavement were a bear to raise up out of the ground, but made great stepping stones. I bet they are still there.

… on Riverside Avenue north of the Cribari Bridge …

It’s probably a state versus town issue, but as I see other local roads in the continual process of getting stripped of asphalt and replaced with new black pavement, I wonder what’s up with these concrete remnants of vintage Westport.

Are there any longtime townies — or people in Public Works — who could let the rest of us know when these roads were first laid down, and how long they might stick around?

… and near the train station. (Photos/Scott Smith)

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Now we know the holiday season is really here.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

The lights are lit on the William Cribari Bridge.

Al’s Angels’ gift to Westport won’t make the traffic flow more smoothly over the Saugatuck River. In fact, this time of year it’s heavier than ever.

But if you’re going to be stuck there, it’s a beautiful place to be.

Friday Flashback #67

Most Friday Flashbacks show how much Westport has changed.

This one shows how little it has, too.

The photo of the Saugatuck train station waiting room was taken around 1979.

It could have been yesterday.

(Photo courtesy of Ken Bernhard)

Pic Of The Day #219

William Cribari Bridge in autumn (Photo/Katherine Bruan)