The fat lady may not have sung — yet.
But her spotlight is on. She’s warming up her vocal cords. And she’s ready to step onstage.
A Stamford Superior Court decision seems to have removed the last major impediment to the Westport Weston Family Y‘s move from downtown to its 32-acre Camp Mahackeno property.
On Thursday, Judge A. William Mottolese rejected an appeal filed by Y Downtown, a grassroots organization hoping (duh) to keep the Y downtown. The sigh of relief heard in the 87-year-old Tudor building on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street could be heard — well, all the way up Wilton Road, to Mahackeno’s hills, dales and river.
The Westport Y in downtown Westport -- until 2014, it now seems.
Yesterday, Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves reflected on what the decision means.
“We didn’t have to wait for this decision to move forward with our plans, but because I was new to the job 2 years ago, and there was so much uncertainty (about the court case), we decided to wait,” he said.
“Now that the judge has spoken, we’re going to refocus our efforts. We’re going to talk to the community and the media. We’ve been quiet for a while. Now we look forward to reminding people of what we do, how we connect to the community, and how we’ll make this the best move it can be.”
Y Downtown has 20 days to request an appeal before the Connecticut Appellate Court. There is no certainty that request would be accepted.
Y Downtown has not announced whether it will appeal. As of yesterday afternoon, its website did not have news of Thursday’s court decision.
Though a major impediment to the Y’s move has been cleared, another obstacle remain$.
A capital campaign will be announced sometime this year. Y officials have not yet re-priced the Mahackeno building, but the fundraising environment is clearly different than when planning began in 2002 — nearly 10 years ago.
Reeves — who combines FDR-like optimism with a healthy dose of pragmatism (he came to Westport from Maine) — sees an upside in the economic downturn.
“If we’d started a capital campaign 4 years ago and then ran into the recession, people might not have been able to make good on their pledges,” he said.
“Now, people might contribute less. But they’ll be more realistic about what they say they can give.
“We have to go beyond the typical big donors,” he added. “They can’t carry this. Whatever we do has to be much broader based.”
Nationally, Reeves noted, non-profits are initiating fundraising campaigns — and money is coming in.
He said that the Y will soon reassess “what we can realistically build. We won’t commit to a building we can’t afford.”
An artist's rendering of the Westport Y at Camp Mahackeno.
So — as the fat lady prepares to walk on stage — Reeves is readying the Westport Y for its own next steps.
“We have to position ourselves as an asset to the community,” he emphasized. “We have to explain why this took so long, and what we plan to do.
“If this community wants the Y to be an integral part of Westport — and that’s what we hear, over and over — we have to make sure people understand that we have to move.
“We have an agreement to be out of the (downtown) building by the end of 2014. We can’t change that.”
Though he supports keeping the Y where it is, Matt Mandell is not a Y Downtown leader. He’s chair of the RTM’s Planning and Zoning Committee — and an astute observer of the way the political winds blow.
In an e-mail to like-minded Westporters after the judge’s decision, he seemed to acknowledge that the fight was over.
He said that Y Downtown “put up a great fight.”
The Y folks too, he said, “fought well.” He congratulated his foes, and acknowledged that over the past few years there were “some tough moments and at times bad blood.”
But in the end, Mandell said, “we are all one community and continue to live among each other. While I might not like the new location, I’m sure it will be a great place to use. One thing Y folks, please do right by your neighbors, you owe at least that much to them.”
Reeves agrees with his former foe.
“We’re hopeful we can put everything that’s gone on behind us,” the CEO said. “We want to be a good neighbor, even for those people who might have been uncertain about us.”
The fat lady couldn’t have
sung said it better herself.