Tag Archives: Bayberry Lane

[OPINION] Fatal Accident Fails To Deter Westport Drivers

Gery Grove moved to Westport from Brooklyn 7 years ago. She thought the drivers here were crazy — but they’ve gotten worse. She lives on a street that is a Waze shortcut, and uses the Bayberry Lane/Cross Highway intersection often. Everywhere in town, she says, people speed. 

Paloma Bima has lived in Westport for 16 years — 14 of them on Cross Highway. “I have seen way too many accidents,” she says. “I love walking to Wakeman, but it is dangerous!”

Andi Sklar’s family rented for 4 years on Bayberry Lane. They then built a house on Cross Highway, and have been there for 6. Every day, she sees drivers run the stop sign at the intersection of those 2 roads. She worries about the safety of her daughter, who attends Bedford Middle School and walks to Chef’s Table.

Following this week’s death of 25-year-old pedestrian Peter Greenberg on Bulkley Avenue North, the women write: 

Peter Greenberg

The loss of any life, especially someone young, can be devastating. But why does it resonate here in Westport so much? Because as a community we observe countless near misses – misses that might end up differently the next time due to our pedestrian-unfriendly roads, and our constant battle with speedy or reckless driving.

(Details of that accident have not been revealed, so this is not meant as an accusation of reckless driving against the driver on Bulkley.)

The next day, Gery Grove passed a multi-car accident at the corner of Bayberry and Cross Highway. While waiting for police to wave her through, a dark grey Ford Explorer behind her honked aggressively. The driver stayed on her bumper all the way to Long Lots Road.

Less than a day had passed since a pedestrian was killed nearby. Many children live in this neighborhood. They walk to or from school, and Chef’s Table.

Slow down, Westport. Another serious accident is right around the corner.

The intersection of Cross Highway and Bayberry Lane is just one spot with frequent reckless driving, running stop signs, and near misses. The three of us have been searching for ways to manage the dangers on our roads.

After near misses with her own children at that intersection near her home, Andi worked with Westport police on the visibility of stop signs.

Officer Al D’Amura has been extremely helpful. After riding together, he cut big branches that might have blocked the signs.

He also had an officer sit at the intersection. That provided only temporary relief. Andi said he is requesting that Public Works trim more bushes.

Paloma sought approval for a crosswalk from one side of Cross Highway to the other near Wakeman Fields, in light of the recent creation of a mega-campus at Bedford and Staples. So far, no measures have been enacted.

Gery grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Years ago they installed cameras, to catch speeders. Tickets are sent by mail. The first time she returned home, she wondered why everyone drove so slowly. Clearly. the cameras work.

One loss of life in this town is one too many. The time to consider solutions was before this young man was killed – but it definitely needs to be before another tragedy.

We have fallen victim to Waze, tight schedules, our devices, distraction and carelessness.

We have to ask our town to take real, concrete measures to clamp down on speeding, consider more pedestrian safety measures like sidewalks and crosswalks, and truly make those who believe the rules don’t apply to them rediscover the value of human life.

Or at least, to feel the presence of the laws they seek to violate.

A typical Westport driver.

Let this week be a collective call to action for our town leaders to make sure we give this issue the attention it deserves.

We have to do something. We are told not to be helicopter parents. But it’s hard to let kids roam around Westport these days.

It should not be that way.

Friday Flashback #150

If you were a teenage driver in Westport around the time this photo was taken — and judging by the car, it was the 1970s — you remember this scene:

The target was painted on Bayberry Lane — the hill just north of the Merritt Parkway.

It was a real hill then too — not the measly mound it is today. (It was probably flattened because someone painted that target.)

I don’t know the artist. Someone did a great job.

And had the right idea.

You really could get air, particularly with a good rate of speed southbound.

Of course, those were the days when auto repairs were fairly cheap.

Beltas’ Plan: Keep Part Of Family Farm

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

My story began:

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

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

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

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

How much longer, though, is uncertain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A site plan for the proposed Agricultural Heritage Overlay District.

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

The Agricultural Heritage Overlay District would, they say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without leaving their farm behind.

The greenhouse and outbuildings, today.

 

Traffic Grows; So Do Woes

Summertime usually means a decrease in Westport traffic.

Not this year.

Westporters have noticed a dramatic increase on the Post Road. The Compo Road light seems particularly bad, especially coming from downtown and on South Compo Road, from the beach. Others spots on US1 are also heavier than usual, this time of year.

But it’s also an issue on usually free-flowing side streets. An “06880” reader writes:

My child attends camp at Coleytown Elementary School. Given the current North Avenue bridge closure, this is a problem.

Remembering the traffic situation from last summer, when the bridge was also out, I leave my house (off South Compo) 15 minutes before the start of camp. However, the construction at North Compo and Main Street makes this worse this year.

At 8:50 a.m., the intersection of Cross Highway and Weston Road is completely blocked up with Merritt Parkway traffic. It’s nearly impossible to make the left turn onto Weston Road.

It takes another 10 minutes to get to the stop sign on Easton Road, a few yards away.

Returning home, it’s hard to use Easton Road because the traffic is backed up a good half-mile, so I go the other direction to Bayberry lane.

4:15 pm yesterday: Southbound on Easton Road, heading to the Weston Road/Merritt Parkway bottleneck. During morning rush hour, the scene is much worse.

4:15 pm yesterday: Southbound on Easton Road, heading to the Weston Road/Merritt Parkway bottleneck. During morning rush hour, the scene is much worse.

There should be a traffic cop at the Weston/Easton/Merritt intersection to ease traffic. I’ve seen cops on both Bayberry Lane and Easton Road with radar guns to catch speeders, instead of helping out at congested intersections.

Today (Tuesday) was the worst it’s been in a while. Post Road, Greens Farms Road and even my own side street were at a standstill.

It’s not just me complaining. Everyone I have spoken with who carpools kids to camp is at their wit’s end with the traffic situation.

I hope you understand that this is not just one Westport mom complaining. I’m trying to bring attention to a larger problem.

This Old House #5

Last week’s house — the most recent in a series seeking readers’ help identifying homes photographed for a 1930s WPA project — remains a mystery. It probably no longer stands on Riverside Avenue — but it may. No one seems sure. (Click here to see the photo, then scroll down for readers’ comments.)

This week’s house carries identification on the back of the photo: “Cross Highway — near Bayberry or Great Hill Rd. Westport.”

This Old House 5 - April 1, 2015

Hmmm….interesting. Cross Highway near Bayberry narrows it down. But there is no “Great Hill Road” in Westport. Weston, yes — but it’s not adjacent to Cross Highway or Bayberry.

If you think you know where this house stands — or once stood, if it’s been torn down — click “Comments” below. Information is needed for an upcoming Historical Society exhibit on preservation in Westport.

A $1 Million Realignment On Route 136

The other day, signs were quietly posted near the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Easton Road (Route 136).

They announced a meeting for Wednesday, February 27 (7 p.m., Room 201, Town Hall).

Bayberry Lane/Route 136 sign

A nearby resident did some digging. She found a report, issued by the South Western Regional Planning Agency. To her surprise — and most Westporters’, I imagine — the tough, well-traveled intersection has already been extensively (and expensively) studied.

SWRPA’s engineering consultants — Milone & MacBroom — have come up with 4 alternatives.

Two are near-term:

  1. Realignment of 136 with Bayberry Lane, and installation of 3 stop signs ($922,000).
  2. Construction of a roundabout on 136, with a center “vegetated island’ ($973,000).

Two are long-term:

  1. Realignment of the intersection, making it perpendicular (think Post Road/Compo Road North and South), rather than the current  Bayberry Lane Extension “jog” (think Post Road/Trader Joe’s/CVS parking lots — though with stop signs, not lights) ($1.22 million)
  2. Realignment of the intersection as above, including a roundabout ($1.35 million).

SWRPA prefers the roundabout alternatives.

Near-term alternative #1, showing placement of 3 stop signs. (Courtesy of Milone & MacBroom)

Near-term alternative #1, showing placement of 3 stop signs. (Courtesy of Milone & MacBroom)

There are 2 challenges to realigning the road. One is the house at 300 Bayberry Lane, which apparently would have its front yard cut diagonally in half. The other is wetlands on the northwest corner of Bayberry and 136.

A traffic light is not an option. It’s a state road, and Connecticut tries to keep lights to a minimum.

Residents have long complained of speeders on 136 — especially during rush hour. (Many drivers use it to avoid the Merritt Parkway “no exit zone” between 44 and 42.) Most cars at least double the 20 mph sign displayed at the Bayberry Road curve.

Meanwhile, White Birch — which turns into Bayberry Lane at the Westport line — is a main thoroughfare for Weston residents hurrying south.

Long-term alternative #2. You can see the outline of the roundabout in the center, and the new entrance to Bayberry Lane Extension just north of it. (Courtesy of Milone & MacBroom)

Long-term alternative #2. You can see the outline of the roundabout in the center, and the new entrance to Bayberry Lane Extension just northwest of it. (Courtesy of Milone & MacBroom)

SWRPA’s realignment solutions are very expensive. Area residents — concerned about both traffic and cost — wonder why simple stop signs (with other signs warning of the stop sign) can’t do the trick. Cutting back trees, to improve sightlines, would also help.

All of those issues will be discussed on February 27 at Town Hall — just a few minutes down Easton Road, from Bayberry Lane.

Depending, of course, on traffic.

(Click here for SWRPA’s intersection study. Click here for SWRPA’s final study presentation.)