Roundup: Real Estate, Seatbelts, Lars Bolander …

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We all know that Westport’s real estate market has been hot during COVID.

But did you know that it’s the hottest in the entire state?

Our town has gained 672 people since 2019, according to CBRE. That’s the most of any place in Connecticut. Other Fairfield County towns showed strong gains too. Cities like Stamford and New Haven lost residents.

Click here for a report from WTNH-TV. (Hat tip: Tricia Freeman)

Westport has been an attractive destination for homebuyers since COVID struck. (Photo courtesy of Compass)

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Meanwhile: How has Westport handled the pandemic, overall?

Tri-state viewers will find out on Wednesday Tuesday (May 19 18, at 5:30 p.m.). ABC News7 sent a camera crew here last week.

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell talked about outdoor dining, drive-in concerts and the Remarkable Theater.

Matthew Mandell is interviewed by ABC News7 on Church Lane.

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It’s May, which means it’s time to … “click it or ticket.”

That’s the Westport Police Department’s annual campaign to remind drivers and passengers to buckle up every time they drive or ride.

All month long — leading up to the Memorial Day unofficial start-of-summer/ let’s-hit-the-road holiday — local and state law enforcement will vigorously enforce seatbelt laws for everyone in a motor vehicle.

Connecticut law requires that all drivers and passengers in the front seat regardless of age — and all children under 16 anywhere — wear seatbelts. Fines start at $92 for the first offense.

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Attention, lacrosse (and all sports) fans. And anyone else who wants to honor our military.

Staples is the Staples High School boys lacrosse program’s 9th annual “Sticks for Soldiers” event.

The JV (12:30 p.m.) and varsity (2:30 p.m.) host Ridgefield. The Wreckers are ranked #5 in Connecticut. The Tigers are #4.

The varsity game includes a presentation of colors by the Westport Police honor guard, and a brief address by John Sabino. A Westport resident, he served as an Army Ranger in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Donations at the gate go to Sticks for Soldiers, which raises funds for wounded military personnel.

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Lars Bolander just opened a new store at 1300 Post Road East (opposite the Lexus dealer). It joins others in New York, Easthampton, Miami and Palm Beach.

The shop features contemporary furniture, textiles and decorative accessories from all over the world, alongside a mix of 19th century Scandinavian, European and Swedish antiques.

Highlights include tents from India, lacquerware from Hong Kong, faux Mediterranean olive trees, custom Venetian paintings and umbrellas from Bali.

The store is light, colorful and eclectic, with a mix of colors and styles. Owners were attracted to Westport by its artistic heritage, institutions like the Playhouse and MoCA, and the diversity of stores in the area.

Chris Kalachnikoff runs the Westport operation. His father and mother are involved too.

Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Part of the new Lars Bolander store.

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Organizers of a community, outdoor art event at the Aspetuck Land Trust’s Leonard Schine Preserve (Glendinning Place, off Weston Road) are all set. The event is June 12 (2 to 6 p.m.).

They just need your art.

Works will be hung along the paths. The natural playground will be the site of live music

The prompt is: “Something about nature that makes you feel wow!” Submissions can include drawings, paintings, photos and writings. The maximum size is 15″ x 15″.

Email woodlandartexpo@gmail.com with an image of your work, or for questions. Deadline is June 1.

Part of the Children’s Playground at the Leonard Schine Preserve. Artwork will hang there on June 12.

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Susan Filan has been a trial lawyer, Connecticut state prosecutor and senior legal analyst for MSNBC.

As a child growing up in Weston, she found an arrowhead and mortar in the woods behind her house. Ever since, she’s been fascinated by the history and culture of Native Americans.

That led her to the Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Master of Laws program at the University of Arizona Law. She just graduated, and is focusing on indigenous human rights.

She’ll start work on a doctoral degree in juridical science there. Her goal is to become an advocate and scholar, and teach, write and argue before international human rights bodies and domestic courts.

Click here for a full story on the University of Arizona website.

Susan Filan

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As the Levitt Pavilion gears up for their 2021 season, they announce another ticketed event.

The Lone Bellow takes the stage August 6, for a socially distanced concert.

Tickets for the Brooklyn group are sold in pods of 2, 4 and 6. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” shot is from Ned Dimes Marina. Boaters, beware!

(Photo/Jeanine Esposito)

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And finally … in honor of “Click It or Ticket” month:

 

 

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 60 Gallery

Spring keeps hanging on in Westport.

And our talented “06880” artists keep painting and photographing it.

This week’s art gallery shimmers with the splendors of the season. Here’s our latest selection of reader/artist works.

Some of you are professionals; most are amateurs. Experience does not matter. We want all your art!

Student submissions are especially welcome. So are artists who have not submitted previously. Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” (John Gould)

“Inside a Rainbow of Hope” (Amy Schneider)

“Kenzie.” Artist Beth Berkowitz says: “I had not painted or drawn since high school, when I decided I didn’t want to study art for a career, and have it become a chore with deadlines.
I thought I would work in a ‘real job,’ then always have my art to relax with. However, life took off and I never found the time. Now I’m making the time, and find it soothing and therapeutic.”

“Close-Up” (Lucy Johnson)

“Trees at Earthplace (Rowene Weems)

“More Beauty” (Lauri Weiser)

“Your Shot Matters a Lot!” (Ellin Spadone)

“My Lilacs” (Karen Weingarten)

“Spring Plein Air Painting” (Werner Liepolt)

“A Study in Beauty” (Larry Untermeyer)

“Provincetown Sunset” (Lawrence Weisman)

 

Free Summer School: First Come, First Served!

The other day, a new Westport resident enrolled his children in Continuing Education summer programs.

He received the following email in return:

Here is your receipt showing that we refunded your credit card for the Sports and Fun registration. This program is offered free to Westport Public School students through a one-time grant this summer.

He was stunned.

Where did the money come from? What’s going on?

It’s our (state) tax dollars at work.

Connecticut’s Department of Education wants to address challenges resulting from the pandemic. These include both learning loss, and the promotion of social and emotional wellness.

So the state is fully funding a Summer Electives program for Westport Public Schools students entering grades 1-12 next fall. In other words: There is no charge.

The courses include:

Elementary School

  • Sports & Fun Camp
  • Create Art Together
  • Intro to Band

Middle School

  • Sports Fusion
  • Gear Up for Summer Olympiad
  • History Book Club
  • Literary Book Club

High School

  • History Book Club
  • Gear Up for the Fall at Staples Library Media Center
  • Gear Up for 9th Grade English
  • Gear Up for Algebra 2
  • Gear Up for AP Calculus
  • Biology Summer Enrichment
  • CSI 101
  • Embedded Systems Programming
  • Gear Up for College Prep Science
  • Neuroscience in Bugs and Brains
  • The Science of Race, Gender and Sexuality
  • Gear Up for 9th Grade Social STudies
  • Gear Up for AP Social Studies

Enrollment is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here for more information, and to register. For help, email conted@westportps.org, or call 203-341-1209.

Of course, Continuing Ed offers many other programs (for a fee). Summer courses include Fine Arts, Culinary Arts, Filmmakers ink, Sports, STEM, Chess and Theater. They’re held at Staples High School, Bedford Middle School, Greens Farms Elementary, and Wakeman fields. Click here for more information.

Director Christine Jewell plugs Continuing Ed’s summer programs.

Pic Of The Day #1488

South Beach sunset (Photo/Dinkin Fotografik)

[OPINION] Hiawatha Project: An Unexpected Next Step?

Gloria Gouveia is a longtime Westporter. Since 1984 she has worked as a land use consultant, specializing in planning and zoning permit and subdivision applications, Zoning Board of Appeals applications, neighborhood opposition advocacy and Historic District compliance.

In the wake of Wednesday’s 5-0 Planning & Zoning Commission vote to accept a settlement with Summit Partners — allowing a 157-unit project to proceed on Hiawatha Lane, with modifications from the original plan — she writes:

Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Although he was referring to a baseball game, the same can be said for the proposed 157-unit Summit development approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission Wednesday night.

Although a neighbor’s recourse in circumstances like these is usually limited to an expensive court appeal, the Summit matter is different. Along with approvals for construction and site development, the P&Z also approved a change of a zoning boundary.

Thanks to our early lawmakers, organizations like Save Old Saugatuck and Save Westport Now, as well as the many residents who opposed Summit’s plans, may have another opportunity to challenge the developer in a public forum: the RTM.

According to the Town of Westport Charter: “The Representative Town Meeting shall have the power to review any action by the Planning and Zoning Commission adopting, amending or repealing any zoning regulation or fixing or changing the boundary of any zoning district…”

To start the process, a petition endorsed by 2 RTM members or 20 electors of our town must be submitted to the town clerk. When transmitted to the RTM it will be scheduled for hearing, where all may be heard.

So to all of the disenfranchised residents of the Hiawatha Lane neighborhood, and all of those good citizens of Westport who oppose this Brobdingnagian development: Let us join together and rally once more to ask the RTM to reverse the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision, and save old Saugatuck.

I reached out to town attorney Ira Bloom. He responded this afternoon:

“That is correct. A petition must be filed within 7 days following the public notice of a P&Z decision.” That notice was filed yesterday (Thursday, May 13).

Bloom added, “I will certainly look carefully at any petition that is submitted.”

I spoke with Planning & Zoning director Mary Young too. She noted that the full text of the Town Charter (quoted above) says: “Any action by the Planning and Zoning Commission adopting, amending or repealing any zoning regulation or fixing or changing the boundary of any zoning district, or a negative 8-24 report by the Commission [italics mine] shall be subject to review by the Representative Town Meeting.”

Young said that the P&Z decision Wednesday night was a positive report — not a negative one.

The zoning plan for Hiawatha Lane.

A few minutes ago, Gouveia added this information:

“Summit’s project will have to be reviewed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

“According to my reading of their permitting requirements, Summit is classified as a major traffic generator. Any project with 200 or more parking spaces meets that definition. Although housing projects with 100 cars or less are exempt, that is not the case with Summit. I can’t believe DOT is happy with any development likely to result in more backups on the exit ramps and onto I-95.”

“Also, the Planning Director may contact DOT about Summit’s approval. The DOT will immediately start the review process.”

Artist’s rendering of one of the buildings at the Hiawatha Lane development.

Friday Flashback #244

The real estate boom that began in the first days of the pandemic shows no sign of slowing.

Newcomers are not just buying. They’re renovating their properties. So are longtime residents, who — stuck inside their homes for months — decided to finally redo their bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens.

Do you know how long you have to wait for a marble splashback these days?

Things were much simpler a couple of centuries ago.

Westport historian Deej Webb found this fascinating of the way we once lived. It’s a great shot, of a different time.

Deej does not know where this home was located. But he’s betting that someone in Westport does.

If you’ve got any idea, click “Comments” below. Ideas about where the home was, that is — not about any renovations needed.

PS: Looking at  the 2 folks in the doorway, someone might be able to date it too.

Roundup: Masks, Gatsby Day, Ospreys …

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Yesterday’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most situations — including indoors — will be effective next Wednesday (May 19) in Connecticut, Governor Lamont said yesterday.

That’s the date other restrictions will be lifted too.

Connecticut residents can’t abandon their masks just yet. Wait until May 19! (Photo collage/Miggs Burroughs)

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Happy Gatsby Day!

A few years ago, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe declared May 14 “Gatsby Day” in Westport.

That’s the date — 101 years ago today — that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald signed their lease for the house at what is now 244 South Compo Road.

Marpe said that Gatsby Day should be celebrated in perpetuity. COVID has prevented celebrations last year — the centennial! — and this. But historian Deej Webb (who literally wrote the book on “Gatsby in Connecticut”) wants to make sure that Westport remembers the day.

It’s interesting to note that the Roaring ’20s — the decade associated so closely with the legendary author and his wife — were a direct result of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19.

Will a similar decade follow COVID? And if so, will the direct result of the Roaring ’20s — the Great Depression — ensue too?

FUN FITZGERALD FACT: Deej Webb says that the iconic shot of F. Scott and Zelda in front of their Westport house was not, as is often assumed, photoshopped. It’s legit:

We know the Westport Country Playhouse is a town jewel.

So does the National Endowment for the Arts. They just awarded the Playhouse a $10,000 Arts Projects grant. It supports “Ain’t Misbehavin,” the musical planned for 2022.

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Nico Eisenberger writes: “I just witnessed an unbelievable spectacle. Three bald eagles went up against 3 ospreys in a full-on battle for the skies … all right above the new osprey nest on the way to Burying Hill.

“They screeched, swerved, swooped, dove, teamed, ganged, isolated, regrouped and went at it again and again. My measly iPhone photo [below] doesn’t do it justice. It was jaw-dropping.

“I caught a hint of this growing local rivalry a few times over the past few days, but nothing like the epic battle now.

“I am sure there will be more. Fingers crossed for all involved, especially our new nesting pair. So far, it seems they have been able to defend themselves nicely.”

Nico copied Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society. He replied:

“This is something we will see more and more of, especially with the overlapping hunting territories of the nesting eagle pair and many ospreys. Bald eagles regularly harass osprey, steal their prey, and occasionally kill or injure ospreys in the process.

“But both species treat each other with some degree of respect, because each can cause damage to the other.”

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

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Now there are 3.

Easton has joined the Westport Weston Health District.

Which means it needs a new name. Suggestions (beyond “Westport Weston Easton Health District,” I guess) are welcome. Email publichealth@wwhd.org.

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The only thing better than al fresco dining may be doing it with the best local bounty. Oh, yeah … with chef Alison Milwe Grace in charge.

The popular caterer works her magic at Wakeman Town Farm on June 12 (6 to 9 p.m.). The menu for the WTF fundraiser (for educational programs) includes chilled spring pea and basil soup, spring vegetables, spring lamb chops with mint chimichurri or herb-dusted salmon over asparagus, with lemon-thyme berry trifles. BYOB adult beverages.

Guests can stroll the grounds and gardens, visit the animals, and enjoy acoustic music.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

Alison Milwe Grace, at Wakeman Town Farm.

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And finally … there was no Billboard Hot 100 on May 14, 1920 (the day, noted above, that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald signed their Westport lease). It started August 4, 1958.

However, there are records kept of the top records of 1920. The most popular song that year was Al Jolson’s “Swanee.” “How I love ya, how I love ya …”

The rest of the top songs include a few folks I’ve heard of (Paul Whiteman, Eddie Cantor, Jascha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninoff). But 2 titles caught my eye, for different reasons.

There was this topical tune, “Prohibition Blues” …

… and this one: “My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle.” It would never fly today, 101 years later:

Staples Players Return! Curtain Rises Thursday.

The big New York news: Broadway is opening up soon.

The bigger Westport news: Staples Players are opening up sooner.

The nationally renowned theater troupe takes to the stage next week — Thursday through Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 — for a series of hilarious mini-plays by David Ives.

It’s their first time in front of a Staples audience since “Mamma Mia!” in the fall of 2019. COVID canceled “Seussical” a day before its spring opening last year. Gone too were a summer show, fall mainstage, various Black Box productions, and 2 years’ 1-Act Festivals.

The actors and tech crew kept sharp with 7 creative, well-received radio shows. But they were itching to perform a live audience.

And those live audiences can’t wait to have them back.

The production is called “Words Words Words … and Music.” Director David Roth describes Ives’ 7 short plays — and 2 other mini-musicals, plus additional musical numbers (with live musicians) — as “a little bit wacky. It’s like watching ‘Saturday Night Live,’ if every sketch worked.”

From left: Camille Foisie, Colin Konstanty, Samantha Webster and David Corro in “The Almost In-Laws.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

How wacky?

Remember the idea that 3 monkeys typing into infinity will eventually produce “Hamlet”? Ives imagines the monkeys talking at their typewriters.

One play follows 2 people in a conversational minefield. An offstage bell interrupts every false start, gaffe and faux pas — but the actors can’t hear it.

In one of the musicals, a man introduces his fiancée to his parents, who are … elves.

You get the idea.

Chloe Manna and Ben Herrera talk things out. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Roth and co-director Kerry Long had seen the plays before. They’d wanted to produce them for a while. This is the perfect opportunity.

Every senior — the veteran actors who missed out on so much — has a moment to shine. Familiar faces include Jamie Mann (fresh off his Netflix “Country Comfort” appearance), Camille Foisie and Samantha Webster (stars of “Mamma Mia!”), Sophie Rossman and David Corro.

They stayed active — and stretched their creativity — with Players’ radio plays. But they (and their directors) are thrilled to be back on stage.

“The kids are ecstatic. Every step — auditions, read-throughs, tech week — has been like old times,” Roth says. “They got back into the routine very quickly.”

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samantha Webster take their star turns. (Photo/Kerry Long)

All COVID protocols are being followed. Actors wear special masks, with clear plastic that allows their mouths to be seen.

Rehearsals take place in small groups. Three-quarters of the cast is fully vaccinated.

Only 300 tickets — less than 1/3 of the auditorium’s capacity of 960 — are being sold for each performance. There will be empty rows between each one with people; empty seats separate each pod of ticket-buyers. Every armrest is wiped down between shows.

A number of Players will pursue theater in college. They’ve already learned their most important lesson: The show must go on.

(“Words Words Words … and Music”) will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and May 22 at 2 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information.)

 

Pics Of The Day #1487

Sherwood Mill Pond dawn …

… and nearby homes (Photos/Michael Tomashefsky)

Roundup: ALS, Wine Corks …

 

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MoCA Westport is very punny. The art space on Newtown Turnpike says:

“Bark your calendar to join other canines and their companions to sniff and schmooze at MoCA Westport’s New Yappy Hour! Our new community event will take place on the 1st Thursday of every month, from June – September.

“Haute hounds can lap up libations, thanks to water in their favorite flavor – bacon, chicken, beef or vegan – while human guests relax with a glass of Mutt Lynch Unleashed Chardonnay, Merlot Over and Play Dead, Chateau d’Og Cabernet Sauvignon or a refreshing cocktail featuring tequila, vodka, or gin. Beer selections are also available for purchase.”

MoCA members (and dogs) receive their first drink free — and other benefits.

Admission is free and open to the public. No reservation required. For more information, click here.

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Last September, “06880” reported on Jon Maddock’s battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

May is ALS Awareness Month. His sister Judy reports that nearly 3 years after his diagnosis, the 1973 Staples High School graduate is participating in a platform drug trial at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Jon remains positive, knowing eventually drugs will slow ALS down to manageable, and someday a cure,” Judy says. “He is trying to be around when that happens. He and his family expect to be a part of that future. He’s doing his part to help find a cure.”

You can help too. Just click here to donate.

Jon Maddock in 2019. September 2019. The armband covered a PICC line used for infusions.

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Isabelle Breen writes:

“My friend Katie Augustyn told me pre-COVID that she collects corks to recycle in Stamford. I started to collect them to add my stash to hers, then thought nothing more about it.

“With all the wine consumption in Westport, there are surely lots of corks. I wonder how to put out the word that Westport would benefit from having its own collection partners. Maybe a liquor store wants to take this project on?

“There is a shipping cost to the partner, but perhaps they could collect a nominal fee ($1) with each bag dropped off to defray their cost.

“Westport’s composting program has taken off remarkably well. This could be  another successful step toward helping our environment.”

Any takers? If you’re interested in this idea, click “Comments” below.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo #1 : an Earthplace duck….

(Photo/Abby Gordon-Tolan)

… and #2: 5-day-old robin fledglings:

(Photo/Betty Auber)

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And finally … Mary Wells was born today in 1943. She died in 1992, at 49, of cancer. Her longtime friend and former collaborator, Smokey Robinson, delivered a eulogy.