Though Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger dismissed a suit by Hiawatha Lane residents against Summit Saugatuck — developer of the 157-unit apartment complex by I-95 Exit 17 — the neighbors vow to fight on.
Carolanne Curry writes: “A close analysis by (our) attorney of the findings in Judge Berger’s decision, would show the Judge’s decision to be weak enough, flawed enough, and sufficient enough to warrant an immediate and vigorous appeal. During a conversation on Friday our attorney relayed that the merits of an appeal were convincing and justifiable. (Read the decision dated May 31, 2022 here.)
“We have come too far to simply relinquish our sincere efforts and the many successes we have achieved, especially while there are viable pathways to further success that are still within our reach. Our chances of success today are like all the chances we’ve continuously embraced for nearly 20 years. We’ve gone ahead each time and achieved many wins. We still remain an affordable working class neighborhood. We still remain a community with history… and hope. We still remain committed to stopping something so very wrong.”
An appeal would take 12 to 18 months, Curry says. That would put a hold on construction.
The biggest challenge, she says, is funding. Her email included a goal of $50,000 to cover the current balance owed, and legal fees going forward. Click here for details, and more information.
One of the Hiawatha Lane homes on the demolition list.
With 23 sponsors, it was already clear that a “sense of the meeting” resolution supporting a woman’s right to abortion would pass the 36-member Representative Town Meeting.
But — after impassioned debate — the non-partisan legislative body enacted the member without dissent from the 29 members still on the Zoom call.
The RTM has weighed in on national issues before. In 1969, they voted 17-15 to oppose the Vietnam War. After the Sandy Hook massacre, they resoundingly called for an end to gun violence.
District 4 representative Andrew Colabella told “06880” after last night’s vote:
“Tonight the RTM, men and women, stood together and in unison, eloquently and passionately to adopt a resolution asserting that Westport supports the constitutional rights and principles established in Roe v. Wade, and opposes the elimination of those rights by any subsequent Supreme Court decision.
“Putting aside individual beliefs and political affiliations, this nonpartisan body, like always, setting precedent by discussing and taking action voiced, loud and clear with great enthusiasm while holding back tears.
“The future is terrifying. We are fortunate and lucky to live in such an educated and strongly passionate diverse and inclusive town that, like our state, goes above and beyond to protect women’s rights.
“Furthermore, the best health care is provided free of political interference in the patient-physician relationship. Personal decision-making by women and their doctors should not be replaced by political ideology. This was affirmed in our unanimous vote.
“And like the people that we are in this town, ready to give a helping hand, will take pride in helping those beyond our borders whatever decision is rendered.”
He and his wife Liz were part of a private audience with Pope Francis.
The pontiff said: “The promotion and deepening of Jewish-Christian dialogue has been something close to my heart since I was a young boy, because at school I had Jewish classmates; it is a dialogue made up of encounter and concrete gestures of fraternity.
“It is good that we should help one another, because in each one of us, in every religious tradition and in every human society, there is always a risk that we can hold grudges and foster disputes against others, and at times do so in the name of absolute and even sacred principles.”
The delegation responded: “Your Holiness, we hope that all people will stand together against antisemitism, against anti-Christian discrimination and against intolerance directed at Muslims. In recognition of our common home and common destiny, let us protect the environment, care for the most vulnerable and promote mutual understanding rather than mutual recrimination. Thank you, Your Holiness, and may God bless all people everywhere with shalom, with peace.”
Pope Francis shook Kaner’s hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Pray for Peace.”
And finally … Jim Seals — half of the ’70s soft-rock duo Seals & Crofts — died Monday in Nashville. He was 79.
I knew (but never really cared for) the group’s hits like “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl.”
But I did not know — until I read his obituary — that Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were part of the Champs, who had a 1958 hit with “Tequila,” another song that did nothing for me. (They joined after it was a hit.)
Nor did I know that Seals’ brother Dan was a member of England Dan & John Ford Coley (“I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”). You guessed it …
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The long legal battle to stop construction of 157 apartments on Hiawatha Lane may be over.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger issued a summary judgment ruling on Tuesday, in favor of developer Summit Saugatuck. The ruling may effectively end efforts by the plaintiffs — residents of the neighborhood off Saugatuck Avenue, near I-95 Exit 17 — to halt the project.
At issue were deed restrictions, limiting some properties in the area to single-family development.
At issue were deed restrictions of some properties in the area, limiting each lot to single-family development. At least 2 of those parcels are included in the Summit plans.
Owners of the other properties included in the deed restriction filed suit against Summit for breaching the restriction. They asked the court to prevent Summit from proceeding with the development, after its approved by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission.
Berger ruled that the easement did not reach the necessary legal requirements for it to be enforceable against the Summit properties. (Hat tip: Gloria Gouveia)
Artist’s rendering of one of the buildings at Summit Saugatuck’s Hiawatha Lane development.
Congratulations to Sasha Maskoff. The talented senior — a pianist who has played at Carnegie Hall (and last December’s spectacular Candlelight Concert), and tutors young students — is the 2022 Staples Key winner.
The award — donated by Westport’s Kiwanis Club — is considered the most prestigious at the high school. The other finalists were Jasper Cahn and William Heisler.
The honor was announced by principal Stafford Thomas, at last night’s annual awards ceremony. Arts, English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Language and other awards were presented too.
Thomas also presented 15 Principal’s Awards, for outstanding service and contributions, to Slade Anastasia, Nick Augeri, Caroline Coffey, Catherine Cunningham, Amy Ginzburg, Emorej Hunter, Matthew Jordan, Elle Laub, Madeline Michalowski, ishan Prasad, Noah Robison, Ally Schwartz, Max Udell and Ella Williams.
Two members of each class received Staples Awards for Character: seniors Chloe Nevas and Nick Prior, juniors Jacob Baker and Miriam Hurley, sophomores Gianna Amatuzzi and Caroline Hechter, and freshmen Dylan Phillips and Mieszko Solowinski.
Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, at last night’s awards ceremony. (Photo/David Pogue)
Agendas for the Historic District Commission are straightforward affairs.
The one for its next meeting — Tuesday, November 9, 7:30 p.m., Zoom (click here for the link) starts out like most others.
After approving minutes, the group will “take such action as the meeting may determine to oppose the issuance of the demolition permit” for 171 Compo Road South, 3 Sunrise Road and 5 Minute Man Hill, and “require the full 180-day delay.” The agenda item is mandatory, for houses more than 50 years old.
The next 8 similar items, though, may be contentious. Th language is the same. But the properties are 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 47 Hiawatha Lane.
One of the Hiawatha Lane homes on the demolition list.
Those homes would be torn down to make way for Summit Saugatuck’s 157-unit development, off Saugatuck Avenue by I-95 Exit 17.
Area residents have filed a lawsuit in Bridgeport Superior Court to stop construction.
A group of neighbors on the road, off Saugatuck Avenue near I-95 Exit 17, has filed suit in Bridgeport Superior Court.
The plaintiffs ask the court for a “temporary and permanent injunction enjoining the Defendant from constructing greater than a one-family house on any of the lots owned by the Defendant in the Subdivision in violation of the One-Family House Restriction.”
The neighbors claim that a covenant on the property restricts all development on land owned by the defendant — Summit Saugatuck — to one-family houses only.
The plaintiffs also cite health and safety concerns related to increased traffic, along with runoff and flood issues.
The redevelopment plan for Hiawatha Lane. Click to enlarge.
After a 5-hour delay Sunday night — caused by 111-degree heat in Eugene, Oregon — Henry Wynne battled for a spot on the US Olympic track and field team.
The Staples High School Class of 2013 graduate had to finish 3rd in the 1500-meter finals.
Running outside for much of the race, he surged to a 3:37.70 finish. But that was good only for 5th.
Since 2016, Wynne — one of the greatest runners in Connecticut history — has s suffered a knee injury, pneumonia, and surgery on his small intestine. He’s persevered through it all — and COVID — yet came up just short Sunday night.
Henry Wynne, in an indoor race for Staples High. (Photo courtesy of MSG Varsity)
Tomorrow (Wednesday, June 30, 7 p.m., Westport Library), Silver Hill Hospital’s president and medical director Dr. Andrew Gerber and other experts will present a workshop to help parents learn how to talk with and support children as they try to understand tragedies.
The program is a joint effort of Westport’s Department of Human Services, the Westport Public Schools, Westport Together, and the Westport Prevention Coalition, in partnership with the Library. Click here to register to attend in person. Click here for the livestream link.
Connecticut’s Superior Court holds remote hearings o 2 proposed settlements, between Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission and developers. These could be the final steps on the road toward construction.
The 157-unit Hiawatha Lane settlement will be discussed on July 19 (10:30 a.m.). The 68-unit Lincoln Street settlement is set for the same day, at 2:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in listening to or participating in the hearing should email email@example.com, or call 860-548-2851 for instructions.
The RTM decision was 30 to 2, with 1 absention and 1 recusal. Twenty-four votes — 2/3 of the entire RTM — would have been needed to overturn last month’s P&Z decision to settle 3 lawsuits brought by the developer, Summit Saugatuck. The special RTM meeting was held following a petition by over 60 electors.
This is Peter Gold’s report on last night’s special meeting, held via Zoom. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.
The RTM’s second meeting of the month considered overturning the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to permit Summit Saugatuck to build a 157- unit housing development, including 47 affordable units, at Hiawatha Lane. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the development as part of a settlement of 3 lawsuits brought by Summit.
The suits seek to overturn the P & Z’s earlier denial of the project, revoke the town’s moratorium from the requirements under Connecticut statute 8-30g (which permits developers to disregard most town zoning regulations so long as their developments contain at least 30% affordable housing), and eliminate the town’s ability to approve sewer connections for developments.
The town has already been to trial on all 3 lawsuits. Absent approval of the proposed settlement, decisions in all 3 cases are expected shortly.
Artist’s rendering of one of the buildings at the Hiawatha Lane development.
Town attorney Ira Bloom explained there were 2 main questions for the RTM to consider. First: Should the town continue to control development by retaining its moratorium and the right to approve sewer connections? Equally important, he said, is how to “best balance the interests of the Hiawatha Lane neighborhood against the interests of the town as a whole.”
He stated that fire safety is the key issue in the case seeking to overturn the P & Z’s denial of the project. Summit’s proposed development meets all the requirements of the fire code. However, the P&Z initially rejected the proposed development on the advice of fire marshal Nate Gibbons, who felt additional safeguards — particularly a second access road to the site — were needed.
Fire safety concerns have been a major issue with the proposed Summit Saugatuck development.
Bloom said that recent cases where towns have sought safeguards over and above fire code requirements, including another Westport case involving a proposed development on Cross Street, have been decided in favor of developers. Courts have held that meeting the fire code requirements is enough to let the development proceed. Bloom said that the town does not have a high probability of winning this case.
Summit also challenged the 4-year 8-30g moratorium the Department of Housing granted the town 2 years ago. In March, the DOH notified the town that it intends to revoke the moratorium because it can no longer justify the moratorium points given for the Hidden Brook housing development. Without those points the town would not have enough points for a moratorium.
Based on settlement negotiations, the DOH told the town it is now “tentatively on board to keep the moratorium.” If the settlement is not approved, Mr. Bloom said the town will probably lose the moratorium, exposing the entire town to 8-30g affordable housing applications at many other sites.
The last suit challenged the current requirement that town approval is required for all connections to its sewer system. Westport denied a sewer permit. Summit sued and won; the town appealed and prevailed; Summit then appealed to the state Supreme Court. As with the other 2 cases, a decision is on hold pending the RTM’s decision on the proposed settlement.
Danielle Dobin and Paul Lebowitz, the Planning and Zoning Commission members most involved in the settlement negotiations with Summit, explained the consequences of losing the lawsuits if the settlement is not approved and the benefits of the proposed settlement.
Though all P & Z commissioners sympathized with the plight of the Hiawatha Lane area residents affected by the proposed development, Dobin and Lebowitz said the P & Z felt the consequences to both the neighborhood and the town as a whole of continuing to oppose the development in court justified the settlement.
Summit Saugatuck’s site plan. I-95 is at the top; Saugatuck Avenue is at the right.
Under the settlement, all lawsuits would be dropped and could not be reinstated. This would preserve the town’s moratorium and ability to approve sewer connections, both crucial for controlling and guiding development in town.
Summit would build 157 units instead of 187 units, including 47 affordable units; eliminate one building from the project; include several 3-bedroom units for families, and provide additional fire safety features. It would also repair roads in the area, fix a culvert to eliminate flooding, and preserve open space.
A major concern of Hiawatha Lane area residents is the increase in traffic generated by the proposed development. Dobin explained that courts do not consider traffic congestion when deciding 8-30g cases. First Selectman Marpe promised that the Board of Selectman, in its role as Traffic Authority, would work with the residents and the state Department of Transportation to take steps to mitigate the traffic.
It was noted that the Office of State Traffic Administration would also need to approve the development, as it would be considered a major traffic generator. However, OSTA approval would not be sought until after the settlement is approved or the lawsuits are resolved. If OSTA requests changes as a condition of its approval it is likely Summit would make such changes.
Several Hiawatha Lane area residents spoke against the settlement. They felt the P & Z did not negotiate hard enough; traffic and pedestrian safety issues were ignored; the existing affordable housing in the area should be preserved, and that residents displaced from their homes by the proposed development should be given priority for the new affordable units.
Dobin and Leibowitz explained why they thought the settlement was the best deal that could be obtained, pointed out that traffic and pedestrian issues are not considered under 8-30g, and that federal fair housing laws do not allow for preferential placement.
RTM members expressed sympathy with the Hiawatha Lane area residents, but felt their plight was outweighed by the town’s need to preserve the 8-30g moratorium and keep control over sewer access. Members also expressed a desire for the town to “do something” to assist the residents who would be displaced by the proposed development.
Many expressed their feeling that the town failed to adequately plan to meet the requirements of 8-30g over the past years as other towns — notably Darien and New Canaan, which have received several consecutive moratoriums — have done, leaving Westport in its current situation.
It was also pointed out that the settlement would have to be approved by the court, giving concerned residents one last chance to make their concerns heard.
Voting against the proposed settlement were Lou Mall and Carla Rea. Arline Gertzoff abstained, while Matthew Mandell recused himself.
This week, the Representative Town Meeting’s Planning & Zoning Subcommittee voted 5-1 to uphold the P&Z’s agreement with Summit Saugatuck, to build 157 units of housing — some of it deemed “affordable” — on Hiawatha Lane, near I-95 Exit 17.
The debate now moves to the full RTM. That meeting is set for June 8 (7:30 p.m., Zoom).
Members of the public may attend the meeting by video. Send an email before or during the session to RTMcomments@westportct.gov, with your name and address. Meeting details will be emailed to you. Registered electors attending by video can comment (3-minute time limit).
Emails to all members may also be sent before the meeting: RTMmailinglist@westportct.gov.
Artist’s rendering of one of the buildings at the Hiawatha Lane development.
Charlie Capalbo’s battles with cancer have inspired people around the world.
The 23-year-old Fairfield native — and grandson of Westport writer Ina Chadwick — beat lymphoma and leukemia. Now he’s facing off against leukemia again.
It’s a costly fight. And the need is great. Charlie’s dad lost his job at the beginning of COVID, and is just getting his new real estate career off the ground. His mom, Jen, has been working per diem. That’s now on hold.
Fortunately, Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and radio personality Greg Hill have pledged to match every $1 donated — up to $20,000 each. That could mean a total of $60,000 to support Charlie and his family.
And finally … John Davis died this week, of complications from COVID. He was 66.
You may not recognize his name. But he was one of the real singers for the fake duo Milli Vanilli. They won a Grammy for their debut album in 1990, but lost it when news broke that the singers had not actually sung. Click here for a full obituary.
That’s the name of a Westport Library/Town of Westport-sponsored panel on June 3 (7 p.m., at the Library or via Zoom).
2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker will lead a discussion with 3 great — and very different — local businesses.
Sam Gault of Gault Energy, Dr. EJ Zebro (TAP Strength Lab) and Gina Porcello (GG & Joe) will share “Stories from the Pandemic.” They’ll describe what they learned, how they survived — and how they’re thriving.
Speaking of Staples: 4 juniors have earned Superior Achievement in Writing awards. The honor comes from the prestigious National Council of Teachers of English.
Caroline Coffey, Matthew Genser, Maya Markus-Malone and Talia Perkins
were honored as among the best student writers in the nation. In addition to submitting a piece of “best writing,” contest entrants were asked to craft a piece in any genre that took readers inside a community that is important to them, and convey the beauty they see within it.
Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows black swallowtails at Sherwood Island State Park:
And finally … legendary Muscle Shoals drummer Jerry Roger Hawkins died last week. He was 75, and had suffered from numerous illnesses.
Producer Jerry Wexler called him “the greatest drummer of all time.”
Hawkins — a member of both the Swampers and Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section session groups — played on hits like “Respect,” ” “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Mustang Sally.” As great as those songs are, listen again. Without Hawkins’ drumming, they’d have a lot less respect. Click here for a full obituary.
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