Tag Archives: Long Lots School Building Committee

[OPINION] Impartial Review Panel Could Aid Long Lots Process

Ken Bernhard knows Westport. He’s lived here for decades, and seen a lot.

He spent 8 years representing our town in Connecticut’s General Assembly, rising to assistant minority leader. He was 3rd selectman from 1987 to ’89, then served on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Ken Bernhard

The longtime Westporter has been a board member of the Westport Library, Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, Norwalk Human Services Council, Earthplace, Westport Historical Society, Levitt Pavilion, Aspetuck Land Trust, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, and Connecticut League of Conservation Voters,

Further afield, he has worked with Syrian refugees, and in Ukraine. Ken writes:

I believe Westport is confronting a critical issue that requires the immediate attention of our town leaders — specifically, the divide between those supporting the preservation of our Community Gardens, and those who want to construct a new Babe Ruth playing field.

Advocates for both sides agree that there is a need for a new school. But the necessity for and, more importantly the location of, another ball field is debatable.

The hyperbole on both sides undermines us as a community.

Unquestionably, the Long Lots School Building Committee did its work thoroughly and honestly. But the allegations that it did not adequately involve some of the stakeholders soon enough, that it exceeded the scope of its mission, that the recommendation to remove the gardens was preordained, and that the process was possibly flawed, are resonating among Westport residents.

If we don’t address this directly, and before the political approval process commences, we will have failed to maintain the sense of fair dealing and honest brokering that defines how Westport manages its affairs.

Please recall instances where compromise and good governance prevailed in years past: resolving the Arts Center lease at Green Farms Elementary School, dogs at Compo Beach, the acquisition and then use of Winslow Park, construction of the Senior Center, creation of the Wakeman Farm complex, and building the Compo Beach playground, to name a few.

I recommend that the administration appoint an impartial, respected group of citizens to review the process; listen to LLSBC members, neighbors, and community garden advocates, and hopefully render an opinion regarding gardens vs. a playing field that everyone can accept, and that will help the approval process to proceed with minimum rancor and distrust.

It would not take a great deal of time, might speed up the hearings, won’t cost anything, and could avoid possible litigation.

Construction of the Compo Beach playground began in 1986 only after a court injunction was lifted.

[OPINION] Issue Is Not “Gardens Or School”; It’s “Gardens AND School”

Yesterday, Representative Town Meeting member Seth Braunstein told “06880” that after careful examination, he now supports the Long Lots School Building Committee’s decision to adopt “Option C,” for a new structure.

Westport Community Gardens chair Lou Weinberg responds:

A new Long Lots Elementary School can and should be built while preserving, in their current location, the Westport Community Gardens and the Long Lots Preserve. Nobody is trying to delay or stop a new school from being built. This is not a Gardens or school issue. This is a Gardens and school issue.

We understand that you’ve been given a lot of information by the Long Lots School Building Committee. They have expertise in architecture and engineering, and were appointed by our First Selectwoman. They have volunteered a lot of their own time, and that is to be commended.

To those who believe that the main focus of the Long Lots project should be the kids: You’re right.

The LLSBC was tasked with getting a new school built. They are not a land-use planning committee. The decision to place a ballfield over the Gardens and part of the Long Lots Preserve came from them. It was not part of the Board of Education specifications that were given to them. The proposed ballfield will not serve the educational or physical needs of the Long Lots students.

The decision to put a ballfield over the Gardens has been in the works for many months. We know that the LLSBC has been involved in this decision through communications with the Parks & Recreation Department and other athletic groups in town.

The Long Lots School Building Committee’s recommendation for a new school.

While we don’t know the full extent of what discussions took place, we know that the Westport Soccer Association has been significantly involved to the point of offering money to Parks & Rec to ensure that synthetic turf get added to the project to increase their field usage.

We know that our Parks Department, under Jennifer Fava, has been working to get a ballfield located at Long Lots, at the expense of the 20 year old WCG and parts of the LL Preserve. It is hurtful, and we believe it is wrong.

If the First Selectwoman believes it’s possible to create a bigger/better community garden at Baron’s South, she can certainly locate the ballfield there. It’s centrally located and more convenient for everyone in town.

The artificial turf proposed for the ballfield would not exacerbate the flooding experienced by the neighbors adjacent to the Gardens. Those neighbors would also be unaffected by the lights and the noise.

Additionally the traffic, which will undoubtedly get worse in the Long Lots neighborhood, would be somewhat mitigated. Instead of having a new garden created on questionable soil, the questionable soil can be covered with artificial turf, without disturbing it, and satisfying a need for a new ballfield in town. That is a solution where everyone wins.

The Long Lots Building Committee recommended this site at Baron’s South for the relocated Westport Community Gardens. (Photo/Morley Boyd)

The decree that the Gardens are going to be destroyed anyway, because they are part of a construction site and probable staging area, was made by the LLSBC at the 11th hour.

What would this committee do if there were 4 homes located where the Gardens are? They would find a way to get a school built. They would find staging areas elsewhere, like Baron’s South or the Sherwood Island connector, or they would maximize efficiencies on site.

There has been no peer review of the options generated by the LLSBC for this $100 million dollar project, and now we are shoving this option through the town governing bodies at a rapid clip.

Covering the Gardens with a ballfield, especially an artificial turf field, would be environmentally devastating. It goes against everything we are trying to teach our kids about being good stewards of the environment.

The Westport Community Gardens and LL Preserve are nationally awarded, first-in-class properties. They are models of sustainability and environmental stewardship. They are unique ecological gems in Westport. The biodiversity in these 4 acres is the result of 20 years of carefully tending to the land. We have cleared the land, removed the garbage, eradicated invasive plants that were devastating the property, and planted hundreds of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. The Garden is an organic acre of native trees, shrubs, and thousands of perennials. It is home to literally thousands of native bees and other important pollinators, insects and birds.

The WCG membership (120 families representing approximately 300 residents) has a significant portion of older residents. The Gardens provide them with one of the best passive recreational activities known.

The offer to create a new community garden at Baron’s South to make it more convenient for our seniors rings hollow. A new garden there would still not be within walking distance of the Senior Center. Many of our older members will not be willing to put in the incredible amount of work it will take to build a new garden. We don’t need any new amenities. A Port-a-Potty has served us just fine for the last 20 years.

Westport Community Gardens.

The WCG is a community that has developed over 20 years. It is vibrant, active, and does not just serve the garden members themselves. We donate food through Grow a Row, support the Westport Garden Club and work together with Eagle Scouts. We have partnered with the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, SLOBS, and over 20 businesses and nonprofit agencies to create this magical place.

Hundreds of individuals have donated $40,000 and labored to create the Long Lots Preserve. We provide a phenomenal opportunity for Westport Public Schools to partner with us in a number of different areas, including their environmental education curriculum as dictated by state standards.

Imagine that there were 20 community gardens in town and one ballfield, built by hand and maintained for 20 years by the sports community. If one of the gardens was going to be displaced, would we all agree that the ballfield should be destroyed so we don’t lose a garden? No. We wouldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be right.

We believe any other town in America would celebrate and protect what Westporters have created here.

Thank you.

[OPINION] Report Shows “Repair And Maintain” As Best Long Lots Option

Clarence Hayes has lived in Westport for 6 years. A senior vice president in global technology at Bank of America, he manages its user-facing data networks, and associated $225 million budget.

He has crunched the numbers on the Long Lots Elementary School project. Clarence writes:

The Board of Education and Long Lots School Building Committee need to convince the voters of Westport, via a public detailed document, why “Repair and Properly Maintain” is not an option for Long Lots.

Principal and interest on a $100 million new school at today’s AAA muni rates is around $6 million a year, for 30 years. Taxes will go up.

Other town investments will be squeezed by the pressure on the budget. The voters deserve to understand how we came to the original decision.

This section of Long Lots Elementary School — originally the main entrance to the junior high school — was built in 1953.

It is “received wisdom” that repairing and maintaining the current school would be “penny wise, pound foolish” and is not an option. As an incoming RTM member (running unopposed), I am trying to discover the basis of this position.

What I have found: Based on a 2021 building assessment (Colliers), an expectation of increased enrollment, and the mismatch between original Long Lots use as a middle school vs. elementary school needs, the BOE and Board of Finance recommended the evaluation of a new school as an option.

However, the primary reason was the condition of the building (from a June 28, 2022 BOE presentation to the BOF).

Regarding building condition, I read every page  of what I could find: the Colliers Assessment, and the new LLSBC-led MEP and Envelope Assessments.

These reports are the detail about the school condition. Everything else is anecdote or rumor.

The picture they paint is of buildings which are energy inefficient, not all built to the highest construction standards, and not consistently maintained over the years with timely quality repair.

The Colliers Assessment states they have not done invasive inspection, and they pass no judgment on structural issues. They state that fuller assessments should be done.

This wing — the current main entrance — was added in the 1970s.

Those fuller assessments are the MEP and Envelope reports done by LLSBC consultants. The Collier assessment has been superseded.

The new, deeper MEP and Envelope reports include “repair” sections. If you read these, you will find that here is only one serious problem: The pre-1970s buildings have negative pressurization, which is the cause of excess humidity.

This excess humidity contributes to other defects. Remediation requires the installation of a ventilation system, which could be done during the summer, for $4.2 million.

Other than this, everything else is normal maintenance repairs, and not the same scale of expense. Those minor items add up, presumably to several million dollars more, but they were not priced out fully.

The façade report lists 16 items, each of which is relatively insubstantial and the kind of repair you would expect in normal quality maintenance: “fix the broken glass over door 13,”  “clean the stucco outside the music room,” etc.

The roofing report lists 18 repair items, prefaced with the comment “the roofing system is under repair for the next 5 years” so route through the warranty and demand performance. These items are also normal maintenance: “replace loose fasteners,” “wrinkled cap sheets should be replaced (warranty),” etc.

The structural report is shorter: Seal the cracks in the brick masonry, clean the stucco at the music wing.  The report states there are no imminent structural risks.

Long Lots Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)


These recommendations come with the preface that the consultants were asked how to keep the building in good condition for “5-10 years,” pending new construction. But the analyses are not limited to a “5-10 years” time frame.

The recommendations look like one major investment (ventilation) and catch-up maintenance, which provide for an indefinite future life for the buildings. They do not state that this work gets you only 5-10 years, but after that the buildings will be irreparable and the town will be faced with massive new expenditures.

The conclusion I come away with from these reports is that repairs in the sub- $10 million one-time range will catch up for the failure to do proper maintenance in the past, and, if timely quality repair is continued going forward, there is no definite date when these buildings have to be replaced.

Much of the discussion appears to mix normal expected maintenance costs associated with HVAC equipment, and other aspects of the buildings. AC units and boilers are 25+ years old and near end of life. That is part of the normal lifecycle, i.e. maintenance, of buildings. It is not a reason to demolish these structures and build new.

Decisions regarding these components will likely require additional investments, as is the case at all the schools. But the cost of quality maintenance and eventual replacement is part of any building operating budget.

Long Lots is clearly energy inefficient. The MEP report says a “net zero” building would use 5 times less energy. But the cost is not quantified. Is this $200,000  or $2 million per year in lower costs?

“Repair and maintain” does not promise a modern “net-zero” building with the latest architectural flourishes. But it may provide a clean, safe and entirely adequate learning environment for many decades, as it has for the past 60 years.

I intend to campaign for “repair and maintain,” making efforts to convince my fellow RTM to vote “no” on a new build, and “yes” for a heightened focus on quality maintenance to extend the life of town assets.

I do not object to higher taxes, and I am happy to change my mind. But the BOF/BOE need to make a convincing case that my interpretation of the engineering reports is wrong.


[OPINION] RTM Member: Feasibility Study Made Me Favor Long Lots Plan

Seth Braunstein is a Representative Town Meeting member from District 6, and chair of the RTM Finance Committee.

After 2 visits to the Long Lots Elementary School property, his views on the future of the Westport Community Gardens have changed. He now supports the Long Lots School Building Committee’s recommendation to relocate the gardens.

Seth writes:  

Sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You might like one thing, yet I may favor another. Opportunities for interpretation or differing appreciation exist and can be celebrated. However, we can all agree that the Community Gardens and Preserve are beautiful and valuable town assets.

Feasibility generally isn’t something that is open to the same subjective interpretation.

Last Sunday morning I joined roughly 25 other concerned Westport citizens for a formal tour of the Long Lots School property hosted by a majority of the Long Lots School Building Committee.

The LLSBC began the tour by leading the assembled group from the south end of the property where the beautiful Community Gardens and Preserve are located to the north end of the property across various athletic fields (soccer and baseball) spread across 2 distinct property tiers, then to the west side of the property where wilderness (thankfully no poison ivy was encountered) and catch basins and a stream exist amidst a steeply declining grade as the property terminates back behind Harvest Commons.

Part of the Long Lots Elementary School campus. The Community Gardens (not shown) are south of the school. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

I am convinced that all parties involved in the hotly debated issues surrounding the question of build new vs. renovate come to this difficult decision with only the best of intentions. I am certain that the Board of Education, the LLSBC and first selectwoman are earnest in their desire to come up with the best solution possible for our community. None of these dedicated public servants have any “nefarious intent” and none of them want to have an outcome here that results in something that would fall short of the high standards our town demands. None of these people deserve the ad hominem attacks they have been subjected to.

I am also certain that supporters of the Community Gardens have sound arguments for why their 2 decades of investment in this property leave them hopeful that their interests and the reality of a new school can effectively coexist with the Garden remaining in its existing footprint. In fact, as a concerned member of the community (and an elected RTM member) I was convinced that this mutually beneficial outcome would be highly likely.

Having now had the benefit of a well detailed explanation for the reasoning behind the LLSBC support of the option they are recommending, along with a firsthand view of the property’s limitations, my view of what is feasible has changed. I had visited the Gardens a couple of months ago at the invitation of a member and at the time struggled to see why the two could not co-exist.

Now I understand why. This is a relatively small piece of property that is already crowded. The LLSBC has worked for months and hosted numerous meetings focused on what can be done to fit all of the existing puzzle pieces together so that all of the various constituencies represented on this property can walk away happy. This has been a huge task (did I mention they are all volunteers?).

The LLSBC has had to consider not just how to build a new school on this cramped property but also, most importantly, how to make sure the children in the existing school can continue to receive the best education possible while in the middle of a construction zone for the roughly two years the project will take to complete.

The committee has considered everything from how buses will enter the property, how parents who prefer to drop their students off will approach the building, where teachers and others working in the school will park, how all of the athletic and outdoor leisure time activities can continue and how to do all of this while minimizing the inevitable disruption that a project of this scale will pose to the neighborhood.

They have also been clear in their desire to consider Westport’s intent to increase sustainability which would require a series of geothermal wells to also occupy the site in the future to increase the energy efficiency of the new building.

Parking and bus loops are considerations in designing a new school. 

Under the best of circumstances (and this property does not meet that standard due space limitations, as well as grade and drainage concerns) a project of this magnitude requires significant staging areas. Take a moment to think about things like building materials (steel, brick, windows, etc.), heavy equipment (tractors, backhoes, forklifts), workspaces (construction trailers, bathrooms), large quantities of soil and other materials (to help correct grades and support foundations), not to mention parking for the sizable construction crew. When considering the requisite staging areas, the difficult job of putting this complicated puzzle together becomes untenable.

No one wants to displace the Community Gardens. No one has made a decision to sacrifice this wonderful town resource, but when considering where the flexibility in planning this project falls it is obvious that the school (a $100 million+ investment that will further help burnish our well-regarded school district) must take the highest priority.

Some have chosen to frame this unfortunate circumstance as the Gardens vs. the school or the Gardens vs. town leadership or the BOE. That simply does not reflect the reality of the situation. This really becomes a question of what is actually feasible on this property.

I choose to look at this as an optimization opportunity. Rather than trying to overcome the inherent limits associated with this crowded property, a better solution exists. In fact, it is a solution that has already been brought forth by the LLSBC itself. The Community Gardens could be moved to a portion of the Baron’s South property. While this will undoubtedly upset the supporters of the Community Gardens (and they have earned the right to be upset given the two decades of work they have invested in the current location) it might actually offer a better outcome long term for the Gardens and for the Town.

I have been a long-term supporter of preserving the rare open space left in Westport (check the voting record – I was adamantly opposed to a deal to develop Baron’s South for housing or for active uses), but placing the Community Gardens on a portion of the property could accomplish a number of desirable outcomes.

First, it would provide an environmentally positive usage of the land that would be consistent with the passive usage spirit of the current zoning (while drawing many more people to this vastly underutilized town jewel).

Second, it would actually provide the Gardens with a bigger space than is currently being utilized. I’d also add that the supporters of the Gardens have cited the number of seniors that have enjoyed the Gardens and moving the location to a spot in Baron’s South that would place them just a few steps from the Senior Center seems like a beneficial outcome. It is difficult for me to see how this wouldn’t be a classic win/win scenario.

The proposed site of the Community Gardens, at the Senior Center. (Photo/Morley Boyd)

Ultimately, the RTM will be presented with an appropriation request for this building project and the full range of issues associated with this property will be debated. From where I stand, legitimate questions exist around the status of the baseball field. The mandate for the LLSBC was to retain all existing school features and a baseball field is one of those features so it should be included in the new plans. However, any discussion of turf or lights or a vast increase in the scale and scope of a new field should be scrutinized.

I’d also add in closing that as an RTM member and chair of the RTM’s Finance Committee I would vote to have the town provide funding for the transition of the Gardens’ location (there may be a chance to maintain the Preserve in its current location). The Gardens are unquestionably one of Westport’s jewels and moving them to a spot where they can continue to grow and blossom, rather than exist in some sort of limbo amidst at least two years of construction, seems like a smart way forward.

Roundup: Long Lots, Community Gardens, Baron’s South …

In a lightning-quick meeting last night, the Long Lots School Building Committee voted formally to do what it had previously discussed: send to 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker the recommendation to build “Concept C,” an entirely new elementary school next to the present one.

However, the LLSBC added another recommendation: that the Westport Community Gardens (which will be displaced by a new baseball field) be relocated to Baron’s South, the town-owned property between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue.

Meeting later last night in a long session, the Board of Education agreed 5-1 that plans for the new school follow from the educational specifications they approved last April.

Member Robert Harrington offered an amendment that would keep the Gardens at their present location, just south of the school. That motion failed 4-2, with Dorie Hordon joining Harrington.

The majority said that the gardens’ future is up to other bodies in town. The Board of Ed’s focus, they said, is on the school only, and moving ahead is imperative.

The Long Lots project must still be approved by several town bodies, including the Board of Finance, Conservation Commission and Representative Town Meeting.

The Baron’s South property, recommended by the Long Lots School Building Committee as the new site for the Westport Community Gardens. (Photo/Morley Boyd)


The third time’s the charm.

That’s what WestportMoms banks on. Their twice-postponed 3rd annual Fall Festival is set for this Sunday (October 22), at the fields across from the Compo Beach playground.

Painters, sports, pumpkin decorating, hair tinsel, a magic show, bracelet making and more are all in store. All kids and families are welcome.

Bring layers, WestportMoms advise. It may be windy.

But get ready — finally — for some fun.


Town-wide curbside leaf collection begins November 6.

All leaves must be placed in biodegradable paper bags near the curb of a town street by December 4 to guarantee pick-up. Residents on private streets must place their leaves behind the curb of an intersecting town roadway. Leaves placed in plastic bags will not be picked up,

Crews will complete pick-ups as schedules allow. For further information, call the Department of Public Works 203-341-1120), or click here.

Ready for pickup. (Photo/Scott Smith)


The 180 Bayberry Lane yard waste site (behind the Aspetuck Health District) will extend its Saturday hours, from October 28 through December 4.

The extended Saturday hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Westport residents with proof of residency may dump up to 6 30-gallon bags or containers full of leaves without a fee. Plastic bags are prohibited.

Any van, pickup or tag-along trailer exceeding the 6-bag limit will be charged $40 per load. Any vehicle or trailer larger than a conventional pickup with a 4-foot by 8-foot bed will be charged $90 per ton.

Any vehicles with a 9-foot body, or vehicles changed to significantly enlarge their factory design size, will be charged $90 per ton, estimated at 2 tons without weigh slip ($180).

Dump tickets must be purchased at Town Hall’s Public Works office weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by writing the Department of Public Works, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.


It’s pretty impressive for a high school golfer to shoot a 73.

It’s even more so when 2 do it.

Harrison Browne and Sawyer Dalzell tied for the individual title at yesterday’s FCIAC (Fairfield County Conference) championship, at Tashua Knolls in Trumbull.

Their 1-over-par rounds helped the Wreckers to a 1-stroke team title over Fairfield Warde.

Congratulations to them, teammates Gus Palmer (79), Philip Sullivan (82) and Chris Taylor (83), and coach Pete Caligiure. On to states!

FCIAC champion Staples High School boys golf team. (Hat tip and photo/The Ruden Report)


Westport Police made 2 custodial arrests between October 11 and 18.

A woman was arrested for shoplifting at HomeGoods. A man was arrested for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, after a domestic violence incident.

Police also issued these citations:

  • Failure to comply with state traffic commission regulations: 10 citations
  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 5
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 4
  • Failure to obey traffic control signals: 3
  • Speeding: 2
  • Passing a standing school bus: 1
  • Failure to drive in the proper lane: 1
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 1
  • Failure to insure a motor vehicle: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle without minimum insurance: 1
  • Improper use of marker plates: 1
  • Possession of a vicious/barking dog: 1
  • Permitting a dog to roam: 1
  • Failure to comply with dog ownership regulations: 1

A Westport woman was charged with 3 dog violations. This is not that dog.


Speaking of police … a reader writes:

“Commuting seems to have leveled off. Is there consideration to opening up some daily spaces in the railroad parking permit areas? Not to mention the boats parked there!”

Westport Police are in charge of railroad parking (among many other things). Chief Foti Koskinas notes that while Monday and Friday usage of lots is lower than pre-COVID, they are fairly full Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Deputy Chief Dave Farrell adds:

“The lot that stores the winterized boats is privately owned, and is not managed by the railroad parking division of the PD.

“Meanwhile, we constantly monito our lots and make changes as necessary. At this time, we will not be adding daily spots to permit lots.

“I encourage daily spot users to check out Lot 7 on Franklin Street. It’s a convenient lot that does not fill up, and has direct access to Riverside Avenue.

“Also, Lot 8 will soon be available for our daily spots as the I-95 project will wrap up within a month or so.”

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.


Still speaking of driving:

David Meth waited yesterday patiently, with other drivers, in the southbound lane of Compo Road North by Winslow Park. As everyone knows, it can take a while to get to the Post Road.

One person couldn’t wait. This driver attempted to jump the line — with predictable results.

But wait! There’s more!

This very same driver — after finally reaching the Post Road (along with everyone else), and making a right turn — zoomed into Playhouse Square.

And — feeling entitled after waiting all that time — promptly grabbed not one but two parking spots, in the always-crowded lot.

(Photos/David Meth)

“Driving in this town is out of control, supplanted by entitlement, arrogance, rudeness, and unrelenting stupidity,” David observes.


Then again, we should have some sympathy for drivers.

As this passenger shows, the wait for a light in Saugatuck can be really, really long.

(Photo/Werner Liepolt)


Elsewhere in Saugatuck, Renato’s Pizza has opened in the space previously occupied by Parker Pizza.

Click here for the menu, and more information.

(Photo/Werner Liepolt)


Where do you go if your dad writes a new will right before he dies, leaving a sizeable fortune to the dog walker he met 3 months ago?

Where do you go if you want a schizophrenic family member committed to a hospital for treatment, or put under conservatorship to protect him from himself?

The answer to both questions is “Probate Court.” At this week’s lunch meeting, the Westport Rotary Club heard Lisa Wexler, Probate Court judge for Westport and Weston, discuss how she deals with issues like those every day.

Wexler called Probate Court “Family Court without the divorce.” She decides over 3,300 matters a year, many involving family members at each other’s throats. She noted that if her life was made into a TV show, it would be “’Parks and Recreation’ meets ‘Blue Bloods.’”

Probate Court Judge Lisa Wexler, at the Westport Rotary Club. (Photo/Dave Matlow)


More than 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s. Next Friday (October 27 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), the Westport Weston Family YMCA hosts a discussion by the Alzheimer’s Association’s Connecticut chapter.

The presentation will speak cover the Association’s resources, ways to get involved. healthy behaviors, Alzheimer’s impact on the workplace, its effects on caregivers, and more.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Questions? Email jsamuels@westporty.org.


Say She She closed out the 2023 Levitt Pavilion concert season last night.

That’s a wrap: About 60 nights of free entertainment, under the stars.

The stars — well, the air — was a bit chilly last night. But it’s only a few months until the air will be warm again, and music will be back on the banks of the Saugatuck.

Say She She, at the Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)


It’s almost the weekend, so … rain.

But the weather this week was pretty good. Tracy Porosoff was in her garden, photographing beautiful sights like this for our “Westport … Naturally” daily feature.

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)


And finally … as the colors change, and the foliage blazes (though perhaps not this week), it’s time to remember Simon & Garfunkel’s classic tune:

Today, as always, “06880”‘s Roundup delivers a broad array of Westport-specific news and notes. If you rely on this coverage, please support our work. Click here — and thank you!)

[OPINION] Enrollment, Redistricting Should Be Part Of Long Lots Decision

Much has already been written about the proposal for a new Long Lots Elementary School.

Discussion has centered largely on the decision to place a new school on the current baseball field, and build a new diamond on the site of the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve.

Less attention has been paid to another factor: the proposed size of the school, based on enrollment and possible redistricting.

Edie and Sam Anderson have live on Hyde Lane, next to Long Lots, since 1983. They sent this letter to 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker: 

As you consider the proposal made by the Long Lots School Building Committee, please keep in mind the many stakeholders in this decision including the students, neighboring property owners, homes affected by Muddy Brook flooding, Parks &Recreation programs, and the Community Garden.

This is a $100,000,000 generational decision that deserves more careful study, or at least fine tuning.

The LLSBC performed yeoman’s service, carefully studying a wide range of options for the location of the new vs renovated school, resulting in the proposed “Option C.”

The Long Lots School Building Committee recommended “Option C” for a new structure. 

This was based upon consideration of many stakeholders and an effort to meet the criteria laid out in the Educational Specs it was given by the Board of Education. Given this direction, the LLSBC did a good job.

However, the ed specs which are the foundation of the planning has troubling flaws.  Now that the preliminary study is complete, it is time to get the details correct.

The Board of Ed acknowledges the need to redistrict and utilize excess capacity in other schools, yet this was not reflected in the Ed Specs, which call for a 33% increase in enrollment far in excess of other Westport elementary schools and comparable surrounding towns.

At the Board of Ed meeting on January 23, 2023 (prior to the issuance of the ed specs), the imbalance between elementary and middle school populations was noted, and the need to redistrict was discussed.

The board indicated that 100+ students could be moved from Long Lots to other elementary schools, which have excess capacity. At this meeting the superintendent indicated that an elementary school should not exceed 600.  Despite this, the ed specs call for 687 elementary students and 98 pre-school students.

The current LL enrollment is 588. All the other Westport elementary schools range from 430 to 479 students.  In addition, post-COVID, Westport’s elementary school population has declined by 50 students. Total enrollment for all Westport schools and the entire state is also down.

This is relevant because reducing the base population of LL by 100+ via redistricting would result in enrollment of 488 (similar to other Westport elementary schools).

This would reduce the size and the cost of the new building, and would improve the quality of the environment for young children to be consistent with other Westport schools.

A quick survey of surrounding school districts shows enrollment around 450 students. Building a “right” sized elementary school would significantly reduce the traffic and improve the quality of life for all stakeholder—students and neighbors.

The current Long Lots Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Adding Stepping Stones to an already very large elementary school simply exacerbates the situation.

The Long Lots ed specs call for 687 elementary students, plus 96 Stepping Stones pre-school children, totaling an enrollment of 783. This is a 33% increase in students (not including the increase in teachers and support staff.) The question here is: How big is too big?

This plan is inconsistent with the enrollment of all other Westport elementary schools, as well as elementary schools in neighboring towns.

This significant increase in enrollment would interfere with the residential nature of the neighborhood, and result in more traffic and noise in an already very busy location.

The Long Lots campus is within a residential area, AA zoned. A 33% increase in traffic and noise will be significant, and disrupt the peaceful enjoyment of our neighborhood. I should also note that the Long Lots neighborhood hosts thousands of children each year, who use the fields as well as 100+ Community Gardeners.

The most favorable option for all stakeholders is concept B. It meets the ed specs, maintains the current buffers from neighbors and Muddy Brook, and preserves the fields, parking and Community Gardens.

The selection of Concept C for a new school is the recommendation made by the LLSBC to minimize the damage to as many stakeholders as possible.  However, the committee acknowledged that current building is ideally located in the center of the campus. This location provides the best possible buffer from the neighbors, while hosting 2 soccer fields, a multi-purpose field and the community garden. Further, the Long Lots campus is in an environmentally sensitive area with wetlands on and near the campus as well as nearby Muddy Brook.

Muddy Brook, after a recent rain. (Photo/Peter Swift)

Concept B vs concept C.  Renovating requires managing the project and student population while the school is in session.  Westport has done this successfully many times before.

It appears that the biggest objection to the renovation options is the inconvenience/difficultly of working around an operating school. This is not in-surmountable. It has been accomplished successfully many times in Westport,  Coleytown Middle School and Staples High being the most recent examples.

Earlier renovations (1990s) to Long Lots and Kings Highway were also managed successfully. (Our daughter graduated from Staples in 2006, and experienced all of the above renovations).

Cost and time vs. long-term benefit of a school that remains in the center of the campus is clear. Concept B would maintain the character of the neighborhood, and provide students with a new “neighborhood” elementary school which they deserve.

The prospect of 29 months vs. 18 months for this project is daunting for the Long Lots’ neighborhood. However, the 50-year benefits of a well-sited school that respects the quality of the neighborhood by maintaining the status quo seems like a good trade for a few extra months of construction disruption.

Redistricting and keeping the school at the center of the campus maintains the status quo for all stakeholders, while providing the Long Lots school community with a beautiful new facility which they will enjoy for 50+ years. Surely it is worth the time to take a harder look at creating the best school for all the stakeholders in the long term. Ultimately, this must be our goal.

Next steps:

  1. Develop the redistricting plan and revise the ed specs accordingly.
  2. Consider other options for Stepping Stones within the district.
  3. Thoroughly evaluate the environmental impact of moving the school
  4. The intersection of Hyde Lane and Long Lots Road has already been identified a problem — evaluate the impact of 33% more school related traffic.

At this point, we ask that the ed specs be revised, and serious consideration be given to “right” sizing this school to be optimal for the students and surrounding neighborhood.

It’s time to think outside the box and get the best plan on the table. For example, Weston, Darien and Greenwich have incorporated their pre-school classes within several elementary schools.

Certainly, utilizing excess capacity in existing schools and balancing the student population via redistricting could be accomplished.

We hope that we have outlined some of the many questions that should be directly and openly addressed before proceeding with design plans. Again, this is a $100 million generational decision that we need to get right.

Roundup: Detours, Long Lots Meetings, Carjacking …

We can’t emphasize it enough: I-95 will be a mess this weekend.

And local roads will be collateral damage.

The I-95 northbound entrance ramp at Exit 17 will remain closed from now through Friday, October 31. Traffic is being detoured to Riverside Avenue, then to the Post Road, Sherwood Island Connector, and onto Exit 18.

In addition, parts of I-95 itself will be closed — as will the northbound Exit 17  entrance and exit ramps, and the southbound exit ramp — along with nearby Saugatuck Avenue, from 8 p.m. this Friday, October 20, through 6 a.m. Monday, October 23.

The closures are necessary for the new I-95 northbound bridge to be placed using Accelerated Bridge Construction techniques. While I-95 northbound is closed, 2 lanes of I-95 northbound traffic will be crossed over on the I-95 southbound bridge. Traffic flow in both directions will be severely impacted all weekend.

For additional information on the project, including detours, click here.


The Long Lots School Building Committee holds a special meeting tonight (Thursday, October 19, 6 p.m., Town Hall Room 201), to “meet briefly to accept the written recommendation for presentation to the First Selectwoman.”

That recommendation of a new building is for “Option C,” voted unanimously by the LLSBC earlier this month.

An hour later tonight (Thursday, October 19, 7 p.m., Staples High School cafeteria), the Board of Education agenda includes a discussion/action item: “Long Lots Building Committee Update.”

It will be presented by LLSBC chair Jay Keenan.

The Long Lots project moves forward next Tuesday (October 24, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), with a special session of the Board of Finance. They’ll meet with the Building Committee and Board of Education, “to discuss only their recommendations.”

The Board of Finance will take comments from the public for 30 minutes.

Long Lots School Building Committee.


A third arrest has been made, in connection with last month’s carjacking incident at a resident’s Bayberry Lane garage.

Vineys Baez, a 20-year-old Waterbury resident, was arrested yesterday.

He was charged with:

  • Home invasion
  • Burglary, 1st degree
  • Robbery by carjacking
  • Assault, 3rd degree
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Larceny 1st degree
  • Conspiracy to commit larceny, 1st degree
  • Robbery, 1st degree
  • Conspiracy to commit robbery, 1st degree.

Baez is the second person identified through surveillance video. A third person was also arrested.

Baez was held on $500,000 court set bond.

The Westport Police Detective Bureau has completed their investigation into the carjacking.

Two men were caught on surveillance video taking an Aston martin, as the owner was in the vehicle in his Bayberry Lane garage.


Westport’s annual Children’s Halloween Parade returns to Main Street next Wednesday (October 25). It’s free for all kids (especially those age 8 and younger).

Children and parents will meet at the Main Street/Post Road East corner at 3:30 p.m. The parade heads up Main Street, then goes right on Avery Place and left on Myrtle Avenue to Town Hall and Veterans Green.

Youngsters may trick or treat along Main Street, and in front of Town Hall. Entertainment, refreshments and a small gift will be provided on Veterans Green (across from Town Hall) at 4 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Westport Parks & Recreation Department, Westport Downtown Association and Westport PAL.

This photo is from 2011. Where is this former Halloween parade-goer today?


The United Methodist Church invites everyone to a couple of cool — and very different — events.

This Saturday (October 21, 1 to 3 p.m.), “Trunk or Treat” offers a fun, safe Halloween alternative for kids under 12, with snacks and games.

The suggested admission price is simple: 5 non-perishable food items for the Person to Person pantry, per child.

Don’t be spooked by the weather forecast. It’s on, rain or shine. (Heavy rain will move it indoors.)

On Sunday, October 29 (4 p.m.). “Jazz Vespers” is an inspiring service of words and music with a quartet featuring UMC’s new music director, John Hoddinott. A free will offering will be received.

Trunk or treat!


An Israeli flag appeared on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge last night.

It was apparently not placed there by town officials, or the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut.


It’s Thursday.

That means the Westport Farmers’ Market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Everyone is welcome. Except, of course …

(Photo/Rachel Konstantin)


The Levitt Pavilion season is not over.

Well, at least not until tonight.

This evening (Thursday, October 19, 7:30 p.m.) the outdoor venue transforms into a giant disco, with the debut presentation of Say She She.

The band’s album “Prism” is under consideration for a Grammy nomination for Best R&B album. Meanwhile, their new album “Silver” is earning raves.

The new turf area in front of the stage provides a perfect dance floor. In a nod to the season, the terrace bar will offer hot chocolate.

Additional free tickets have just been released. They’re available at www.levittpavilion.com,  and 2 hours before showtime at the box office.

Click  below for the band’s special shoutout to Westport:


For many years, Penny Slinger wanted to visit Friday Kahlo’s home.

In July, the London-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s dream came true.

She recorded her visit in photographs. Now she’s sharing her experience with audiences around the country.

On November 2 (7 p.m.), Slinger brings her “Frida Kahlo and Me” exhibition to MoCA Westport. It’s a side-by-side comparison of both women’s works.

Advance registration is requested: $10 general admission, free for MoCA members. Click here to register, and for more information.

Penny Slinger, and art materials.


I can’t imagine a more “Westport … Naturally” photo than this one:

(Photo/Jim Hood)

Sure, it’s Koda — one of the beach neighborhood’s most famous dogs.

But it could be anyone’s. Anywhere in town.

Westport loves its pooches!


And finally … Say She She will be at the Levitt Pavilion tonight (story above).

If you have no idea who they are (and I sure didn’t), click below. Enjoy!

(If you appreciate “06880” saving you from traffic hell this weekend, please consider a donation. Click here — and thank you!)

[OPINION] Community Gardeners “Dismayed By March To Eliminate Assets”

The Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve team write:

Dear Town of Westport elected officials and residents:

Tonight (Thursday, October 19, Town Hall Room 201), we expect the Long Lots School Building Committee to announce the decision of First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, with respect to the future of the Long Lots Elementary School building project.

We know that her decision supports the LLSBC’s option to build a new school while simultaneously eliminating the 20-year-old Westport Community Gardens, and at least part of the newly created Long Lots Preserve.

This does not have to happen. A much-needed new school can be built without destroying the gardens and preserve.

Westport Community Gardens. They’re surrounded on 3 sides by the Long Lots Preserve.

The Westport Community Gardens have been, and continue to be, a nationally recognized, award-winning first-in-class standard of community building, environmental stewardship and unlimited educational opportunity.

The Long Lots Preserve is a volunteer-built model of suburban open space environmental rehabilitation. We believe that any other town in America would celebrate, promote and protect what we have created there.

The Board of Education specifications for a new Long Lots school have nothing to do with putting a ballfield over the Westport Community Gardens. The proposed ballfield is not for the educational and recreational needs of the students at Long Lots Elementary School. From what little we have been told, this appears to be an effort by the Parks & Recreation Department to replace the Garden with a new ballfield under the guise of a new school build.

We continue to be dismayed by the town’s march towards eliminating these 2 town assets when there are options to save them.

There are 120 plots in the Westport Community Gardens. Gardeners range in age from elementary school to 90s.

The LLSBC’s recommendation to put a large ballfield with dugouts and a scoreboard, and perhaps artificial turf and lights, flies in the face of the chair of the LLSBC’s statement that what is displaced needs to be replaced.

This decision by First Selectwoman Tooker breaks up a 20-year-old community of over 300 Westport friends and neighbors, hurts our seniors and devastates the environment.

Our seniors love this place. There are many of us, and this is one of the best passive recreational opportunities the town offers.

In a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams environmentally, Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve are teeming with life.

Hundreds of trees and shrubs and wildflowers have been planted, at no cost to the town. The American chestnut tree has been reestablished. Dozens of resident and migratory birds use this because of the habitat and great food sources provided there. Thousands upon thousands of native bees and honeybees gather nectar, pollen and live on site.

Night hawks, swallows and bats fly above the gardens at dusk because the place is teaming with insects, their critical food source. Red squirrel, grey squirrel, garter snake, ground hog, fox, toad, all inhabit this space. The gardens and preserve an ecological treasure. This administration is looking to cover it with a ballfield.

Wildlife abounds in and around the Community Gardens. (Photo collage/Lou Weinberg)

Meanwhile, in the same neighborhood as the gardens and the preserve, there is rampant development, trees are being cut down and more residential units are being built. These new residents are going to be looking for outdoor planting space. We provide that.

The new proposed school is being built over a small, underutilized baseball field and a soccer field; not the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve. We have over 20 fields in town, and 1 community gardens.

Athletics and field use is critical, and this administration should find equitable resources elsewhere in town rather than placing them on this environmental community gem. With some creativity, the ballfields lost during construction can be placed back on the property when the old school is torn down.

This administration’s decision also hurts the neighbors who did not sign up for a ballfield immediately adjacent to their homes that will bring noise, flooding and most likely, lights.

The road to this decision occurred without ever consulting the gardeners, the preserve team, or the neighbors.

Evening at the Community Gardens. (Photo/Lou Weinberg)

The road to this decision included dangling an option to keep the gardens in place, destroying the gardens and starting them over again on another space near Long Lots School, and then, at the last minute, eliminating the gardens and restarting them at Baron’s South because the gardens will be “destroyed anyway” during construction. We were notified of the latter decision on Monday.

Thus far we have yet to see a peer review of the decisions that have been made by a few people on this approximately $100 million expenditure, the single largest capital project in Westport’s history.

We believe that scenarios are out there that can be attained where everyone wins. Unfortunately, there has been no institutional will on the part of the Tooker administration to get that done.

We should not allow a small group of politically appointed people to make decisions that affect so many of us. Doing business this way breeds distrust, dismay, ill will, and ultimately disengagement.

Where there is a will, there is a way. We firmly believe that including more people in this discussion can, and should get everybody a win.  These discussions should have happened already. Why didn’t they?

Jennifer Tooker: Be the hero.

Thank you.

[OPINION] “Compacted” Long Lots Could Work

On Wednesday night, several Planning & Zoning Commission candidates promised to examine thoroughly the proposal for a new Long Lots Elementary School, and to “think outside the box.”

One “06880” reader is doing that.

Yulee Aronson is a licensed professional engineer, with 40 years of construction management and project controls experience, overseeing many high-profile and complex projects. He says, “I have never encountered a construction problem that couldn’t be overcome.”

Locally, Aronson has worked on the reconstruction of Staples High School and the William F. Cribari Bridge, and the chlorination building at the wastewater pollution facility. Other projects include Penn Station access, the reconstruction of La Guardia Airport, and the Baltimore Potomac Tunnel replacement.

He writes: 

The Long Lots School project may be the most expensive capital construction project in Westport’s history.

The project site is unique. It houses the school, athletic fields for the town, and community gardens. In addition, such major construction project will have an impact on the delicate ecosystem of the neighborhood.

Thus far, the options developed by the Town-hired consultants and presented by the School Building Committee are deficient in taking into consideration the interests of all parties that occupy the property. SBC’s recommended solution, Option C, keeps all stakeholders at the site but relocates the community gardens. Relocating the gardens destroys the delicate ecosystem that was created over the course of the last 20 years.

Long Lots “Option C”

Over the course of public hearings, several alternative solutions were presented by various professionals who live in town. These solutions consisted of a new school building of a similar size and function, properly sized athletic fields proposed in the footprint of the existing school, and the community gardens to remain in place with no environmental impact to the neighbors. For one reason or another, these solutions were dismissed as not viable

I’ve reviewed the report prepared by the consultants. I conclude that the selected Option C can be “compacted,” thus eliminating the need for building the baseball field over the gardens. An example of such “compaction” is as follows:

The proposed school footprint can be narrowed by 50 feet by stretching it in a north-south direction, and narrowing the courtyard in the east-west direction. The classrooms would “slide” along the perimeter of the interior wall of the courthouse, without affecting adjacency.

Additionally, the northern part of the parking/drive area can be moved closer to the school building by 50 feet, straightening the “S” configuration. The grass islands between parking/drive lanes can be eliminated for a gain of another 50 feet, leaving small islands for site lighting.

This would allow for the shift of the baseball field by about 150 feet in the westerly direction, and off the footprint of the existing gardens.

If I’m off by another 50 feet I’m sure it could be found by moving the baseball field closer to the parking area by 25 feet, and shifting the entire school building west another 25 feet.

Lastly, during construction, a controlled and safe fenced-in passageway could be created to allow gardeners access for continued maintenance of the gardens.

To reiterate, this is just one of several possible solutions that could be developed.

When a municipality or any other public entity embarks on major projects such as this, it often seeks peer reviews of the designs prepared by their primary consultants to make sure that they get the best value for their money and obtain the best solution.

It would be prudent for the town to seek an independent peer review of the currently proposed design. This review should be performed by an independent professional entity in charge of finding a design solution that satisfies the interests of all stakeholders. Alternatively, this can be requested of the current consultants.

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P&Z Candidates: We’ll Look At Every Long Lots/Gardens Solution

“The Long Lots School Building Committee justifies. We decide.”

That statement by Paul Lebowitz — and similar remarks by 4 other candidates for the Planning & Zoning Commission — signaled last night that the decision to place a baseball field on the site of the current Community Gardens is not yet a done deal.

The candidates — speaking for 2 minutes each at a Town Hall debate — all said, essentially: We know the importance of the gardens. We know the importance of a new school. We will look at every solution. We will think outside the box. That is the job of the P&Z.

The League of Women Voters event was less a “debate” than a series of responses to questions submitted earlier by residents. Candidates included current members Lebowitz, a Democrat; Republican members Amie Tesler and Patrizia Zucaro; Republican alternate John Bolton, and Republican challenger Michael Calise.

Coalition for Westport candidate Joseph Strickland was absent, due to COVID.

Planning & Zoning Commission candidates (from right to left): Michael Calise, Amie Tesler, Paul Lebowitz, Patrizia Zucaro and John Bolton. An LWV representative (far left) read an opening statement from Joseph Strickland, who has COVID. (Photo/Dan Woog)

“Everything with zoning is about competing interests,” Bolton said regarding the gardens controversy. He noted that he and the other incumbents could speak only generally, because the issue will come before them — though it has not yet — and they are obligated to keep open minds.

“Patrizia, Amie and I took a tour (of the gardens),” Bolton continued. “It was eye-opening. I learned a lot. It’s an asset to this town.

“(The P&Z) is the trustee for citizens. They trust us to do what is right. We have to think outside the box.”

Calise said, “We haven’t seen the final site plan. I’m partial toward retaining the gardens. But we have to wait to see all the facts.”

Tesler cited her youth in Mystic, on 2 acres and with her “hands in the dirt” at her school’s garden.

However, she added, “It’s a tough issue. We want to save Mother Earth, and also educate our next generation. We have to consider all solutions. There may be other solutions on the table. I’m open to anything.”

Lebowitz said, “The 1st Selectwoman will give us justification for her decision. Like any applicant, she must show facts and figures: why a garden or a ballfield should go somewhere. We deal with issues like parking and drainage. You justify; we decide.”

Zucaro added, “The town is in a no-win situation. The garden is absolutely beautiful, amazing — everyone should see it.

“But Long Lots is in serious disrepair. The Building Committee was tasked with finding a solution. I hope they did their job, and evaluated all their options. I look forward to hearing from them.”

Westport Community Gardens (Photo/Karen Mather)

Asked to cite the 3 most critical issues facing the P&Z, Tesler said “8-30g, traffic, and over-development.” Lebowitz named “traffic, affordable housing, and protecting open space.” Zucaro offered “cohesive town planning, over-development and affordable housing.” Bolton said “affordable housing, quality of life, and preserving the tax base.” Calise said “aquifers, housing stock, and planning for the future.”

Other questions included weaknesses in the town’s current regulations, and the impact of the environment on P&Z decisions.

The League of Women Voters’ Candidates’ Debates continue tonight (Thursday) in the Town Hall auditorium, with the Board of Education at 7 p.m., and the Board of Finance at 8:15 p.m. The event will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and televised on Optimum Channel 79.

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