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Tag Archives: Old Mill Beach
The on-again, off-again, on-again saga of a restaurant near Old Mill Beach is off again.
This time, forever.
When Positano — the latest in a string of restaurants on Hillspoint Road — closed almost exactly 2 years ago, there was speculation the new owners wanted to tear it down, and build a big house right there on the sand.
There was also talk that some neighbors — fearing the loss of their shoreline view, and enjoying the funkiness of a restaurant in the midst of a residential area — were doing what they could to make sure a new restaurant took Positano’s place.
That was somewhat ironic. When Positano applied for patio dining in 2012, neighborhood opposition scuttled the plan. Lack of outdoor seating was one factor leading to Positano’s closing, and its subsequent move to a new location next to the Westport Country Playhouse.
Though a number of residents worked for months to get another restaurant on the site, one neighbor continued to object. She sued.
Now comes news that the owner of the property — an LLC with an office in Nashville, Tennessee — has filed an affidavit with Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department. The owner acknowledges and affirms that “any and all commercial uses of the premises at 233 Hillspoint Road have been irrevocably abandoned and discontinued.”
In other words, any chances for a new restaurant — grandfathered in as a pre-existing condition — has been killed. Now, and in perpetuity.
So what happens next?
The property is back on the market. It’s listed as “A Generational Waterfront Opportunity.”
Potential buyers have a chance to “build and live directly on Compo Cove Beach’s [sic] most unique [sic] lot with spectacular Long Island Sound views.” The land “is now available for a luxury private home to be built.”
Buyers can enjoy “the most beautiful expansive water views, spectacular sunrises and sunsets” (those sunsets might be tough, since the listing notes it is an “east facing property”, and Compo Hill is a substantial obstruction to the west).
The listing continues:
Enjoy the ever-changing tides and light, the shore birds, and the tranquility that exists with living right on the beach. With no neighbor to your right, it’s like having your own front row seat to the best Long Island Sound offers — sunbathing, swimming, fishing boating…
Seize this opportunity to create your own magnificent custom home for the first time ever on this site.
A mere $4,500,000.
But wait! There’s more!
Elvira’s — diagonally across Hillspoint from #233 — continues to be on the market too. There’s been no sale yet, but word on the soon-to-drastically-change street is that it may not remain a grocery store/ community center.
All of which is food for thought.
A good place to think about it is at the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.
You know — where for nearly a century, Allen’s Clam House used to be.
Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westport observer — Chip Stephens writes:
Those of us who have been around a while remember that not so long ago, Sherwood Mill Pond neighbors had the sand in front of their houses replenished once a year. A barge would recover sand washed into Compo Cove from their beaches by storms and high tides. Big Kowalsky front-end loaders spread it out, recovering private beaches up and down the cove.
In recent years, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has restricted that activity. You can see what’s happened by not replenishing the beaches from Hillspoint Road. Landowners see it more painfully from their windows.
We’ve long been told that the reason the sand washes away is that the Army Corps of Engineers made errors when they replaced reefs and stones on Sherwood Island and Compo Beach. That caused misdirection of natural currents, sweeping away sand on those local beaches into the Mill Cove flats.
Now the landowners face difficulties with DEEP and local boards in placing erosion controls, walls or reefs to save their beach, their land and their houses.
DEEP’s answer is to plant the beach with grasses and plantings. Unfortuantely, even modest storms wash them away.
What will happen? Well, time and tide wait for no man…
An alert “06880” reader who has never emailed before — and who requests anonymity — shares a special moment:
A friend and I were walking today. We took a seat at Old Mill Beach, on the bench next to the old Positano restaurant. We’ve walked there many times, but never sat down.
About 10 minutes into our conversation, a man appeared on the sidewalk. He started to play “Taps.”
Everyone nearby stood. A young boy put his hand over his heart.
When the man finished, we applauded and yelled “thank you!” He gave a quick wave, then disappeared.
My friend and I — who on September 11, 2001 were both newly married, and living in New York — cried our hearts out, right there on the bench.
We felt badly we had not taken a picture of the man playing “Taps.” Then we realized no photo could have captured that experience.
I don’t know the man’s name. But I hope he knows what a special moment he provided to the handful of people fortunate enough to have seen and heard him today.
Anyone driving on Hillspoint Road has seen Compo Cove — the couple of dozen homes between Old Mill Beach and Sherwood Island. However, many Westporters don’t know they’re accessible only by a foot path near the Sherwood Mill Pond.
Plenty of Westporters do know about this hidden gem, though. And Fred Cantor, Matt Murray, Kathi Sherman, Rich Stein, Robert Mitchell, Michelle Saunders, Andrew Colabella, Susan Huppi, Elayne Landau, Rick Benson, Jann Colabella and Lynn Betts Baker all identified the gate, which was last week’s photo challenge. Click here for the photo; scroll down for comments.
(Fun fact: Back in the 1950s and ’60s — before most homes were winterized — the area was known as “Psycho Path.” The reason: Many summer residents were New York City psychiatrists.)
Today’s photo challenge should be tougher. If you know where in Westport you’d find this scene, click “Comments” below.
Alert “06880” reader Trey Ellis is a nationally known writer, political pundit, social critic and university professor.
He’s also a Westporter, with a pretty good eye for our town’s natural beauty.
Yesterday, he snapped this image from Old Mill Beach.
Once again — as with all his work — Trey’s perspective is special, and unique.
Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!
Everyone knows the Black Duck. A lot of people know Pete Aitkin, who owns it.
Some people know he grew up in Westport: In the very cool house that straddles the raceway between Old Mill Beach and the Sherwood Mill Pond.
Fewer people know there are 2 plaques near the house, honoring Pete’s parents, King and Kathleen Aitkin.
Only Chris Swan, Rick Benson and Leigh Gage answered last week’s photo challenge correctly. But several readers — including Pete’s sister, Melissa Aitkin Beers — added interesting info on the couple, and their house. Click here to see Jaime Bairaktaris’ photo, and all the comments.
The subject of this week’s challenge did not grow up anywhere. But if you know where in Westport he is — and have any back stories about him — click “Comments” below.
Many Westporters think of the beach parking staff — if we think of them at all — as men, women and teenagers who glance at our stickers, wave us through, and spend too much time dealing with out-of-towners who are incapable of understanding signs.
After reading this story, you might think differently about at least one of them.
Billy works at Old Mill Beach. A Westport resident, he clearly cares about his town, his job, and everyone who enjoys his beach.
He’s concerned about cars that speed into the parking lot too quickly, without a clear view of anyone walking along the bushes in the corner.
So he went to Toys R Us, and with his own money purchased a plastic yellow flag-holding crossing guard. Whenever he’s on duty, he places it (with “Billy” written on the arm) in a prominent spot.
During his shift, Billy also weeds the patch across from the guard shack, leading down to the sand.
There, he created a stone sculpture. He calls it “Share the Love.”
When alert reader Barbara Cross — who sent along this story — asked if she could take a picture, he said, “Sure! Share the love!”
His care and concern are infectious. An Old Mill resident is donating mulch to cover Billy’s beautified area.
Barbara had a great conversation with Billy the other day. She learned he comes from a family of Marines, and had a full ride to the University of Hawaii as a football player. She and Billy talked about sports concussions, and athletes who graduate without a functional education. Billy, she says, has made the most of his opportunities.
Old Mill Beach — no, all of Westport — are better for it.
An alert — and nose-holding — “06880” reader writes:
There has been a funny smell at Compo Cove, during low tide, for quite some time. Depending on which way the wind blows, it can be quite disgusting.
It’s not the usual low tide smell. It’s closer to the odor from a sewer line leak.
It started to stink around the time the town demolished the 2 houses that sat between the tide gates. Maybe the septic tanks or sewer connections were not secured properly.
These pictures are from yesterday, at the walkway by the tide gates. They show some disconnected pipes that came from who knows where.
It’s very hard to find the source of these types of problems. But I’m interested to find out if these are wastewater or drainage pipes, and why they’re obstructed and broken.
Have any “06880” readers also noticed the smell? And does anyone know the answer?
Over a year ago — on December 31, 2014 — Positano’s restaurant closed its location on Old Mill Beach. The property had been sold.
It reopened next to the Westport Country Playhouse, to the delight of many. But neighbors of the now-vacant building on Hillspoint Road have a beef.
The other day, 10 of them e-mailed “06880”:
The building formerly occupied by Positano’s at Old Mill Beach has been empty for over a year now. It is reaching blight proportions, with its faded yellow stucco, wide-open back window (into and out of which skunks and other creatures happily go) and bleak disrepair.
In response to a letter Dalma Heyn wrote to the Westport News a few months ago, lamenting the loss of the restaurant ‘s vitality to our community and asking what was going on, the building’s owner kindly contacted her and revealed as much as he felt he could divulge at the time.
But months roll on, and still we have no answers. What or who is blocking progress, and why? How can we help move it forward? Show up for meetings? Sign a petition?
If it’s a lawsuit that’s stopping progress, does that squelch information — and do we have legal recourse, based on impact on property value? Why aren’t our emails requesting information answered? Rumors fly.
In the meantime, where is Westport’s blight-prevention ordinance — which states that the town will intervene if a building is dilapidated?
The building is not just an eyesore. Once illuminated by the restaurant, and filled with visitors, Old Mill Beach and this stretch of Hillspoint Road are now pitch black at night, when so many people are out walking. Too, anyone with thoughts of renting or selling a home here must confront prospective buyers’ justifiable alarm — and his own infuriating ignorance.
We are an engaged, active community, and this is an historic district that must be protected and nurtured. We — and residents from all over Westport — see each other at breakfast or lunch at Elvira’s. We sit on the benches with our kids and grandkids. We walk our dogs together.
All Westporters treasure this charming beach community, which has long been a destination for all residents who want to hang out at the sound. We’re tired of the bizarre vacuum in which we find ourselves. We are once again politely asking the town for both a status report and for information about the process that will move this forward — and what part we can play, if any, in helping it do so.
It’s time our elected officials spoke to us.
Dalma Heyn, Richard Marek, Peter de Caprio, Karen Silverstein, Wanda and Craig Steinke, Eileen Winnick, Wendy Giffords, Mary and Peter Green