Tag Archives: Landtech

Roundup: Fireworks, Mill Pond Jumping, River Cleanup …

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Jennifer Rago McCarthy grew up with Westport traditions. Like the Yankee Doodle Fair. And the 4th of July fireworks.

In 2020, COVID knocked out the June fair. To be safe, the Westport Woman’s Club moved this year’s event to September.

For the second straight summer, the fireworks wee canceled.

Which got Jennifer — a 1985 Staples High School graduate — thinking: Why not have the fireworks on Labor Day weekend?

Why not indeed?!

Jennifer asked me to post her idea. If enough people are interested, it may be worth pursuing.

So, “06880” readers: What do you think? If you’re down with fireworks on Labor Day weekend, click “Comments” below.

And if you think that’s a bad idea, click “Comments” too — and tell us why.

Labor Day, 2021?(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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“The show must go on” is a time-honored tradition. On Friday night, Drew Angus honored it well.

The Staples High School graduate, recording artist and all-around good guy was booked for the Levitt Pavilion. Right before showtime, a hard rain fell.

But Drew — standing behind his band’s covered instruments — gave a fantastic performance.

Most of the crowd was far in back, under the overhang. A few hardy folks sat on the grass. But it didn’t take long for many to get up and dance. It was an amazing scene. (It didn’t hurt that one of his numbers was “Singin’ in the Rain.”)

Carleigh Welsh announced that Drew will be booked for another performance this summer. Hopefully he knows “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” (Hat tip: Laura Schwartz)

Drew Angus, singing in the rain. (Photo/Laura Schwartz)

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For decades, kids jumped off the Sherwood Mill Pond bridge.

When the water got grotty, they stopped.

The pond is back in great shape. Several years ago, the jumpers returned.

Last summer, some of them were loud and rude. They ruined it for everyone. Residents complained. Parks & Rec put up a “Danger/No Jumping or Diving” sign, complete with little red-slash pictographs.

Yesterday, Ann Becker Moore, Pam Washburn and Karen Como spotted a new sign. It says simply: “Jump.”

(Photo/Karen Como)

WTF?!

If anyone knows what’s going on, click “Comments” below.

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This was 90 Morningside Drive South, when it was on the market.

It was bought last July for $2.64 million, by Mattera Construction. Here’s how it looked yesterday:

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Every other Saturday morning, Longshore Sailing School hosts a Saugatuck River cleanup.

Despite yesterday’s weather, 40 single and double kayaks headed out. Each came bag with incredible amounts of trash.

Paul Danielewicz and Mark Jaffe collected the most. They don’t win anything. But everyone who loves the Saugatuck River is grateful.

The next cleanup is July 17 (9:30 to 11 a.m.). Anyone interested should meet at Longshore Sailing School, behind the pool.

Paul Danielewicz and Mark Jaffe.

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Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Eastern Conference finals. They advance to the championship for the first time since 1974 (when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the starting center).

The Westport connection? The Bucks are co-owned by Westport hedge fund manager Marc Lasry. PS: They were named the Bucks long before the billionaire bought them. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

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Conversion of the former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters in New Haven — the concrete box on the left as you head north, next to Ikea and just before the I-91 merge — into what may be the most energy-efficient hotel in the country has “Westport” all over it.

Hotel Marcel’s developer and architect is Westport-based Bruce Becker. He’s building it to meet net-zero energy standards. It will generate as much energy as it uses. All electricity is produced on site, and it’s the first passive house-certified hotel in the US. 

Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the project’s site/civil engineer.

It’s a great project. To learn more, click on the video below. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)

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The weather hasn’t been great this 4th of July weekend. But Jolantha of Kellogg Hill proves you can put lipstick on this pig.

Or at least decorate her for the holiday.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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“Naturally … Westport” ventures today to Bermuda Road, on Saugatuck Shores:

(Photo/Diane Yormark)

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And finally … happy birthday, America. We’ve made it through 245 years. Here’s to the next 245!

Y Project Earns State Honors

Building the “new” Westport Weston Family YMCA at the Mahackeno campus was an enormous undertaking.

Countless public hearings — and nearly 2 dozen lawsuits — delayed planning, groundbreaking and construction for years.

LANDTECH — the Westport-based civil engineering, site planning, project design, environmental and construction management firm — was there every step of the way. They worked with Robert A.M. Stern Architects and many others, completing the finished product — finally — in 2014.

Except it wasn’t finished. Phase 2 — 22,000 more square feet, including a gymnastics center and enhanced exercise, wellness and healthcare studios, along with a redesign and renovation of the adjacent Mahackeno  Outdoor Center — opened last year. Once again, there were challenges (like a global pandemic).

The Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Phase 2 project added a gymnastics center, and several studios.

But there were no lawsuits. The project came in under budget, and ahead of deadline.

Now the Y’s Phase 2 has been named Best Large Civic Project in the entire state.

The award comes from the Connecticut Building Congress, an association spanning every important trade group in the state.

“We worked with neighbors on the site plans and landscaping,” says LANDTECH principal (and Saugatuck native) Pete Romano. “There were no lawsuits at all. The process went very smoothly.”

LANDTECH’s role was broad. They collaborated with SLAM Architects and permitting groups like Conservation and Planning & Zoning, and closed out the project for a certificate of occupancy. Getting Mahackeno open last summer — when so many other camps were closed — was crucial for many youngsters and their families.

The Mahackeno Outdoor Center pool.

“It was a group effort at a trying time,” Romano notes. “Town Hall offices were not open. People were working from home. But in the end, everyone rowed in the same direction.”

The CBC award honors every group that had a hand in the Y’s Phase 2, from the excavators and pavers to the pool and plate glass folks. Turner Construction — the firm that built Phase 1 — was involved again too.

P&Z Dives Into Pool Coverage Text Amendment

One of the unintended consequences of COVID is a rise in the number of new swimming pools. All over town, construction is underway.

All over town — except in areas of town with lots that, according to zoning regulations, are undersized or non-conforming. Many of those properties are in areas like Saugatuck Shores and Compo Beach.

For years, architects and land use experts — including Pete Romano, the principal at LANDTECH, the Westport-based engineering and planning firm — have gone to the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting variances. This Thursday (May 6, Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission will consider a text amendment to address that issue.

Text amendment 793 would modify the swimming pool definition to exclude swimming pools of a certain size from total coverage calculations, in all zoning districts.

It would also exclude “sports courts” (private basketball and pickleball courts, etc.) of a certain size from total coverage calculations.

There would be size limits: 850 square feet for pools, and up to 40′ x 40′ for sports courts. Non-conforming lots would still be required to adhere to building and conservation setbacks, and fulfill all drainage requirements.

A Westport summer scene.

Romano has represented many homeowners who have sought variances. He says the text amendment would reduce the number of land-use approvals required to construct a pool.

He notes a current regulatory quirk: A homeowner right now can construct a patio 35 inches high, right up to all building setbacks, and fill the entire lot, setback to setback. It would not count toward total coverage calculations; that only applies to patios at least 36 inches above the ground.

However, Romano says, “once you punch a hole in the patio and pour water in it, it counts towards total coverage.”

Many town officials seem to be in favor of the text amendments. So are most realtors.

Thursday’s meeting will be livestreamed at www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Public comments can be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov by noon Thursday. To comment in real time during the meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov by noon on Thursday; include your name, address and “agenda item 5.” Click here and scroll down for the full text amendment.

New Senior Housing Proposed For Post Road West

The Residence at Westport — our first assisted living community — opened last summer, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.

A second one is planned for the opposite side of town.

Maplewood Senior Living has proposed a 3-story facility for the former Dragone Classic Motorworks site, diagonally across from Kings Highway Elementary.

Site plan for the proposed assisted living facility. Post Road East is on the right; Kings Highway North and Ludlow Street are on the left.

The property has a long history with automobiles. It was for many years the home of the Small Car Company — for a while, the most successful Volkswagen dealer in the US. In 2018 it was rezoned to allow an electric car dealership (rumored to be Tesla).

The current tenant is Carvana, a used car dealer that sells entirely online. Nearby buildings include retail and residences, with 8 apartments.

The former Dragone property, and its neighbor, on Post Road West.

Maplewood’s corporate headquarters are on Gorham Island, off Parker Harding Plaza. They operate 15 senior living communities in 5 states. Other Connecticut locations include Southport, East Norwalk, Newtown, Darien, Bethel, Danbury and Orange.

Plans call 95 units: 49 for assisted living, 46 for memory and full care. Two of the assisted living units will be designated as affordable. The facility will be called Maplewood at Westport.

Artists’ rendering of Maplewood at Westport.

Because part of the property lies within the Kings Highway North Local Historic District, Maplewood and Landtech — the Saugatuck-based engineering and environmental firm — have worked with neighbors, and Westport’s Historic District Commission, since June.

Two “historic residences” — over 50 years old — will be preserved.

One house at 174 Post Road West will be relocated to 38 Kings Highway North.

The existing home at 38 Kings Highway North, with a rendering of the home that will be relocated from 174 Post Road West.

Another, at #172, will be moved slightly, and designated as affordable.

The new location of the house at 172 Post Road West.

Maplewood’s building will be tucked into the hill. Only the roof will be visible from Kings Highway. Landscaping and vegetation will be added to the site, and on some private property.

All contaminated soil — the legacy of decades as a car dealership — will be removed.

The proposal goes before the Flood & Erosion Control Board in March, with the Conservation Commission to follow. The target date for opening is late summer or early fall of 2022.

Pics Of The Day #1296

As Westporters — and all Americans — bite their nails, hold their breath and say a prayer that their candidate will win tonight, here’s a reminder that we are all in this together.

LandTech principal Pete Romano put this sign outside his Saugatuck office this morning. Amen!

(Photo/Jeff Seaver)

In a similar vein, Amanda Doyle sends along her 8-year-old daughter Niamh’s homework for today.

People Who Live In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Have Structural Problems

But they do.

Even if that Glass House is a National Historic Landmark.

The Glass House was architect Philip Johnson’s personal residence. Built in 1948 in New Canaan, it’s part of an estate that includes other innovative buildings he designed, all connected by beautiful manicured walkways.

Each property — the Brick House, the Studio, Da Monsta, the Painting Gallery, Pavilion in the Pond and the Sculpture Gallery — is a work of art, and features remarkable collections of paintings and sculptures. The site draws thousands of visitors a year.

Philip Johnson’s Glass House …

But even world-renowned architects design houses that, over time, develop structural or environmental problems.

The National Trust for Historical Preservation — owner of the famed property — chose Landtech to identify and remedy the conditions impacting each of the buildings.

The Saugatuck-based engineering firm is investigating drainage problems that have long plagued the Brick House, which includes Johnson’s private sleeping quarters, study and gallery space.

Groundwater levels have impacted the structure, creating moisture and mold. Conditions became so severe that the gallery is unusable.

… and The Brick House.

As they work to correct drainage and mold issues, Landtech engineers have an additional challenge: respecting the historical integrity of the Glass House and Brick House, and the spectacular property they sit on.

As anyone who has seen their Westport work knows, they’re up to the task. They’ll work through early spring, ensuring that the busy summer event schedule will go on as planned.

And that one of Connecticut’s top tourist attractions will continue to delight visitors and architectural enthusiasts for decades to come.

 

 

Saugatuck Center Phase II Moves Forward

More than a decade ago, the Gault family’s bold plan kick-started the renaissance of Saugatuck.

Two plazas with restaurants, shops and apartments brought new life to one of Westport’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s a vibrant, fun and walkable area, with only one chain store in sight. (Dunkin’ Donuts. At least it’s not Starbucks.)

Now, a new development will soon begin.

Last week, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously in favor of Phase II of Saugatuck Center. It consists of residential apartments on Ketchum Street — the humpback road connecting Riverside Avenue and Franklin Street.

Aerial view of the Phase II apartments (white and green).

Three of the apartments will be affordable, based on town regulations.

Thirteen units will be in the area near the office building that houses the Hub workspace, Bartaco corporate headquarters and a financial firm. That building will remain. Parking is underground.

A small office building on Ketchum near Franklin, as well as the post office mailbox building, will be removed. Four more townhouse-style units will be built there.

The streetscape will be similar to the apartments already further east on Ketchum, with trees, sidewalks and matching lamps. Bruce Beinfield is the project architect.

An artist’s rendering of the apartments. View is northeast, from the corner of Franklin and Ketchum Streets.

The project also includes work on the parking lot at the existing office building, as well as 518 Riverside Avenue. That building houses Landtech, the engineering and environmental firm that’s working with the Gaults on Phase II.

The P&Z was the final town body needed for approval.

Groundbreaking takes place in early spring. The first residents move in in in 2021.

Unsung Hero #116

Jeff Seaver runs Seaver Interactive, a web design and digital marketing firm in Saugatuck. He’s been friends, and worked with, Pete Romano — a Saugatuck native — for 7 years. Jeff writes:

Walking around town with Pete Romano is like going for a stroll with the mayor: folks say hello everywhere he goes. Pete’s well known not just for his expertise in running Landtech — an engineering and environmental firm on Riverside Avenue — but also for his community service. His reputation spans generations.

His father, PJ Romano, grew up in Westport. He was a PAL volunteer for almost 50 years. The athletic field behind Saugatuck Elementary School is named for him, honoring his role in developing PAL’s football, baseball, wrestling and other programs, including the ice rink at Longshore.

Pete’s mom, Joan Romano, still volunteers with PAL. That spirit continues, as Pete maintains a strong family tradition of service.

Pete played baseball and football at Staples High School. His mom recalls that Pete “would knock a player down, but then afterward, stop to help pick them up.”

Working with his longtime friend and partner at Saugatuck Sweets, Al DiGuido, Pete is one of the forces behind DiGuido’s legendary Al’s Angels charity. Last year, Pete helped organize and oversee over 2,500 holiday meals to help those in need.

Pete Romano (left) with his mother Joan, and Al DiGuido, at Saugatuck Sweets.

Al DiGuido said, “I have never thought of Pete Romano as a hero. I doubt he regards himself that way. He just has a tireless passion for doing the heavy lifting for those in need, which inspires me and so many others.

“Pete doesn’t seem to need or want the spotlight. He’s not looking for trophies, awards or accolades. I think he does this because its in his DNA. His family has always been committed to doing all they could to help the community. Some are content to sit on the sidelines, but Pete gets his hands dirty doing the hard work that is truly needed.”

But Pete has a superhero alter ego. Every Christmas he plays Santa Claus. He arrives on a Westport Police patrol boat at Saugatuck Center, lighting the tree and entertaining kids.

Here comes Pete — er, Santa Claus!

His good works could fill a book. They include being a major contributor to the renovation of the Westport Weston Family YMCA, and helping sponsor events for the American Cancer Society, Project Return, ElderHouse, Operation Hope,  Westport Rotary, Little League Softball, plus many other local causes.

Bill Mitchell has been a pal of Pete’s for many years. They support many of the same causes, including Operation Hope and Project Runway. Bill notes, “Pete and his family have been a gift to our community.”

Steve Smith, Westport’s building inspector, said, “Pete Romano is a successful community leader who is generous and always willing to help out a community cause. He has given his time to our town unselfishly — and always with his characteristically great sense of humor.”

Phil Cerrone, an architect who has partnered in a number of efforts with Pete’s firm, said, “Pete is one of the most caring and considerate people I know. He can always be relied on to help a friend in need. Just as important, he can also be counted on to supply top quality food and drink!”

One of Pete’s most treasured causes is Wakeman Town Farm. Pete often joins with his friend, architect Peter Wormser, scooping ice cream at the Farm’s special events. 

Pete Romano and Peter Wormser, at Wakeman Town Farm.

Pete always has time for Westport schools. He and his firm helped create the night lights at the Staples High School football field, the fields at Bedford Middle School, and the Loeffler Field terrace (granite seating on the soccer field hill).

He is a generous supporter of Staples sports teams, Staples Players and middle school theater productions, the Staples robotics team, and more.

Pete’s firm collaborates with Gault Energy on many projects. Gault family members are effusive in their praise. Ginger Gault and Jimmy Donaher say, “He has keen insight to go along with a big heart, and on top of everything else, he’s hysterically funny. Pete is the complete package.”

He is especially proud of his 2 daughters. They went through the Westport School System, and are now smart, vibrant, strong women. Pete said, “They got the best public education one could dream of. How do you ever repay that debt?”

Pete Romano

Pete celebrated a birthday recently. As with many hard-working and generous folks, one of the hardest challenge is figuring out what to give them.

What do you give a man like Pete Romano who does not have everything, but gives everything?

The only answer is: love and genuine appreciation for all that he does.

 

Closing The Barn Door On Aquarion’s Water Tanks

Back in the day — before Bridgeport Hydraulic built a water storage facility, and Staples High School moved in across the street — North Avenue was farmland.

A couple of decades ago, the Rippe farm and orchard was replaced by Greystone Farm Lane. Developers tossed a bone to the past, designing parts of some of the houses to look like silos.

Which may provide one solution to a controversy now roiling the road.

Aquarion — Bridgeport Hydraulic’s successor — wants to build 2 water tanks at the site it owns. Their 39-foot height concerns neighbors.

Pete Romano has an idea.

The LandTech principal knew that on Wilton Road at Newtown Turnpike, Aquarion used a facade to “hide” some of its equipment.

The Aquarion facility on Wilton Road.

He asked Peter Wormser — an architect at his engineering firm — to design something similar for North Avenue.

The result: 2 “barns.”

LandTech’s rendering of the barn structures for North Avenue. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

“I know Wilton Road is not as big,” Romano says. “And maybe Aquarion needs access on all 4 sides. But it’s an idea. It might get people talking.”

North Avenue will not go back to apple orchards and onion farms.

But perhaps — even with 2 big pumping stations — it can look that way.

 

Historic Building Few Westporters Know About Is Saved

It’s ironic: Though no one in Westport stops at stop signs, they were invented by a Westporter.

So were pedestrian crosswalks, traffic circles, 1-way streets, taxi stands and pedestrian safety islands.

All were the brainchild of William Phelps Eno. And for many years, his worldwide traffic institute was headquartered on Saugatuck Avenue.

We pass by the handsome, 11,000-square foot brick and stone 1938 building near the Norwalk line without knowing its history.

That history came quite close to being obliterated — much like pedestrians were, before Eno came along.

The Eno Foundation building on Saugatuck Avenue.

The building and land were on the market. LandTech — Pete Romano’s engineering and design firm situated 2 minutes away (without traffic) on Riverside Avenue — designed a standard suburban use of the land. Their plan knocked down the Eno building, and subdivided the 4+ acres of land into 4 contorted 1-acre lots, with less than half an acre of open space.

But then they applied the open space subdivision regulations. That gave them 3 lots of 1/2 acre each — perfect for homes of 3,000 square feet, designed for empty nesters.

Using a section of the Planning & Zoning regulations for historic structures — offering relief from coverage, setbacks and non-conformities — LandTech preserved the Eno building on a full acre lot, with nearly 1.5 acres of open space.

On Thursday night, the P&Z considered the plan. After hearing comments from commissioners, approval seems likely.

Let’s hope they give it the green light.

LandTech’s plans for the Eno property. The foundation building is on the right, with a circular driveway in front. Click on or hover over to enlarge.