Tag Archives: Ira Bloom

Question Box #5

Our Question Box is once again full.

Here are the latest answers — to the best of my ability, anyway. I’m stumped by many of these queries. So readers: Please chime in with any additional information. Click “Comments” below.

And if you’ve got a question for our box, just email dwoog@optonline.net.

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I read a lot about “affordable housing” in Westport. What is considered “affordable,” and who sets the guidelines?

Guidelines are set by Connecticut General Statute 8-30g. Click here for the exact 2021 income limits, and rental maximums.

Housing limits at places like Sasco Creek Village are set by the state.

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Who hires the town attorney, and how much is he or she paid? (David Meth)

According to town attorney Ira Bloom, the First Selectman (or woman) appoints the town attorney. The budget for the position has various components:  retainer amounts for the town attorney and assistant town attorney; a component for labor and employment, and the contract services — the largest piece — which covers litigation and longer-term projects.

Neither Bloom nor the assistant town attorney, Eileen Lavigne Flug, are town employees, so they do not receive a “salary” per se from the town.

Town attorney Ira Bloom

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Is there a committee for the Baron’s South project, or a way to get involved? (Whitney Raith)

Baron’s South falls under the purview of the Parks & Recreation Department. Contact director Jen Fava (jfava@westportct.gov) to let her know you’re interested.

Baron’s South is a gem in the heart of Westport. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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Also from Whitney Raith: Why are there so many dead-end private streets? Does this lessen the town’s road upkeep?

Now that’s something that I — as a native Westporter — never thought about.

My guess is it’s a function of how the town grew. As farmland was sold to developers, they built homes off the main roads. If the houses were behind each other, they needed a way to get to the main road. Because there was still undeveloped land behind, the new roads did not connect to others, so they became dead-ends (more delicately, cul-de-sacs [or “culs-de-sac”?]).

I’m sure the nature of people moving to town — seeking privacy, which “private” roads provide — had something to do with it too.

I don’t think it was a way for the town to avoid upkeep. But if my theory is wrong — or you’ve got other ideas — click “Comments” below.

In this 1965 aerial view, Staples High School is on the left. An arrow points to High Point Road. Located off Long Lots Road, and the longest cul-de-sac in Westport, it was developed in the 1950s.

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Was there a mini-golf course where Lansdowne is now located? I was also told that it previously was the dump. (Antonia Zegras)

Fore! The 33-acre Lansdowne condos — located on Post Road East, just west of Stop & Shop — were once the site of mini-golf, and a driving range. For a while, a Bedford Junior High phys. ed. teacher had a trampoline business — “Ed Hall’s Jumpin’ Gyminy,” or something like that — out in front too.

Plus a skating rink, which eventually morphed into the short-lived Nines Club discotheque, courtesy of orchestra leader Lester Lanin. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

That rink/disco lives on, as the Westport Tennis Club.

As for a dump: I recall stuff being dumped in the back of the driving range after the mini-golf complex closed, but I can’t swear to it. Readers: If you remember: Click “Comments” below.

Once a mini-golf course and driving range; now well-established condos.

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I drive up and down Long Lots Road several times a day. Almost always, I see a flock of hawks circling, always between Turkey Hill Road and Hyde Lane. Can any readers explain why? (Lawrence Weisman)

Hawk-lovers: What’s up (ho ho)? Click “Comments” below.

Not Larry Weisman’s hawk — but very cool nonetheless. (Photo/Lou Rolla)

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I know that Alcoholics Anonymous meets at the St. Luke Church stables on Long Lots Road. Were there actual stables there at some point? (Arthur Hayes)

I don’t know the answer. I’m sure some of our alert readers do. But I’m guessing there were. It doesn’t seem like a name that came from thin air.

The St. Luke Church stables. Were there once horses there?

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Is there anything new concerning the incomplete structure on Hillspoint Road diagonally across from Joey’s by the Shore, where a series of restaurants used to be located? (Paul Rohan)

Nope! Negotiations continue, following a cease-and-desist order for violations on the residence that was slated to replace (most recently) Positano’s.

Construction has been halted at 233 Hillspoint Road. (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

Do you have a question for the Question Box? Email dwoog@optonline.net. When it’s full, I’ll answer them.

Unsung Hero #8

On Friday, Gail Kelly finishes her 15-year stint as Westport’s assistant town attorney. (She doesn’t say “retiring” — just moving on to new things in life.)

Everyone working at Town Hall is sorry to see her go.

But none more than Ira Bloom.

“It’s a tremendous loss for the town government — and me,” says the longtime town attorney. “Gail has done an excellent job.”

Gail Kelly

Working out of a Town Hall office — though, like Bloom, she is employed by the private Berchem, Moses & Devlin law firm — Kelly handles Westport’s day-to-day legal affairs.

That means reviewing contracts and RFPs; handling Freedom of Information inquiries; coordinating with the Representative Town Meeting on ordinances, and attending board of selectmen meetings.

Kelly is available to all Town Hall personnel, in offices ranging from the town clerk to public works to conservation.

“A lot of lawyers know the charter and ordinances,” Bloom says. “But what distinguishes Gail is her uncommon common sense, her excellent judgment and her terrific sense of humor.”

She is adept at “defusing difficult situations. She’ll tell you the law, and then she’ll have a sensible answer people accept,” Bloom adds.

For 15 years, Kelly has served the town with efficiency, poise and professionalism — and not many kudos.

Congratulations, Gail Kelly — and good luck as you retire move on!

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

Town Fights 8-30g — And Wins

A real estate developer buys suburban land. He announces plans to build a massive number of housing units on it. Citing Connecticut’s 8-30g statute, 30% will be “affordable,” according to state guidelines.

Townspeople — worried about the impact of such a massive development — rise up to oppose it.

Sound familiar? It happens all over — including Westport.

Here’s the unfamiliar part: The townspeople won.

The town is not Westport. But it’s nearby.

Easton residents and officials just got big news. A 5-year battle against a 99-unit, 31-building townhouse complex, on 124.7 acres of watershed bordered by Sport Hill, Westport, Silver Hill and Cedar Hill Roads, has come to an end. An appellate court declined to hear the developer’s appeal of a January decision by Hartford’s housing court, which upheld Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Conservation Commission’s 2011 denial of that plan (and a previous one for 105 units).

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development.

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development. (Photo/Google Earth)

How did they do it?

Ira Bloom explains. He was legal counsel for the town commissions. He’s also Westport’s town attorney, so he knows something about 8-30g.

Unlike most zoning applications, Bloom says, if a town commission turns down an 8-30g application, the burden is on them — not on the developer — to prove they made the right decision.

There are a couple of ways to do that, Bloom says. One is to show there is “substantial public interest” in the denial. “Mere traffic congestion” does not work, Bloom notes. Traffic safety, however, may. “Substantial public interest” must clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing in that town.

Another way is to show that no possible modification of the proposal would satisfy the requirements.

Ira Bloom

Ira Bloom

“That’s a heavy burden of proof,” Bloom says. In fact, last year 9 8-30g cases were decided by Connecticut courts. 7 were won by developers. Towns prevailed in only 2 — including Easton.

Bloom argued that because the 99 units would be built on public watershed — serving most of the Easton — the town had a substantial public interest in denying the application. He cited Department of Energy and Environmental Protection guidelines that no more than 1 unit be built on every 2 acres of watershed.

In Westport, officials used the “substantial public interest” argument in denying a proposal for a large 8-30g complex on Wilton Road, near Kings Highway North. The fire chief testified there were severe safety concerns, about the ability of his department to access the proposed complex.

Westport is now writing briefs for that case. They’re due August 12. The developer — Garden Homes — then submits their own briefs.

Easton has very little affordable housing. Westport has more.

But when it comes to 8-30g, no town is out of the woods.

And, Bloom notes, the Easton developer still owns that property. A new proposal may be in the works.