Every spring, the magnificent raptors return “home.” They build nests at Longshore, Sherwood Mill Pond — and, most visibly, on a utility pole between Fresh Market and Terrain.
Last year though, Regency Centers — the owner of the property — suddenly removed the pole.
It took awhile to untangle who exactly did the deed — the management company or a sub-contractor (who claimed falsely to be Audubon Society workers). They also lacked the required permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Then we found out that the illegal osprey nest removal was done prior to Planning & Zoning Commission approval for parking lot renovation work.
A year later, the parking lot project is still underway.
But — as Westport hungers for a bit of good news in the midst of a brutal pandemic — we’ve got some.
The ospreys are back!
Eagle-eyed “06880” reader Carolyn Doan — who took these magnificent photos — reports, “They are doing their mating ritual. She calls out to him from the nest. He brings her food, and sits in a nearby tree. Sometimes he helps tidy up a bit.
“The construction guys who are there love to talk about them,” Carolyn adds. “They fill us in about the activities — what food the male is bringing in (mice, fish), which trees he likes to keep watch in, when she calls out. It’s very sweet.”
Meanwhile though — because every silver lining has a cloud — there is this, from equally alert “06880” reader Dick Stein:
The last tree standing at the Fresh Market shopping plaza was cut down on Wednesday.
The 80-year-old oak sat on state property. The town of Westport had no say.
According to its website, the 5-year-old chain offers “wholesome, healthy food that not only tastes great, but makes you feel great.” Food is “carefully sourced … from farmers and purveyors we trust, guaranteeing all of our food is gluten-free and better for you.”
There are a dozen Little Beets already, in New York, Westchester, Long Island, Washington DC, Virginia and Florida.
The menu includes make-your-own rice and quinoa-based meals, poké and other bowls, vegetable sides, and breakfast sandwiches, parfaits and oatmeal.
A little bit of the Little Beet menu.
And if you don’t like it, there’s Dunkin’ Donuts across the street.
FUN FACT:The Fresh Market shopping center is actually called The Village Center. That’s as little known as the official name of the Sherwood Island Connector: State Route 476.
On July 8, representatives from Connecticut’s Department of Transportation gave a public presentation on proposed work on the Post Road. Much of it involves the stretch between Fresh Market, and the Roseville/Hillspoint Road intersection.
The $5.3 million project (80% federally funded, 20% state funds) would include special left-turn-only lanes, as well as traffic signals, curbing, curb ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks.
Proposals for the Post Road near Fresh Market.
Alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson agrees with many of the ideas. However, she also has concerns. She wrote the DOT about several, including the need for a sidewalk on the south side from Mitchells to the fire station, and care of the cherry trees in front of the Volvo dealer.
However, what really caught my eye was this:
Eliminate multiple single-property curb cuts. There are an excessive number of curb cuts (17) on both sides of the road, from the traffic light at Fresh Market to the light at Roseville/Hillspoint Road.
The number of curb cuts is a source of danger to people regardless of how they travel (foot, car or bicycle). Now is the time to correct problems that have evolved as the Post Road developed.
There are many ways in and out of the shopping centers, and adjacent lots.
I never thought about that — but now that I have, it makes a lot of sense.
Why do we need so many entrances and exits at Fresh Market? Across the street, there are also a number of ways to get into and out of the Dunkin’ Donuts/UPS Store/Westport Hardware/Mumbai Times lot. (No one ever calls it by its official no-meaning name, Village Center.)
There are other spots in town too with multiple entrances and exits, like Stop & Shop, and Aux Delices/Carvel/Stiles.
There are only a couple of ways in and out of the CVS/Trader Joe’s clusterf***. But at the end of her email, Jennifer notes that this intersection appears to have been ignored by DOT.
Finally, she asks that one person be appointed to oversee and coordinate all of DOT’s Westport projects (there are others besides the Fresh Market initiative).
Great idea! I nominate Jennifer Johnson for the job.
(For full details of the project on the Westport town website, click here. Questions about the Post Road project can be sent to the CT DOT project manager: Brian.Natwick@ct.com)
Proposed work at the Post Road/Roseville/Hillspoint intersection.
And this summer, the state Department of Transportation is turning up the heat on turning lanes.
Special left-turn-only lanes are in the works for the Post Road.
There’s one proposed between Roseville/Hillspoint Road, and Terrain. That will permit turns into either the Fresh Market shopping center, or “Village Center” (Dunkin’ Donuts, UPS Store, Mumbai Times) on the other side of the street.
Approximate location of the turning lane proposed for the Post Road.
Also planned: left-turn lanes at Bulkley Avenue North and South, just past Super Stop & Shop headed to Southport.
The project — to cost $5.3 million (80% federally funded, 20% state funds) — will include new traffic signals, curbing, curb ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks.
A public information meeting is set for Monday, July 8 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).
But don’t think about using those new center turn lanes anytime soon.
It appears now that Regency Centers — the owner of both the Fresh Terrain shopping plaza and Terrain — is the bad actor in yesterday’s removal of an osprey nest on a pole between the two properties.
Regency’s management company — or a sub-contractor — took down the nest. When confronted by Terrain employees, they claimed to be Audubon Society workers. They also did not have a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. A permit is mandated by the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918.
But here’s where the story gets really interesting.
This Thursday, April 4 (7 p.m., Town Hall), Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission has a regularly scheduled meeting.
Agenda item #3 is a request by Regency Centers for “Westport Village Center” — aka the Fresh Market plaza — for “a Site Plan approval for proposed exterior alteration to the building façade and modifications to the parking lot for property located in RBD and Residence A zones, PID# E09068000.”
In other words: The illegal osprey nest removal in preparation for parking lot work was done prior to P&Z approval.
Regency Centers — owner of the Fresh Market plaza — will ask the P&Z on Thursday for permission to make changes to the facade and parking lot.
And here’s where the story gets even more interesting.
Thursday’s meeting is a public hearing. Westporters are welcome to attend — and speak.
(You can also make your feelings known by email before the meeting: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Regency is well known to Westport — and the P&Z. When Regency bought the Fresh Market plaza, they promised to plant trees in front, and install a sidewalk. That has not yet been done.
Regency also owns Compo Acres Shopping Center (anchored by Trader Joe’s). Westporters — particularly those living behind the back parking lot — have not forgotten the work-first-ask-questions-later job done on the retaining wall there.
A similar incident occurred in the back of yet another property owned by Regency: the shopping center across the street from Fresh Market.
Thursday’s P&Z meeting should be very interesting indeed.
Meanwhile, back to the ospreys. Someone involved in the utility industry — who asked for anonymity based on the nature of his work — examined this morning’s photo of the removal of the nest. He writes:
The photo taken by the high school freshman of the bucket truck yesterday tells this old utility veteran several things.
This is a “streetlight” pole, set exclusively for mounting the 2 streetlights clearly shown in the photo, whose lights provide security lighting for Fresh Market’s parking lot.
12-year-old James Doan took this photo today, of an osprey at its old nest pole. His mother Carolyn says, “The male is flying around the female with sticks and possibly food. The cry is tough to hear.”
All streetlights are supplied by secondary wires, energized 100% of the time. So this pole has active power supplied to it — a safety hazard for anyone choosing to work on this pole top.
The utility always works with safety most paramount. If this contractor wanted to take this action they should have contacted the utility well in advance to get approval.
Since the utility erected the platform originally. I assume they would never have granted approval for this action. They also would never allow this contractor to work on their pole without authorization, and proof that the contractor is “qualified” to work on energized equipment.
Looks pretty clear that regardless of what DEEP or Audubon said to this contractor, they were also violating various rules and regulations of the utility and perhaps should be treated accordingly. License revocation? Fines? Local Westport electrical inspector might also be someone to get involved with this in that regard.
This afternoon’s “0688o” story on the removal of the osprey nest between Fresh Market and Terrain struck a nerve. We’ve already received over 50 comments. They range from distressed and sad to furious and vindictive.
While there are no clear answers yet as to who removed the nest, it is clear that:
The Audubon Society yesterday received a call asking about removing the nest. They emphatically said no, for many reasons.
This morning, someone claiming to be from the Audubon Society told Terrain they were removing the nest because of upcoming construction — and then did so. Terrain apparently was duped.
Fresh Market had nothing to do with the removal either. Store personnel are very upset about what happened.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is involved. So are the Westport police.
The comments on the previous story are compelling reading. Click here to see them all. Listed below are some highlights, including emails sent directly to me:
Tina Green: I just heard from Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, And they had nothing to do with the removal of the nest. The landlords should not have removed the nest and platform!
Christine Cummings: I am an assistant manager at The Fresh Market and I want to assure you, we had nothing to do with the removal of the Osprey nest. We are as distressed. We have called the landlord and are trying to get an answer.
One osprey flying over the removed nest this morning. (Photo from video by Sam Levenson)
Debbie Zager: This was done illegally – I went to walk around to see if Nest had been moved and found Betsy, a Wildlife Rehab person who had called in the DEP. The DEP is investigating – we looked everywhere and cannot find the platform. The Ospre’s are stressed and she is very concerned that this will be completely deleterious to the pair. Nobody had permission to move the nest and she said it was the worst time of year to even consider doing so. Calls to landlord went unanswered. Is there any video footage of the people who moved it on someone’s security camera? This is illegal – birds are protected by Federal Government. Contact Christine Peyreigne : email@example.com a Wildlife Rehabilitator with info or to Report if you see an Osprey so distressed and tired that they are in the ground.
Carolyn Doan: I was so upset reading about the Osprey that I called the Audubon Society and this is their exact response:
“Thank you for reaching out to ct Audubon. We did not remove the nest. And would not have recommended to do so. Please call Brian Hess at DEEP (860) 424-3208 Brian.firstname.lastname@example.org to report the removal. Thx.”
Pete Reid: Hi, Dan. Managers at Terrain claim that the nest was removed by the Audubon Society with the approval of CT DEP. This surprised us, and I have reached out to Audubon and DEP to try to confirm this. It would be a violation of Federal law to destroy a working osprey nest, and this sounds like a working nest. I would say this is a story worth looking into. WASA has been very helpful in getting the word out on this. Regards, Pete Reid, Wildlife in Crisis, Weston.
The nest, 4 days ago. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)
Betsy Peyreigne: After numerous phone calls from people concerned for the osprey, I went down to check out what was going on. I spoke to Audubon in Fairfield who made calls and confirmed that it was NOT Audubon who removed the nest this morning. They received a phone call yesterday asking their opinion on removing it and they firmly stated that it should NOT be touched or removed. The DEEP is investigating.
I met with the officer at the site and relayed all information that I could to him. Searching the entire area for the platform and the nest was not successful. This is in the right hands with the DEEP and I hope that we can get a good resolution soon for this situation. We rehab birds of prey, so if anyone sees either of the osprey grounded for any reason please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you all for your concern about these magnificent birds
Leslie Riback: I just called Terrain again and spoke to manager Maureen. She told me that the police dept and DEP are now involved. She admits that they were misinforming the public by telling them it was removed by the Audobon Society. She says the men who came and took it down told them they were “biologists”. Our phone call was cut short as she said the DEP was calling on the other line.
I guess this is now in the hands of the DEP. Can this get rectified quickly enough? I wish there was more I could do….
Alissa Harrison: I can confirm the CT Audubon Society’s Director of conservation was contacted just yesterday by the construction company involved and the official recommendation was to leave the platform as the osprey pair that nests there are habituated to all of the human activity and would not be negatively effected by the construction. The Audubon immediately contacted the DEEP biologist in charge of monitoring osprey. An Audubon employee was not in any way involved in the removal this morning, it was done solely by the construction company going against the official recommendation of the CT Audubon. I’m happy to hear DEEP is investigating the matter further and hopefully the platform can be put back in place ASAP. It is my understanding that a nest can be removed as long as there are no eggs but that certainly doesn’t mean it should be especially in this situation. Thank you Betsy for your continued work to get to the bottom of this!
Former Eversource employee: Pole is Eversource property…they only allow their own crews or contractors they hire, to install or remove anything on their poles…this is clearly a violation of their rules which all municipalities support and take action against any violators – suggest getting Town of Westport involved. This violates NatIonal Electric Safety Code – thus coming under municipal jurisdiction for enforcement!
Debra Zager: Does Terrain know the name of the landlord because the cherry picker construction device in the back parking lot of Fresh Market (and where Terrain is busting through building) has the keys still in it and it is the machine used to remove the nest. Someone told a worker at Fresh Market that they were relocating the nest for safety due to the upcoming construction … Ridiculous! Does Terrain have Security Cameras or Fresh Market ? If so- perhaps they can identify who did this early this morning?
Fiona Boughton: I am one of two Terrain employees who ran to the scene to demand an explanation from the team of 3 men involved. Two of the men work for Regency Centers https://www.regencycenters.com/office/WPT/New-YorkConnecticut-Office & the other stated that he was employed by All Points Technology http://allpointstech.com and was there to investigate whether the nest was active or not. He told me that because there were no eggs in the nest, he deemed it as inactive BUT we, at Terrain, have been seeing nesting activity over the past week where osprey are in the process of adding sticks to the nest & also sleeping in the nest. I was told by the Regency Centers that I was in the way & to leave the scene. I immediately reported this to the management team of Terrain who acted on reporting it immediately to the EPA https://www.epa.gov
An officer from DEEP came to Terrain & I shared my entire story with him. He assured us that he would get to the root of this. Terrain management kept this as a priority throughout the day & into this evening. & is active in doing everything possible to see that the Osprey are protected & that the nest is replaced as soon as possible. It has been a most heartbreaking day for all of us at Terrain.
Lauren Aber: I’m the store manager at Terrain. We are as upset as everyone about the removal of the Osprey nest. Although the nest does not sit on our property, the birds are very important to us and we look forward to their return every year. We have contacted the EPA, who sent on officer out to the store. They are conducting an investigation and I will update this post with their findings.
Richard Hyman: Can we erect a new platform tomorrow, Sunday? Birds in distress.
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