Tag Archives: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe

Unsung Hero #89

Just over a year ago, as winds howled, a large tree branch fell on Victoria Gouletas. She broke her back, and fractured bones in her neck, scapula and sternum.

Victoria Gouletas

Victoria — a real estate attorney, member of Westport’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and mother of 3 young children — was told she would never walk again.

Victoria is incredibly strong and tenacious. Buoyed by wonderful support from her husband Troy Burk and her kids — and a fantastic outpouring of energy, resources and funds from friends and strangers all across town — she made extraordinary progress.

In a little over 3 months, Victoria was back at her seat on the ZBA. She was an inspiration to all.

However, the cold weather is difficult. The family is moving to North Carolina. It’s a huge loss to our town.

Last night, the ZBA surprised her. Congressman Jim Himes and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill sent letters of commendation, and First Selectman Jim Marpe was on hand to honor her for her service and courage.

Victoria Gouletas and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at last night’s ZBA meeting. (Photo/Josh Newman)

Jim Ezzes called her “one of the most qualified and valued members I have had the opportunity to work with, during my over 20 years as chair of the ZBA.”

Democratic Town Committee chair Ellen Lautenberg added, “Her dedication and professional approach to the position has been exemplary. In addition, Victoria is a wonderful role model for how she has dealt with personal challenges in terms of her positive attitude, incredible fortitude and perseverance.”

Westport has many unsung volunteers — including members of town boards and commissions. But it’s hard to find anyone — in government, or anywhere else — who better epitomizes dedication to the town, and the power of the human spirit, than Victoria Gouletas.

Click below for Rob Simmelkjaer’s tribute video:

BREAKING NEWS: Westport Gets Moratorium For 8-30g Housing

For years, Westport has grappled with the intent and consequences of Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Law.

Known as 8-30g, the regulation mandates that 10% of a town’s housing stock be “affordable.” It compels local planning and zoning boards to justify any denial of an “affordable housing” application.

The intent of 8-30g is for every community in the state to provide diverse housing stock.

However, for the purpose of calculating 8-30g, only units constructed after 1990, and those that are deed-restricted for 40 years, are considered. Most Westport units serving lower-income groups do not fall into either category.

Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown. However, because it was built before 1990, it does not count toward 8-30g compliance.

Developers began using 8-30g as a weapon. They proposed large developments all around town — Hiawatha Lane, Lincoln Street, Weston Road, Post Road East — with some units designated as 8-30g.

Opponents cited concerns like traffic, fire safety, and environmental encroachment. But because the regulation is written so definitively, fighting an 8-30g proposal is time-consuming, expensive and hard.

And because proposals often included only a few 8-30g units, each development meant that it could be harder — not easier — for Westport to reach the 10% threshold.

One of the most controversial housing proposals with an 8-30g component — 187 units on Hiawatha Lane, off Saugatuck Avenue by I-95 Exit 17 — will be heard tomorrow by the Planning & Zoning Commission (Thursday, 7 p.m., Town Hall). Because it was filed before today, it is unaffected by the moratorium.

However, an end — if only temporary — is at hand.

This afternoon, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced that Westport has received a “Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion” from the state Department of Housing. The result is a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g.

The moratorium was granted “based upon the significant progress Westport has made in supplying affordable housing,” Marpe said.

He praised members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Planning and Zoning Department staffers, and attorney Nicholas Bamonte for helping create affordable housing opportunities, and seeing the moratorium application through to completion.

Planning and Zoning director Mary Young said that Westport joins Brookfield, Darien, Farmington, New Canaan, Ridgefield and Wilton as towns that have been granted moratoriums. Milford has an application pending.

P&Z chair Paul Lebowitz said that the moratorium “will allow the Commission to continue their efforts to create affordable housing opportunities that are in scale with and can be integrated with the community. The 4-year moratorium will not stifle our efforts to provide affordable housing in Westport.”

Aquarion Water Towers: Jim Marpe Responds

This morning, “06880” reader Robert Harrington criticized 1st selectman Jim Marpe and other town leaders for their actions during the Aquarion/North Avenue water tower debate. The 1st selectman responds:

Thank you for the opportunity to address Mr. Harrington’s concerns and accusations. I will try to clarify certain facts and misstatements, as well as explain how my staff and I have willingly assisted a group of residents who abut Aquarion’s property on North Avenue. I have remained sympathetic with their concerns regarding quality of life and property values, and have sought to mitigate the impacts that this vital infrastructure project may have on them.

The town attorney, operations director, director of public works, fire chief, fire marshal, tree warden, other staff, volunteers and I have devoted hundreds of hours over the past year and a half researching and mediating toward a solution that would help the neighbors, and at the same time address the water supply needs of the entire community. I personally have taken the following actions:

  • led public and work group meetings;
  • facilitated communications between Aquarion and the neighbors;
  • advocated for a peer review paid for by Aquarion;
  • dedicated my staff’s time;
  • enlisted experienced resident volunteers to assist with mediation;
  • remained non-partisan and neutral with the goal of compromise; and
  • wrote several letters to PURA on behalf of the residents.

These are tangible services that I believe speak volumes over appearing at a single public regulatory hearing to make a statement. I appreciate the state legislators’ ongoing efforts to help, but my office and several dedicated town employees have been consistently involved in trying to reach an acceptable solution. The positions that I have taken are not just advocacy. They also reflect a careful weighting of all the options and their outcomes, as well as the benefits to the greater good of all Westporters.

The town stayed involved in this process and conveyed to Aquarion the importance of:

  • finding a way to lower the height by eliminating the dome;
  • increasing the landscaping;
  • managing the traffic and disruption; and
  • expediting the water main upgrade.

Had we not stayed involved, Aquarion would never have agreed to the most recent settlement offer. They also would never have agreed to the peer review. It is clear that my pressure on Aquarion led to the agreement on several concessions.

In advance of the public hearings in New Britain, I submitted a detailed letter to PURA with very specific requests. Furthermore, while I remained in Westport to address other town-related issues, at my behest and with my full confidence the town Attorney and operations director attended the hearings held in November and January. PURA requested that the fire marshal and public works director testify. That totals 4 senior town representatives involved with 2 hearings in New Britain.

Public works director Mr. Ratkiewich is a dedicated 29-year town employee who has no affiliation with Aquarion. He was requested by PURA to testify under oath and responded to specific questions on a factual basis. This testimony, along with that of our fire marshal and Mr. Harrington, are all available for the public to review. I am confident that upon review of the public proceedings, no one would describe Mr. Ratkiewich’s tone and commentary as anything but professional and forthright.  I will not accept attacks on, and I will always defend, our town staff when they are inappropriately accused.

It is easy to say that a tank should go “here” or “there” as an alternative, but Mr. Harrington fails to mention the related costs and potential disruption to our town. Also, he doesn’t point out that his proposed alternate sites include the entrance to the Bedford Middle School property and a location in another residential zone. If PURA believes that these locations or other alternatives should be pursued, then I’ll direct the efforts of our town staff accordingly.

We know that the water main upgrades in Westport have been on Aquarion’s capital plan. Aquarion offered to accelerate them in order to come to a compromise. The town remains skeptical that Aquarion has the ability to complete the work within the accelerated timeframe, which is why the tank construction is vital to our water supply infrastructure.

We have gone above and beyond to assist. I am proud of the compromises the neighbors and the town have accomplished during negotiations with Aquarion. In fact, the final settlement agreement was close to acceptance by both parties until the fire marshal would not agree to further lower the height of the tanks because of the impact on fire flow. Since I trust his expertise and experience, I removed the additional lower height provision from my request to PURA. I agreed that the town should not reduce the fire flow improvements that we are receiving from this project. At that point, several residents split apart because many were ready to settle. Mr. Harrington now represents a smaller fraction of the impacted homes.

Last fall, PURA members — and a few protesters — toured the Aquarion North Avenue water tower site.

Despite all the time, energy, costs and effort that my staff and I have dedicated in the mediation process, the neighbors were not able to reach a settlement with Aquarion. That is why PURA, the regulatory authority tasked with oversight of Aquarion, has become the forum to address the issues. The proposal to allow Aquarion to build one tank while a second site location is found is best left for PURA to decide.

In conclusion, I stand by the efforts of the town as well as my leadership. Other local challenges also require my time and attention, including the rehabilitation of Coleytown Middle School and finalizing the town’s operating budget. Nevertheless, the North Avenue water tanks remain an important issue for the town. As such, our staff and I will continue to be involved as appropriate, and if we believe it can bring us to a settlement that all parties can accept.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to state the facts and provide my support of the town’s dedicated employees.

 

[OPINION] Robert Harrington: Leadership Needed On Aquarion Tanks

Robert Harrington, his wife and 4 children have been Westporters since 2004. He speaks out on local issues — including the Aquarion/ North Avenue water tank debate. 

“I live over a mile away from the approved tanks, so this is not a NIMBY issue for me,” he says. “It’s about elected representatives supporting local residents.” In the wake of a recent regulatory hearing in New Britain, he wrote this letter to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

I was greatly disappointed by how several town officials came to speak out against community requests at the recent Aquarion Public Utilities Regulatory Authority hearing in New Britain. This will likely ensure that the town of Westport will fail to get the best results for all residents.

No Westport resident should be put in a situation where the quiet use and enjoyment of their property is destroyed by a private company.

This is not just another large-scale development. This is the largest public works project in our town’s history. It is being placed in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site. It is opposite Staples High School.

In particular, I was personally angered by the tone and commentary from public works director Peter Ratkiewich.

Neither Mr Ratkiewich nor any of his staff attended any of the P&Z meetings in 2017 when the project was discussed and voted on. He never explored valid alternatives. Then, at PURA, he sought to undermine any attempt to consider alternatives that could have offered  increased fire protection and fire flow.

At times during his testimony, Mr Ratkiewich sounded more like an Aquarion employee than a town of Westport representative.

Other towns across the state from Greenwich to Derby to Mystic have supported residents and successfully fought back against private interests. They found workable alternatives. Westport did not.

I was very careful not to attack our fire marshal in New Britain. I didn’t want to undermine one of our key leaders before the commission. However, if this project is really that urgent why are we not looking at all potential supplies, in addition to tanks? Why did Aquarion and Westport do nothing for 5 years following the Saugatuck Congregational Church fire in 2011? Why are the key players not making a much stronger argument for water main upgrades?

The water mains may yet be improved, although we have not been able to get concrete guarantees from Aquarion. Our community group fought hard to have upgrades included in any deal, despite the fact that in August 2018 your staff meekly recommended that we drop the effort given Aquarion’s stubborn refusal to do so. We wouldn’t take no for an answer, and upgrades are thankfully back on the table.

Even more worrisome, Aquarion has changed the fire flow numbers that were contained in the original reports they gave to rgw town. No one from our town is questioning this.

Why have these numbers changed?

The town of Westport has approved a plan that is better than the current situation — but will leave places like Saugatuck Shores vastly below what is recommended for fire flow.

Party politics should play no role in a project that will last for the next 100 years. That said, as a Republican I was embarrassed by the fact that Republicans didn’t come and represent any of the people in the room at PURA, New Britain over the past 3 months.

Westport was well represented by many Democrats and small parties. We had wonderful representation from State Senator Will Haskell, Representative Jonathan Steinberg and many RTM members

You took the explicit choice not to stand with the community — or even attend.

We also had strong participation from community leaders like Valerie Jacobs and Ian Warburg from Save Westport Now, and Jennifer Johnson from the Coalition for Westport.

Many residents spoke about losing value on their homes, and had to do the work that Aquarion and the town of Westport should have done.

We will likely see 2 huge tanks constructed on the current 3-acre site, which is far too small to provide full screening.

Balloons show the height of Aquarion’s proposed water tank on North Avenue.

We also offered several alternatives to PURA to evaluate. PURA could immediately approve one tank on the site and rule that a second location must be found for a second tank. You and your staff dismissed this.

Alternatively, Aquarion could build two2 shorter tanks on the  site. But getting approval for the second tank, they would have to demonstrate to the community that they were being good neighbors and honoring their commitments while the first tank is constructed – including committing to material water main upgrades.

If 2 tanks are squeezed on to the site, Aquarion could plant taller trees to fully screen the tanks — and reduce the side wall by 3 feet. They offered the community this height reduction in August 2018, but didn’t bother to speak to the fire department first.

You and your staff chose not to support these common sense proposals.

There is a potential deal to be done on Bayberry Lane for a second tank location, but that would require political leadership. Alternatively, you could have explored leasing land on school property — potentially giving the town a much needed revenue source.  None of that happened.

Any delay at this point is your responsibility.

We urge PURA to approve one tank on the current site, and begin the work immediately driving almost a 50% increase in storage within 12 months versus the current single tank. Until the current old tank is decommissioned, the 2 tanks will contain almost 150% more water today.

The Westport P&Z was misled by Aquarion. Your town employees are helping to ensure a project that won’t fix Westport’s water pressure and fire flow gets the go-ahead because this is the easiest and cheapest route for Aquarion.

We need your leadership.

Jim Marpe: “I Proudly Represent All Westporters”

Earlier today, I posted an open letter to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Prill Boyle praised him for his civility, intelligence, caring, community building and fiscal prudence — then wondered why he did not speak up against “the values of today’s Republican party.”

He responds:

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to today’s “Open Letter.”

As 1st selectman I proudly represent all Westporters regardless of their individual party affiliations, points of view on particular issues, or whether or not they shake my hand. As much as physically possible, I stand ready to meet with constituents or respond to their emails and phone calls in order to hear their ideas and address their concerns.

There are nearly 4,500 registered Republicans living in Westport. Shaming our neighbors because you presume they do not share all or some of the same political beliefs is wrong.

Westport prides itself on being tolerant and inclusive. We are (or should be) Republicans and Democrats based on a set of principles rather than loyalty or fealty to one individual, including President Trump. It has been my experience in the past 5 years as first selectman that our individual principles as a community have much more in common than they differ.

At last year’s “06880” party, incumbent 1st Selectman Jim Marpe posed with Democratic opponent Melissa Kane. He won the election; she is now 3rd selectwoman. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

As Westport’s 1st selectman and a former Board of Education member and vice chairman, I have chosen to “speak up” through actions that impact Westport and its neighbors. I have supported programs that impact arts and intellectual activities and that address the social services needs of our community as well as neighboring communities that may be less fortunate.

I have committed Westport to an environmentally sustainable future through our “Net Zero by 2050” initiatives. And I practice fiscal prudence on behalf of all Westporters.

Most importantly, my administration is committed to continue to make Westport an attractive and welcoming community in which to live, work and operate a business, regardless of the continuing challenges that the State of Connecticut faces.

In order to affect change, we must have open dialogue. Demonizing someone because of his or her party affiliation, or presumed political beliefs, is not only unfair, it is also self-defeating. In Westport we can and must continue our tradition of listening to and respecting each other – not just when we agree, but more importantly when we differ.

And I will continue to do my best to address Westport’s challenges by reflecting what I believe are the broadly held principles of local governance and process, and a community commitment to tolerance, inclusiveness and civility.

[OPINION] Prill Boyle To Jim Marpe: “I Wish You Would Speak Up”

Last week’s “06880” blog party was a celebration of all things Westport. It was a chance for everyone in town to meet, eat, drink and chill, in a community environment at our favorite beach. And, as I always say, it was non-partisan.

But these days, politics intrudes everywhere. Prill Boyle — a longtime “06880” reader, 1972 Staples High School graduate, and the author of “Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women” — saw something that made her think.

And — nearly a week later — write. 

Here’s an open letter she’s written, to 1st selectman Jim Marpe:

Prill Boyle (Photo/Suzanne Sheridan)

When I witnessed my friend Rozanne Gates refusing to shake your hand at the beach last Thursday simply because you are a Republican, I was appalled.

The more I thought about it though, the more I came to admire both her principled stance and your even-handed response. I applaud both of you for being civil to one another.

Although I will always shake your hand if you extend it to me, I too question why you align yourself with today’s Republican party.

From what I have seen, you are a highly intelligent man, not someone who is anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-environment.

From what I have seen, you are a caring husband and father, not someone who would condone separating mothers and children at our southern border and shutting down Planned Parenthood.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe at last week’s “06880” party.

From what I have seen, you are someone who builds strong coalitions, not someone who would undermine NATO and the European Union.

Finally, from what I have seen, you are someone who is fiscally prudent, not someone who would give a deficit-financed tax cut to the rich while attempting to de-fund a healthcare program for poor children that saves society money in the long run.

In short, from what I have seen you are a good man, a person who values honesty, decency and community. In short, you don’t seem like a person who would tacitly condone the values of today’s Republican party.

So I wish you would speak up.

Cribari Bridge Advisory Committee Formed

The William F. Cribari/Bridge Street Bridge saga rolls on.

The 1st Selectman’s office just sent out this press release:

The state Department of Transportation recently announced the creation of a Project Advisory Committee for input and guidance as the project to rebuild the William F. Cribari Bridge advances.

The first meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 18 (6:30 p.m., Town Hall Auditorium).

According to the DOT:

CTDOT is initiating preliminary engineering work to address structural and functional issues affecting the bridge. As part of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act, an Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Evaluation will be conducted in order to determine the socio-economic and environmental impacts of various design alternatives. The purpose of the EA/EIE is to explore options that accommodate safe vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian, and marine travel, are resilient to the changing shoreline climate and environmental conditions and consider the historic character of the bridge.

The Cribari Bridge does open. The other day, a mechanical issue kept it in this position for a while. (Photo/David Squires)

Based on the concerns and needs of the community, the Department has identified a group of project stakeholders whose expertise may provide helpful input into a variety of issues, including safety, mobility, environmental concerns, and historic considerations. A Project Advisory Committee is being developed to provide critical input and assist the Department in its decision-making process. Other stakeholders may be identified during the study process and incorporated in the PAC as warranted.

The PAC will meet at key milestones during project development in fulfillment of its role.

Local organizations, businesses and government entities that CT DOT has identified in its initial PAC roster include:

Town of Westport:

  •             First Selectman
  •             Fire Department
  •             Police Department
  •             Public Works Department
  •             Conservation Department
  •             Historic District Commission
  •             Shellfish Commission
  •             Harbormaster
  •             Boating Advisory Committee
  •             Downtown Plan Implementation Committee

Also:

  • Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce
  • Westport Preservation Alliance
  • Bridgebrook Marina
  • All Seasons Marine Works

State and regional entities that have been invited include:

  •             CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
  •             CT Commuter Rail Council
  •             CT Trust for Historic Preservation
  •             CT Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound
  •             Federal Highway Administration
  •             State Historic Preservation Office
  •             Western CT Council of Governments

The Selectman’s office suggested a number of additional organizations and individuals to be included in the PAC when it was made aware of the formation in late June. To date however, CT DOT did not include those groups in its initial invitation, but noted that other stakeholders may be identified and added to the PAC.

The future of the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is central to any discussion of the future of Saugatuck.
(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

First Selectman Jim Marpe commented, “The creation of this PAC is part of an ongoing environmental assessment that is required due to both the historic nature of the bridge and its location over the Saugatuck River. It should be stressed that this step in the process is not a sign of any intent or decisions regarding the ultimate design or rehabilitation of the bridge. Neither is it a reflection on any conclusions that may be made by the Town to accept the State’s offer to rehabilitate the bridge and turn its ownership over to the Town, as proposed by CT DOT in 2017.”

Marpe continued, “I recognize the Cribari Bridge contributes to the historic character of the Town of Westport and in particular, the Saugatuck community. This will be an important opportunity for the members of the PAC and eventually, the whole community to once again offer its opinions and observations related to the bridge and any environmental impacts that may result from its rebuild or rehabilitation.  The meeting on July 18 is open to the public, although CT DOT management has indicated that public input will be limited at this session.  It is unclear how much input or level of participation will be accepted from those individuals and organizations not identified as members of the PAC in either this or subsequent meetings that will be organized and conducted by the CT DOT.”

Comments or questions regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment process, the formation of the Project Advisory Committee and the agenda/conduct of the July 18 meeting should be directed to CT DOT’s Project Manager, Priti S. Bhardwaj by email (Priti.Bhardwaj@ct.gov) or phone (860- 594-3311).

Another view of the William F. Cribari Bridge. It’s interesting that everyone photographs it from the Riverside Avenue side. (Photo/Michael Champagne)

Westporters Push Against Cancer

The Levitt Pavilion was packed yesterday — with push-up people.

The view from the Levitt Pavilion stage.

Hundreds of men, women and kids — from super-jacked to usually sedentary — did as many push-ups as they could in an hour.

First Selectman Jim Marpe banged out his. So did Chief of Police Foti Koskinas. And Paul Newman’s grandson.

Chief of Police Foti Koskinas and Push Against Cancer founder Andy Berman.

Which was fitting, because all the money raised goes to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the fantastic getaway for boys and girls with cancer and other serious diseases. It was founded, of course, by Westport’s own Paul Newman.

The 9th annual Push Against Cancer raised well over $120,000 — a record. That makes nearly $500,000 since the event began.

Congrats to founder and mastermind Andy Berman. To the many police and firefighters who helped make it happen.

And, of course, to everyone who participated — and feels very, very sore today.

(Hat tip: photographers Sabine Foreman, Andrew Kindt, Adam Vengrow)

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

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

Summit Development says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summit’s new proposal: 187 units.

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

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

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

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

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

Judge Rules Against Town In Hiawatha Sewer Case

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

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

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

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

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

A rendering of the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

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

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

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

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

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