Tag Archives: Conservation Department

Alicia Mozian Leaves Mark On “Wet Westport”

If you’re a Westport homeowner, there’s a 40% chance you live on wetlands, or in a floodplain.

If you’re part of that 40% and have moved here since 2001, you’ve received a letter — and fat informational packet — from Alicia Mozian, telling you what that means, and how to care for your property.

And advising you to call her, before beginning any work on the land.

That’s just one of the proactive approached Mozian has brought to her job as Conservation Department director.

Alicia Mozian

Low-key but intensely passionate, her blandly named office oversees nearly every aspect of Westport’s environment. Shellfishing, Cockenoe Island camping, the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve, single-use plastics, the plastic bag ban — all are in Mozian’s domain.

But most important may be protecting the town’s wetlands and watercourses.

We have 13 named waterways. We sit at the bottom of several watersheds, which feed into Long Island Sound. Our groundwater table is very high.

“Westport is very wet,” Mozian says simply.

On Saturday, her 2-decade career as Conservation director — and 36 years of service to Westport — come to an end. She’s retiring — kayaking off into the sunset, you might say.

The Westport she leaves is much different than the one the Pennsylvania native found, soon after graduating from Nasson College with a degree in environmental studies.

Westporters are much more aware now of the effects of water on our properties, and our lives. At the same time, larger houses — and the construction they entail — impact things like runoff and silting.

Large homes and tree-cutting affect water tables and runoff.

Mozian has been the right person to manage the interactions between residential and business property owners, builders, neighbors, politicians, environmentalists, and everyone else with a stake in Westport.

Her first job here was in 1986, as an aide to Planning & Zoning director Mel Barr. She moved on to conservation analyst; earned a master’s in resource administration management, and was named assistant zoning planner.

In 2001 she succeeded Fran Pierwola, as only the second Conservation director in our history.

Mozian had already made an important mark. In the 1990s she helped Westporters get a 10% discount on flood insurance — a reward for town-wide flood hazard mitigation that continues today.

Flood insurance is important to homeowners in flood-prone areas like Compo Cove. Westporters are eligible for discounts.

As Conservation director, she spends much of her time talking to people. Mozian answers questions, and educates property owners about upcoming work.

A lot of that entails “managing expectations. People don’t always know what they bought, or design their project to meet the land. They want their land to meet the project, not the other way around. That can lead to problems.”

During Westport’s booming construction decades of the 1950s and ’60s, many wetlands were filled in. The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 slowed that, but the damage was done.

Now those homes are being torn down. Their replacements are larger — and their high basements sink into groundwater. Nothing in the state building code prevents that, Mozian says.

“Where does the water go? In other directions — on other people’s properties,” she says.

“You’re supposed to capture runoff from driveways and roofs. But you can’t do a lot about groundwater.”

Above ground, large-scale tree-cutting also affects where water goes.

Fortunately, Mozian says, Westporters are environmentally conscious. Her small office is augmented by a host of volunteers, from the Conservation and Shellfish Commissions to Sustainable Westport and the Sherwood Mill Pond Committee.

Fortunately too, she is not stuck in Town Hall. Mozian says her favorite days are “picking up garbage on Cockenoe Island, or the Mill Pond. That’s when I get instant gratification. I can see I made a difference.”

Alicia Mozian picks up garbage at Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.

It’s harder to see the effects of educating a variety of constituencies about the environment. Still, Mozian says, “I think I’ve done pretty well, balancing what people want versus what they need. I want their plan to be better when they walk out the office than when they walked in.

“I don’t love all the teardowns. But I’ve learned to work with them, and make them as environmentally sound as possible.”

The low point of her career was the protracted fight with the Westport Weston Family Y over its proposed, and largely untested, Fixed Activated Sludge Treatment (FAST) sewage system at the Mahackeno site.

There are many more highlights. Mozian is proud of her Wetlands Community Leader Award from Washington’s Environmental Law Institute. It was presented for her work improving water quality, through the Sasco Brook Pollution Abatement Committee.

Alicia Mozian, with her Environmental Law Institute award.

She’s also proud that none of the Conservation Commission’s decisions have ever been overturned by a court challenge. She’s been sued by developers, homeowners and neighbors — sometimes more than one group, for the same project.

She has done it all with a staff of just 5.25 people. That quarter employee — the sediment and erosion control inspector — is shared with Planning & Zoning.

“We used to have complaints about sediment from construction sites getting into waterways,” Mozian says. “But not now.”

She does not know of any other community that funds such a position.

Overall, Mozian says, Westport is in “pretty good” environmental shape. It can be measured by metrics — which the Board of Finance demands every year at budget time.

She prefers a different measure: “If you can swim in the water, drink the water and eat shellfish, we’re doing our job.”

Low tide clamming at Compo Beach is part of Alicia Mozian’s portfolio too. (Photo/Ferdinand Jahnel)

Next week, Colin Kelly takes over that job. He’s spent 18 years with the Conservation Department, first as compliance officer and now analyst.

“It’s time for the next generation. He knows things I don’t know,” Mozian praises. “He has good rapport with builders and others. He’ll deal with violations quicker. The department is in very good hands.”

It’s been in great hands for the past 21 years, for sure. Now Alicia Mozian looks forward to seeing her 92-year-old mother more, and her niece’s upcoming baby.

She will visit friends across the country, hike, and go to concerts. (She was a DJ in college.) Perhaps she’ll teach; she’s interested in subjects like citizenship, and helping realtors understand wetlands, aquifers and floodplains.

She will not miss the daily commute from Orange. But Westport will miss Conservation Director Alicia Mozian very, very much.

(“06880” covers all things Westport. Please click here, to support your hyper-local blog.)

Roundup: Bob Stefanowski, Alicia Mozian, Jez Benton …

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski addressed a large crowd at the Westport Library yesterday.

The Y’s Men of Westport and Weston sponsored the event, Former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe moderated.

Stefanowski described his youth in New Haven, in a home shared with his grandparents and students from Southern Connecticut State College.

Regarding the 2020 election, the GOP candidate said: It’s over. It was not stolen. It’s time to move forward. If Donald Trump is found guilty of anything, he should pay the consequences.

Connecticut is the 2nd highest taxed state in the nation, he noted, adding that as head of a company he had to chip away at unnecessary costs. Executives earning $30 million to $40 million were upset about losing company cars. Shareholders paid for those perks, Stefanowski said.

Who pays for excesses in state government? Taxpayers, he continued.

On Monday (September 19, 1 p.m. Westport Library), Governor Ned Lamont will speak. The Y’s Men sponsor that event too. (Reporting by  Dave Matlow)

Bob Stefanowski at the Westport LIbrary. (Photo/Dave Matlow)


Conservation Director Alicia Mozian is retiring, effective October 1.

A town employee since 1986, she began her career as a planning aide in the Planning & Zoning Department. Other posts included conservation analyst, zoning inspector and planning assistant. She was appointed Conservation director in 2001.

Mozian says she is “grateful to have served a community that is so engaged and proactive in environmental affairs. Their enthusiasm both challenged and inspired me to do my very best every day to help protect the many natural resources whose care we have been entrusted to protect.

“I have worked hard to balance the rights of the property owner with the need for environmental protection, and I’m proud of my department in achieving this goal. I also want to thank the many volunteers who have supported and continue to support our department’s mission and foster good stewardship practices of not only our wetland and water resources but also the environment in general.”

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker promoted Colin Kelly to replace Mozian.

Alicia Mozian


Jez Benton is a very interesting Westporter. He summited Mount Everest in 2005, and has since had a notable career in leadership development.

This week, he launched a video podcast. Jez interviews 6 CEOs, as they hike a mountain together. It’s called “Route to the Top” (get it?), and was filmed entirely by Jez on his iPhone.

His first guest is Neal Katyal, former Solicitor General of the US. Now a partner in a law firm, he talks about lessons learned while arguing cases in front of the Supreme Court.

Click below for that initial episode. Others will be available on LinkedIn (10 minutes), and Spotify, YouTube and Apple Podcasts (full 45 minutes). (Hat tip: Meghan Bell)


On September 29, nearly 600 people will gather at Mitchells in Westport for the 12th annual Pinkchella.

The event — the first in-person gathering since COVID — is PinkAid’s big fundraiser. The Coachella-themed luncheon includes fashion, food, music and more.

Among the auction items: a stay at the One & Only resort in Montenegro, use of a private jet and courtside seats at a Milwaukee Bucks game with the team owner, a trip to French Polynesia.

The auction goes live September 22. It’s open to all; you don’t have to attend the event to bid.  Click here for more information and — on September 22 — to bid.

Breast cancer survivors will walk the runway at a “Celebration of Life” fashion show, as Pink Aid honors their experience, and the people in their lives who helped along the way.

Since 2011, Pink Aid has granted $6.6 million to support programs that provide diagnostic testing, wigs, recovery garments, meals, childcare, transportation to treatment, integrative services, education, survivorship programs and personal expenses for patients undergoing treatment.

They fund programs at hospitals, national non-profits and smaller grassroots organizations. They work to make sure everyone gets proper treatment regardless of financial barriers. They’ve helped breast cancer patients in 30 states; their goal is to “turn 50 states pink.”

For more information on Pinkchella, and tickets, click here.


Three million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease.

This Sunday (September 18, Sherwood Island State Park, 10 a.m.), the first-ever Spin4 Crohn’s & Colitis Cure event raises money for research.

It’s a fun, energetic and community-minded stationary bike ride. People can create a team, join a team or ride solo. Spectators are welcome too.

Click here to register, or for more information.

Spinning for a Crohn’s and Colitis cure.


For the past 12 months, a generous gift from an anonymous donor ensured free admission to MoCA galleries for everyone.

Fees resume October 16. MoCA officials says: “We are committed to keeping our admission fees low, so that the power of art to educate, enrich and build connections between us continues to be accessible to all. As a non-profit organization, we rely on admissions fees to help fund all of our programs.

“If you have financial need for free admission for yourself or for your family, please email us at info@mocawestport.org.”

Meanwhile, MoCA announces their first Open Mic Night (October 20, 5 to 7 p.m.). It’s an outdoor event, where poets, slam poets and musicians come together not as opponents, but as performers sharing their stories, passions and talents.

To perform, click here to register, pay a $5 fee and complete this form by October 17. Each poem or song must be original (multiple poems or songs are allowed within time frame); memorization is not required. Performers must be in high school or older.

There’s no charge for audience members, but advance registration is requested; click here.


Aarti Khosla’s “Give a Little Love” campaign is in full gear.

For the 3rd year in a row, the owner of Le Rouge Chocolates hopes to donate a chocolate heart to every Westport Public Schools employee.

It’s a townwide campaign. For $8 each, customers can sponsor a heart for one Westport teacher. To donate one or more chocolate hearts online, click here.

Aarti hand-delivers the treats to each building. This was the scene at Coleytown Middle School:


Speaking of schools: Staples High musicians Delaney McGee (trumpet) and Witt Lindau (drums) have received All-National honors. They were selected by video audition, from the top music students in the country.

In November they will participate in the National Association for Music Education honors orchestra and “modern band” (rock band) respectively.

Jason Capozucca (bassoon) and Ana Jahnel (tenor saxophone) were selected as alternates,

Witt Lindau (Photo courtesy of Staples Wreckers Instagram)

Delaney McGee


There’s always something to learn at the Senior Center.

The other day it was electric vehicles.

Dawn Henry and Barry Kresch of the EV Club of Connecticut led an informational session on the value and joys of driving an electric vehicle. Five were on display outside.

Barry Kresch discusses electric vehicles, at the Senior Center. (Photo/Pippa Bell Ader)


Salon Nash owner Felicia Catale offers a free wash and blow dry — plus discounts on Mary Kay products — on October 10 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Her salon is at 179 Post Road West, in Nash’s Corner plaza.

Felicia Catale


It’s still mid-September. But Election Day will be here before you know it.

On November 2 (Westport Library, 7 p.m.), Westport’s League of Woman Voters sponsors a debate with candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives, and probate judge.

“06880” readers are invited to send questions in advance. The email address is lwvwestport@yahoo.com.


If you’re like me, you probably get 2 or 3 advertising mailers a week, filled with discount coupons. Many are for home improvements — new bathroom (“in a day!”), gutter work, driveway paving and the like.

Also: duct cleaning. One company advertises in all of them. I see this photo everywhere:

I couldn’t figure out what was so weird about it.

Then I realized: He’s doing a pretty poor job of it. I want the guy who cleans my ducts to be watching what he’s doing — not giving me a come-on look.

No matter how hot he is.


There’s something about monarch butterflies — in all forms — that we can’t resist.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” monarch photo comes courtesy of Nancy Vener:

(Photo/Nancy Vener)


And finally … in honor of Jez Benton’s new podcast, interviewing nationally known CEOs as they climb steep mountains: