Judy James is worried about trees.
Last week, she emailed the Planning and Zoning Commission (with a cc to the Historic District Commission).
Judy — a longtime Westporter — expressed her “dismay at the lack of concern for the preservation of trees when presented with development plans within our commercial districts.” She referred to plans for Bedford Square — the YMCA-area complex — that eliminates mature trees on Church Lane.
A tree in front of the “Gunn House” (35 Church Lane) that will probably not survive the Bedford Square project.
“Replacement landscaping with grasses and small trees that won’t reach maturity until most adult residents have passed is simply not acceptable. Commercial owners who have the privilege of living and developing one of the most desirable downtown locations in the northeast should accommodate the retention of their town’s living history,” she said.
Referencing the removal of sycamores earlier this year at the site of the former Brook Cafe, she urged the P&Z to “not approve this project and just let ‘staff’ decide at a later date what would be acceptable landscaping…. As many of these mature trees as possible must be retained.”
Another possibly endangered tree — this one in front of the YMCA.
David Waldman is developing Bedford Square into stores, apartments and offices. I asked him to respond.
I am familiar with the letter and understand her position. Unfortunately, in order to accommodate the need for underground parking, wider pedestrian- friendly tree-lined sidewalks, street lamps and more importantly the already fully approved design and site plan by the HDC and Architectural Review Board, the trees will have to be removed.
We will add 16 new trees (clearly not as old and mature as the 6 that exist on the sites today), but in a quantity much greater than exists today. In addition, there will be numerous planting beds, landscape planters, benches, public art, public parks and gathering spaces, pedestrian passages from Elm, Church, Post and Main and much more.
The proposed intersection of Church Lane and Elm Street. David Waldman says, “I understand these renderings show the trees after year of growth. It is our intention to plant appropriately sized trees in the beginning, not saplings or tiny ones.”
As developers we always try and retain as much history as possible. We have shown this in our current plan to retain the historic Bedford mansion and firehouse, as well as the work I have done with Patagonia, Urban Outfitters and Spotted Horse.
When we built the Spotted Horse, we removed 5 -6 very large tress and no one said a peep. Hopefully, the end result will be something all of Westport can be proud of.
A rendering of Church Lane. The Spotted Horse is at the left; the former YMCA is on the right.
Our team and all the commissions we have obtained approvals from to date are very pleased and proud with the new design that we (developers, residents, commission, HDC, ARB and many other groups) have collectively created. We feel by listening to all those interested groups, we have come up with a much better project.
Certainly, the Spotted Horse has added both energy and architectural spirit to Church Lane.
Plans for the rest of the area — including widening Church Lane and its sidewalks, and “fixing” its tough intersection with the Post Road — show plenty of greenery. True, it’s not all “mature” — but isn’t part of the problem with downtown that it’s a bit long in the tooth?