Tag Archives: Hiawatha Lane Extension

Save Westport Now: Stop Hiawatha’s Sewer Request

Valerie Seiling Jacobs, co-chair of Save Westport Now, sends this letter:

The Westport Water Pollution Control Authority, which is comprised of our 3 selectman, is meeting tomorrow morning (Thursday, July 21, 8:30 a.m., Town Hall auditorium) to decide whether to allow a developer to extend the sewer to the Hiawatha Lane area in Saugatuck.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has already rejected this developer’s request twice, on the grounds that the nearby pumping station and the sewer pipe that runs under the river from the Saugatuck area to our wastewater treatment plant are already in danger of failing.

Both items are on the town’s list of infrastructure repairs, but before work can start, the town needs to obtain a lot of permits and approvals from the state and feds, which still hasn’t happened. P&Z recognized that adding potential effluent to a failing system was not a smart move. If, for example, the repairs are delayed and the pipe bursts, it could have catastrophic environmental and other consequences for the Town.

Westport's wastewater treatment plant, across the Saugatuck River from the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Westport’s wastewater treatment plant, across the Saugatuck River from the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Save Westport Now agrees with P&Z’s conclusion: that it would be foolhardy for the town to approve a sewer extension before the pipe and pumping station are actually fixed/replaced. This is especially true since — no matter what we hope or the developer claims — the repairs are likely to take more time than usual, since they will need to be scheduled around other projects already planned for the area, including most notably the rehab of the I-95 overpass, the repair of the MetroNorth bridge, and the repair of the Cribari/Saugatuck bridge.

This will not be a simple or quick repair, and the Town should not risk the town’s resources just because a developer stands to lose money if he doesn’t get his way.

I hope you will attend the meeting or email the selectman’ office (selectman@westportct.gov) about the matter as well. As residents and taxpayers, we need to let our elected officials know that we care about the environment — and that we believe in smart planning. Adding effluent to a failing sewer system before we are sure when and how the system will be fixed is just not smart.

Hiawatha Lane Sewer Denied; Scenic Highway Approved

Two big decisions — both of which could impact the future of Saugatuck — were made yesterday.

The Planning & Zoning Commission denied the request for a sewer line from Davenport Avenue to Hiawatha Lane. The proposal was crucial to approval of a larger project: the construction of 155 rental units on Hiawatha Lane Extension.

The vote was 4-0, with 1 abstention 5-0. The reason, P&Z commissioners said, was that other Westport sewers — including a pump that runs underneath the Saugatuck River — cannot handle the increased flow.

This was the 5th request from developer Felix Charney to build multi-family housing in the already dense area off Saugatuck Avenue. Right now, many of the units there command some of the lowest resale and rental prices in Westport.

A rendering of the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

A rendering of the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Earlier in the day, the Westport Preservation Alliance announced that the state Department of Transportation has agreed to designate part of Route 136 — specifically Compo Road South, Bridge Street and the William F. Cribari (aka Bridge Street) swing bridge — a “state scenic highway.”

The WPA says the designation “adds an additional level of protection for this important area of our town. Any proposed changes to the bridge must be reviewed by the State Scenic Highway Advisory Committee. Effectively, this allows a different set of state officials, who may be more sympathetic to scenic beauty and preservation, to weigh in on the DOT’s plans.”

The William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.

The William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.

Plans for multi-family housing on Hiawatha Lane, and for major changes to the bridge, are not yet dead.

But neither are they as healthy as they were yesterday.

Carolanne Curry: Don’t Turn Hiawatha Community Into A Commodity

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.

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.

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.

Westport sealHe 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.

8-30g: To Be Continued

The Chinese call this the Year of the Red Fire Monkey.

In Westport, it’s the Year of 8-30g.

That Connecticut statute allows developers to override local zoning regulations if less than 10% of a town’s housing stock is “affordable” (according to state formulas).

Towns can apply for a 4-year moratorium from being subject to 8-30g if they can show “affordable housing equivalency points” equal to 2 percent of their housing stock. During the moratorium, towns can rezone, encourage mixed-income housing, or work with developers to build projects together.

Westport mandates that any multi-family housing proposal must be at least 20% affordable.

Of the proposed housing development at 1177 Post Road East, 30 of the 94 units would be "affordable."

Of the proposed housing development at 1177 Post Road East, 30 of the 94 units would be “affordable.”

But 8-30g overrides virtually all local regulations — height, density, location, anything really except public safety or environmental.

So any developer may offer a plan that includes 30% affordable housing.

He won’t say he’s selling 70% of his units at what are high-end market rates.

Right now, Westport is debating 2 proposals: Hiawatha Lane and 1177 Post Road East.

The 70 affordable units proposed for Hiawatha — off Saugatuck Avenue, near I-95 Exit 17 — while technically not part of an 8-30g proposal, would bring us over the points needed for the 4-year moratorium.

So would the 30 affordable units proposed as part of the 94-apartment building at 1177 Post Road East, opposite Crate & Barrel.

However, the moratorium would not take effect until either of those projects is actually built.

Until then, any developer can buy property in town, and file an 8-30g proposal.

Several housing developments around Westport — Hales Court, Sasco Creek, Canal Park, the former Saugatuck Elementary School on Bridge Street — prove that Westport cares about affordable housing. And we do it right.

Some of the housing at Hales Court.

Some of the housing at Hales Court.

The next couple of years, though, may see a bit of monkey business.

The developers’ — not the red fire monkey — kind.

All You Ever Wanted To Know About 8-30g

8-30g.

Many Westporters have heard of it. Not many know what it really says, means or does.

8-30g is the formal designation of a Connecticut statute — the Affordable Housing Law — mandating that 10% of a town’s housing stock be “affordable.” It compels local planning and zoning boards to justify any denial of an “affordable housing” application. It’s pretty powerful.

And — with Westport’s “affordable” housing stock right now designated as 2.75% — it’s the engine behind a couple of big development proposals. One — for 186 units — is on Hiawatha Lane. The other is on Post Road East, where 200 units are planned for the site of the Westport Inn.

A drawing of the proposed 200-unit apartment complex, planned for the current site of the Westport Inn on Post Road East near the Southport line.

A drawing of the proposed 200-unit apartment complex, planned for the current site of the Westport Inn on Post Road East near the Southport line.

If you want to know more about 8-30g — and you should — then get yourself to tomorrow’s RTM Planning and Zoning committee public informational meeting (Tuesday, January 20, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).

Town attorney Ira Bloom, P&Z Department director Larry Bradley and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg will be there to answer questions.

Whether they’ll be able to allay concerns is another matter entirely.

Hiawatha Lane Proposal Withdrawn — For Now

First Selectman Jim Marpe announced today that Summit Saugatuck is withdrawing its application to the Water Pollution Control Authority for a sewer extension to Hiawatha Lane Extension.

However, the attorney for the developer — who had hoped to build 186 housing units on the property abutting I-95 exit 17 — said that this does not mean Summit is abandoning its development plans. A new application will be filed soon.

Marpe said, “I was pleased to receive this letter. The report the town commissioned from Weston & Sampson engineers clearly showed the limits to the pump station serving this area. I hope that Summit will take this opportunity to reconsider the scope of its proposal.”

Hiawatha Lane extension is shown by an arrow, on this Google Map image. It's below I-95. The entrance is via West Ferry Lane, which is off Saugatuck Avenue (diagonal road on the right side of the image).

Hiawatha Lane extension is shown by an arrow, on this Google Map image. It’s below I-95. The entrance is via West Ferry Lane, which is off Saugatuck Avenue (diagonal road on the right side of the image).