One week after the Planning & Zoning Commission agreed to a settlement with Summit Saugatuck — allowing a scaled-down 157-unit housing development to be built on Hiawatha Lane (off Saugatuck Avenue adjacent to I-95 Exit 17). seemingly ending 18 years of proposals and litigation — there is a new twist.
Earlier this afternoon — one day ahead of the filing deadline — a petition signed by over 60 electors was delivered to the town clerk. Lead petitioner Gloria Gouveia and Save Old Saugatuck leader Carolanne Curry presented the signatures.
If Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton ascertains that there are at least 20 valid signatures, the petition will be forwarded to the Representative Town Meeting, as provided by the Town Charter. A public hearing would follow.
The RTM has 30 days from today to hear and decide the petition.
Last Saturday, Carolanne Curry noticed some workers bustling about in a West Ferry Lane parking lot near the train station. It’s owned by the town, but is a convenient spot for Gault customers.
After years of being on edge about potential development of Hiawatha Lane — her neighborhood — the longtime resident worried something was up.
The West Ferry Lane parking lot, after some work was done. (Photo/Carolanne Curry)
Something was up. But she needn’t have worried.
Yesterday, Gault Family Companies president Sam Gault replied to her email. He said:
Carolanne, thanks for reaching out. I offered to do a clean-up of this parking lot for the town, to make it look presentable for our neighborhood.
This has been an eyesore for many years (overgrown bush, dead trees, leaves, sand from plowing, etc.). The soil that you see is sand buildup over the years leveled out.
We have a few more trees [in poor shape] to take down. We are distributing wood chips over the entire area, and re-installing a nice black chain link fence that will disappear to the eye (as opposed to the rusted, dented, broken fence that was there).
This will upgrade the entrance to our neighborhood that has been neglected for years. Any questions, please reach out. If you want a tour, let me know.
The jury is still out on Summit Saugatuck’s proposal to build 187 units of housing nearby.
But the verdict is in on Gault. After 156 years in the area, they’re still at the top of their game.
Carolanne Curry is a 20-year resident of Saugatuck. She’s concerned about possible changes to the neighborhood — and about the process. She writes:
It was painful to hear the response given to Helen Garten at the last Transit Oriented District meeting.
Speaking as a public member attending the 8 a.m. session, Helen questioned the gap of understanding between the TOD committee members appointed by the 1st Selectman, and the frustrated “Don’t ruin our community” members of the public, who have religiously attended this dance marathon of TOD meetings for over a year.
Helen said that public input is not acknowledged to any degree in the TOD report that is shaping up to account for the $450,000 in state money spent by Westport to create a design plan to improve transportation at our transportation center.
One of the plans from the Transit Oriented Design proposal.
The response from those conducting that TOD session was that Helen perhaps had not attended a sufficient number of meetings, or else she wouldn’t be asking that question.
A comment about attendance was nowhere near appropriate. The right response would have been:
The TOD committee members understand that 1) development, 2) intensity of development, and 3) the inevitable “overdevelopment” of Saugatuck Center is the pursuit of this TOD committee. Even if it results in the loss of identity, community and history.
This appears to be one more battle between the forces of artificially forced development, and those who encourage relevant and organic growth of a community.
Hats off to Helen for warning that community input was not being acknowledged.
One of the final 2 TOD meetings is again at 8 a.m. — tomorrow (Tuesday, January 30, Town Hall). The public must keep asking questions about increased traffic and development in Saugatuck center.
An aerial view of Saugatuck, from the consultants’ draft report.
Alert — and worried — “06880” reader Carolanne Curry writes:
I am trying to understand how the strong and resilient community of Old Saugatuck finds itself under siege for the 5th time, by a developer who wants to build a building he shouldn’t be building, in a residential area he should be building in, and (as a topper) he wants the Town of Westport to give him public sewer access for his proposed 155 apartments on Hiawatha Lane Extension.
All this building on a nondescript street carved out of wetlands and swamps, bounded by roads, railroads and highways, so that a natural cocoon of 8 streets slowly shaped this community.
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.
Felix Charney of Summit Saugatuck LLC is the developer with this fixation to build on Hiawatha Lane Extension. Surprisingly, despite his failed efforts, he is making his 5th request for public sewer access before the Planning and Zoning Commission tomorrow (Thursday, July 7, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium). This time, he is appearing with the active encouragement of the 1st and 2nd selectmen.
I’m curious how Charney and Westport Housing Authority chair David Newberg got to be “building” partners on Hiawatha Lane Extension? When in 2015 did the town, through the offices of the 1st and 2nd selectman, invite and encourage the formation of a Charney/WHA partnership? Why would WHA accept such a contentious role in further alienating residents of Old Saugatuck?
Why would the 1st and 2nd selectmen resurrect such a poorly conceived proposal for 155 apartments? It comes with the same problems that existed in 2005. There is no sewer. Has anything changed?
And why make WHA complicit in the destruction of a community that is an authentic model of affordable, workforce housing, exactly the kind of housing for which WHA advocates? Housing in Old Saugatuck is the direct result of its history with the railroad, the Saugatuck River and the construction of I-95.
Old Saugatuck is a community. Felix Charney would make it a commodity.
A rendering of the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.
On an even more critical note, when did our Town Hall leaders plan to tell the residents of Old Saugatuck that they were no longer on the side of preserving the precious heritage and homes of the community, but had given their allegiance to Felix Charney? Was this what voters and taxpayers had in mind from their leaders?
In the David and Goliath scenario that will play out tomorrow, before the P&Z with this developer once again, the residents of Old Saugatuck call out to their neighbors, friends and supporters to come to Town Hall. Be a presence and a voice with us, and for us.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe replies:
Felix Charney put forth a sewer extension request last year related to his proposed development that received a negative recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Earlier this year, Mr. Charney presented a pre-application proposal for his Hiawatha Lane properties that differed from the previous year by incorporating a joint venture with the Westport Housing Authority.
He has now presented another sewer extension request related to that latest proposal. Because that request is in process, I cannot comment on the merits of this proposal outside of public session. The sewer extension request and rationale will be discussed following the town’s standard policies and procedures tomorrow in public session. That will be the time for the public to hear more about the proposed plans, to comment, and to have an open dialogue with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The sewer extension request will ultimately be heard by the Town’s Water Pollution Control Authority in public session, which will afford another opportunity for dialogue. Because I am a member of the WPCA that will hear this sewer application, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on this proposal outside of the WPCA public hearing process.
I offered the Westport Housing Authority a chance to reply. They declined to comment at this time.
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