The last time we checked in with the Beltas, the family had closed their farm.
Since 1946, the 23-acre Bayberry Lane site just south of Cross Highway had been worked by 4 generations of Beltas. They raised poultry (and for a while, livestock). They grew corn, herbs and flowers. They ran a farm stand in summer. At one point, they supplied Stew Leonard’s with a ton of tomatoes a day.
But the 4th generation is now in their 60s and 70s. Their children and grandchildren are not farmers. Last year, the Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved a plan to subdivide the farm into 9 building lots.
That’s a not-unusual Westport story. Yet what’s happening now is unusual.
Greg, Jimmy and Connie Belta Caruso are not taking the money and running. They’re slowly crafting a plan for 7 new homes. They’re maintaining almost 5 acres of open space. They’re grading the property with a keen eye to runoff, including a retention pond. They’re reusing nearly everything they can, from wood to stone. They’re planting dozens of trees.
And they’re keeping 2 lots for themselves. They’ll continue to live on the land they have loved for so long.
As with any building project, there are delays. Supply chain issues meant it took nearly 4 months for utilities to run their lines. That’s finally done. The first phase of paving the new Beltas Farm Lane followed, allowing access for builders and realtors.
There has been plenty of interest, including national firms. The 7 lots range in size up to 3 acres — rare in Westport.
The family believes that tying up all the lots in one entity is not the best route for development. As lifelong Westporters, the Beltas favor Westport builders, designers and realtors. “They know and love the town as we do,” Connie says.
The homes are being offered on the retail market, direct to buyers who want to build their dream home. It’s more difficult and expensive for the Beltas, but they think it will produce a much more desirable outcome. In an uncertain market, they are prepared to wait for the right buyers.
For now, the Beltas are taking their time. The brothers are removing 75 years of things — chicken coops, tractors, plows, topsoil — from the land, themselves. “No one ever threw anything away,” Jimmy notes.
“It’s a slower way of doing things,” Greg adds. “Any builder would have come in and bulldozed all this already.”
There’s been visible progress. A handsome stone entrance has replaced the former farm stand, at the bottom of the Bayberry Lane hill. It’s built entire from the Beltas’ fieldstone. (Their grandfather, a mason, came to the US at 18 from Italy.)
White cedar has been repurposed into fence posts, and birdhouses at the wetlands.
Every day, work continues. “But there’s only two of us,” Jimmy says. “We don’t want deadlines.”