Tag Archives: Daybreak Nursery

Daybreak Development Dawns

When Daybreak was thriving, up to 800 vehicles a day pulled into and out of the small parking lot. The business included a nursery, florist shop and landscaping operation.

Daybreak closed in 2014. The buildings were demolished last spring.

The Daybreak property, after the nursery and landscaping business closed.

New owners hope to build 12 housing units — age-restricted, generating minimal traffic — on the 2 1/4-acre site. They’ve spoken with town officials, and adapted their plans several times to meet traffic and other concerns.

Still — on the eve of Thursday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting — opposition remains.

The owner is Able Construction. During the past 25 years, the firm has built over 80 houses in town. Some are new; others are historical renovations, like 268 Wilton Road. They’re also redoing the old Three Bears restaurant — now Chabad — on Newtown Turnpike.

Able Construction owner Peter Greenberg (right) and partner Johnny Schwartz.

Able bought the Daybreak property at a foreclosure auction. At the time, owner Peter Greenberg admits, he had no clear plan for the land.

He could have built 4 gigantic homes on the 1/2-acre-zoning land. Or he could have put a grandfathered business — like a nursery or landscaping company — there.

“There” is important. The property fronts Main Street, near the heavily trafficked, highly visible and bizarrely complicated intersection with Weston and Easton Roads.

The area — including the now-vacant Daybreak site — is an important gateway to Westport. It’s a first impression for anyone arriving from the Merritt Parkway, and an early look for drivers from Weston and Easton.

Originally, Greenberg and Able partner Johnny Schwartz talked with town officials about putting a coffee shop or service station there. They also considered mixed-use — perhaps retail, with apartments or multi-family housing on a 2nd floor or behind.

The last of Daybreak Nursery was carted away in March.

The property is not served by a sewer. Greenberg asked if Able could pay to extend outside the blue line. The town said no.

Planning and Zoning members were interested in the possibility of smaller homes. But no town regulations encouraged developers to build such cluster-type housing.

Able proposed creating an overlay zone. Current zoning permitted 4 houses. Typically, Greenberg says, they’d be 5,000 square feet each, with 6 bedrooms.

Instead, his firm designed 8 2-bedroom homes, of 3,000 square feet. The total number of bedrooms was the same — 24 — but, Greenberg says, 2-bedroom homes would not typically sell to couples with children.

No kids means fewer in-and-out vehicle trips. No stop-and-start bus stops. And no additional children entering the school system, at a cost of nearly $20,000 a year.

The P&Z balked. 3,000 square feet was not small enough. The national average is 1,600 square feet. (Of course as Greenberg notes, “Westport is not average.”)

Able went back to the commission. Architect Bill McGuiness — who designed the Kensett community in Darien — envisioned 12 2-bedroom homes, averaging 2,000 square feet. None would be more than 2,400.

Designed for an older population, the homes included elevator shafts. Most of the living would be on the 1st floor, with sloped roofs and virtually no attics. Five duplexes would share a common wall. Two would be single-family units.

Front and rear views of an attached duplex.

P&Z liked the idea. But they asked Able to include an affordable or age-restricted component

Able proposed that 7 of the 12 units be limited to buyers 55 and older. (Greenberg says he’s willing to make it 100% age-restricted, if needed.)

The “smaller home development” text amendment was accepted. Public hearings were held, and a traffic engineer hired.

Able spent the past 8 months finalizing plans, and getting permits.

Views of one of the detached homes.

But at a hearing 3 weeks ago, neighbors voiced strong opposition. Major concerns were raised about traffic at that very dizzying intersection.

Greenberg notes that when Daybreak had up to 800 trips a day — including customers, employees and landscaping trucks — there were 5 driveways in and out of the property. He sited the new driveway — 1-way in, 1-way out — as far from the intersection as possible. (It’s the same direction as 1-way Daybreak Lane, to avoid cut-throughs by drivers seeking to avoid the 4-way stop.)

Able looked at ways to improve the intersection. They learned that a decade or so ago, the state Department of Transportation wanted 3 roundabouts — one there, and 2 others at the Exit 42 ramps. But Wassell Lane was a stumbling block. According to roundabout standards then in place, it was too close to other roads to feed into the mix.

Now, however, standards have changed. Wassell Lane could work. Greenberg says that town officials have contacted the state DOT about reopening discussions. They have not yet heard back.

A roundabout proposal that includes Wassell Lane. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

According to Greeenberg, a traffic study shows that at peak times, 3,000 cars an hour pass through the intersection. He says that Able’s new development will add less than .05% to the mix.

“Right now, taxes on Daybreak are about $30,000 a year,” Greenberg says. “If these 12 units are built, we figure Westport would get $180,000 a year.” He proposes that the town earmark some of those increased taxes for Westport’s contribution to intersection improvements.

“There’s no land left in Westport,” he adds. “We buy houses. We knock them down, and build new ones. That’s our business.

“But we hear from people all over town that after their kids are grown, they don’t want a big house. They want to stay in Westport, in a smaller one. These houses would help.”

Able Construction’s Daybreak site plan. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

He says his company has done everything to address concerns. A Phase II environmental study found no herbicides or pesticides left over from the nursery. There were, however, petroleum products in the soil. Greenberg promises to stockpile the soil during construction, and dispose of it if needed.

“We’re part of this town,” he says. “We want to do the right thing.”

The P&Z hearing this Thursday (Town Hall auditorium, 7 p.m.), is one of the last stops on the road to a permit for the Daybreak development.

“This property has been unsightly for years,” Greenberg says. “It’s at a very impressionable intersection. We want to put this property to work. We’ll build smaller houses, so people can age in place. It’s something the town wants, and needs.

“The P&Z told us they want more diversity in housing in Westport. This gets us closer to that.”

Flowers Pop Up By Railroad Tracks

Last Friday, “06880” readers were lamenting the loss of Daybreak’s greenhouse — and the many back-in-the-day flower shows that made Westport look (and smell) wonderful.

We’ve still got some great florists here.

Now — just in time for Easter — there’s one more spot to buy gorgeous arrangements.

But you better hurry. It’s a pop-up shop.

Owner Breno Donatti has added Rowayton-based Stems + Co flowers to his Winfield Street Coffee, across from the train station.

Stems + Co. flowers, at Winfield Street Coffee.

Bouquets are available for $35. You get a free cup of coffee too.

They’re there only through April 24, though.

Then they disappear. Like Brigadoon.

Or Daybreak.

Daybreak’s Last Day

Easter and Passover are coming. Alert “06880” reader — and Staples High School Class of 1973 grad — Chip Stephens is thinking about those holidays, and the flowers associated with them:

Back in the 1960s there were many greenhouses — Fillow (on Clinton Avenue), Daybreak (on East Main Street), Parsell’s (now the new “Geiger” retail and residential complex), and the Flower Farm (South Turkey Hill, now Flower Farm Road).

Daybreak Nurseries, back in the day.

They all grew their own flowers. And they all had big annual flower displays.

The community event — combining art, nature, retail and people of all ages — was a much-anticipated treat for my family. I remember walking through those hot, humid greenhouses, viewing the previews of spring flowers and the summer that would follow.

After church — usually Palm Sunday — we drove to every florist. Each greenhouse was filled with geraniums (soon to be handed out at churches to kids), Easter lilies, hyacinths and many other fragrant flowers.

Families wandered through the greenhouse labyrinths, enjoying coffee, donuts and treats provided by the owners. It was a wonder walk, heightened by displays like Daybreak’s waterfalls.

Today the last of those great greenhouses — Daybreak — is being carted away to the dump.

The last of Daybreak Nursery gets carted away, earlier today.

With the arrival of spring, I’m considering the loss of all those greenhouses, and their replacement by McMansions. How do we balance that, keeping the character of Westport that many enjoyed growing up, and many others move here for?

Let’s welcome both spring and the new, while incorporating and saving the treasures and memories of Westport that remain.

Welcome To Westport!

The Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street rotary — the first real bit of Westport people see as they get off Merritt Parkway exit 42 — has been spruced up nicely.

Thanks, Tony Palmer, Dan and Maureen Aron, and an anonymous helper!

But — as an alert “06880” reader points out — the view a few yards south is not exactly welcoming.

daybreak-nursery-4

The reader asks:

Do you know when when the Daybreak Nursery lot will be improved? The buildings are falling down, the weeds are overgrown, there is garbage in the driveway. It’s been this way for almost 2 years. What an eyesore. Do the owners have to at least maintain it in any way?

daybreak-nursery-1

Meanwhile, drivers who get past that sight — and want a pumpkin latte at Starbucks, quinoa salad at Freshii or a new outfit at one of our 27,284 Main Street women’s clothing stores — are grossed out by this view of the Parker Harding dumpster:

parker-harding-dumpster

That’s been an eyesore a lot longer than the Daybreak property.

It’s time — the “06880” reader says — for Westport to clean up its act.

Who wants to take charge?

Bright Vs. Blight

For years, the Weston Road/Easton Road/North Main Street rotary near Exit 42 — the unofficial “Welcome to Westport” landmark for everyone coming off the Merritt Parkway — was maintained, as a public service, by Daybreak Nursery.

But when financial problems caused the nearby business to close, the triangular plot grew grungy.

Now — suddenly — the space looks gorgeous.

(Photo/Russ Miller)

(Photo/Russ Miller)

I don’t think it was a state Department of Transportation project. But huge props to whoever got it done.

Meanwhile — across town — another “Welcome to Westport” site looks decidedly less welcoming.

(Photo/Joanne Romano)

(Photo/Joanne Romano)

Just one more reason to avoid I-95, and take the Merritt.

Sunset For Daybreak?

Spring should be a busy time for Daybreak Nurseries.

And with Mother’s Day near, Daybreak Florist should be in high gear.

But several readers have contacted “06880.” They say the decades-old, very popular garden shop at the corner of Main Street and Weston Road is closed.

The Daybreak Florist website still urges users to place Mother’s Day orders. But phone calls to both numbers rang unanswered.

If anyone knows what’s going on, please click “Comments” to let us know.

This is one Westport treasure we hope we won’t lose.

Daybreak Nurseries

Daybreak Nurseries

 

How Our Gardens Grow

The 2 gardens at the eastern (Klaff’s/Starbucks) end of the Post Road bridge have gotten a bit grotty.

As “gateways” to Westport — among the 1st things you see as you enter downtown from the Merritt, I-95 or Post Road — they provide a poor 1st impression.  Built 20 years ago, they’re now weed-infested, overgrown and neglected.

The only people who care about them, it seemed, were folks who trampled over them putting up illegal signs, which stayed long after the events they advertised were done.

The 2 gardens were designed to be mirror images of each other.  Now all they share is decrepitude.

But if you want to see for yourself, you better hurry.  All that is about to change.

The town Beautification Committee is giving the “Gateway Gardens” an extreme makeover.

It hasn’t been easy.

Four months ago, a generous company agreed to pay for renovations.  The committee solicited plans.  Five local firms complied. 3 were selected — Laurel Rock, Daybreak and Geiger’s — and their proposals were passed on to the benefactor.

But the company reneged on its offer.  The Beautification Committee apologized to the 3 garden design firms, and wondered what to do next.

Nancy Carr and Angela Trucks at work, weeding a Gateway Garden.

A week later, Burton DeMarche called.  35 years ago his father founded Dickson DeMarche Landscape Architects in Westport.  Now called LaurelRock, after Burt — a horticulturist — joined DDLA,  it’s expanded to become one of Fairfield County’s leading sustainable design/build firms.

Though its headquarters are in Wilton, DeMarche wanted to do something for his hometown.  He offered to donate LaurelRock’s services — from planning and plantings to hardscape materials and installation — to bring the gardens back to life.

And to do it in time for this year’s Fine Arts Festival — July 16 and 17.

It’s a donation valued at over $35,000.  Beautification co-chair Angela Trucks calls LaurelRock “our heroes.”

LaurelRock also agreed to maintain the gardens through the fall.  Then the Downtown Merchants Association will take over.  The Beautification Committee will pay for water.  (No easy task — it must be trucked in.)

DeMarche has assigned one of his top landscape designers — Brian Westermeyer — to the project.  “We drew our inspiration from the bridge’s shape and structure, as well as the river,” he says.

He’s creating a garden that will blend in with both.  Plantings — including evergreen ground cover and hedges, perennials and flowering shrubs — will provide “an ever-changing palette of color, texture and pattern year-round.”

Trucks is thrilled by the new Gateway Gardens.  “With stress levels so high here, it’s important to ride through town and see beauty,” she says.  “This is such a pivotal spot, and to make it beautiful says a lot about Westport.”

She applauds the partnership between her committee, the DMA and town officials — and is thrilled at the generosity of LaurelRock.

“There are still a lot of giving people around,” she says.

And they’re giving downtown the gift of beauty.

(The dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 17 at 1 p.m.)

One last look at a grungy Gateway Garden.