Every spring, the magnificent raptors return “home.” They build nests at Longshore, Sherwood Mill Pond — and, most visibly, on a utility pole between Fresh Market and Terrain.
Last year though, Regency Centers — the owner of the property — suddenly removed the pole.
It took awhile to untangle who exactly did the deed — the management company or a sub-contractor (who claimed falsely to be Audubon Society workers). They also lacked the required permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Then we found out that the illegal osprey nest removal was done prior to Planning & Zoning Commission approval for parking lot renovation work.
A year later, the parking lot project is still underway.
But — as Westport hungers for a bit of good news in the midst of a brutal pandemic — we’ve got some.
The ospreys are back!
Eagle-eyed “06880” reader Carolyn Doan — who took these magnificent photos — reports, “They are doing their mating ritual. She calls out to him from the nest. He brings her food, and sits in a nearby tree. Sometimes he helps tidy up a bit.
“The construction guys who are there love to talk about them,” Carolyn adds. “They fill us in about the activities — what food the male is bringing in (mice, fish), which trees he likes to keep watch in, when she calls out. It’s very sweet.”
Meanwhile though — because every silver lining has a cloud — there is this, from equally alert “06880” reader Dick Stein:
The last tree standing at the Fresh Market shopping plaza was cut down on Wednesday.
The 80-year-old oak sat on state property. The town of Westport had no say.
Yesterday, “06880” reader James McDonald said he had not seen Westport’s ospreys at their Post Road East nest in a week. He wrote that sparrows had taken up residence there, and accused Regency Centers — the owner of the Fresh Market osprey pole — with “effectively murdering” the raptor family.
Put down your pitchforks!
A few minutes ago, alert “06880” reader Chip Stephens spotted this sight in the trees behind Terrain:
Chip reports that the male is in branches above the nest, looking down at what he assumes is the mother.
He hears noises, and thinks she may be laying eggs.
Last night, Regency Centers went before the Westport Planning & Zoning Commission, seeking permission for work on the facade and parking lot at Fresh Market — the shopping plaza they own.
“06880” readers remember that last weekend, prior to to approval, Regency had an osprey nest on their property removed. An uproar ensued, before the owners placed the platform back on its pole.
Alert “06880” reader Carolyn Doan was at Town Hall last night. She reports that Jack deVilliers, Regency Vice President, began with an apology. He thanked Westporters — and “06880” — for their concern, and noted that Regency appreciates having its regional office here in Westport. He said that the company “got it wrong” with respect to their removal of the nest, adding that the company did consult with the Audubon Society and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection prior to its actions.
The ospreys are back in their nest, after Regency replaced the platform they removed last weekend. (Photo/Carolyn McPhee)
DeVilliers acknowledged that Regency’s apologies might not be enough for some Westporters.
He promised the company would do better in the future, then presented plans for the property that included a rain garden (water holding pond) and restaurant.
Several speakers talked about parking issues, asked about the restaurant — and expressed concern about Regency going forward, with regard to its properties and the ospreys.
No vote was taken. Regency will return April 25, to address issues like fencing and the neighbors.
But the P&Z did approve the new Westport Weston YMCA building expansion and Camp Mahackeno project. It includes a water slide, splash pad, new heated pool and archery range.
Jack deVilliers — Regency Centers vice president — just responded on 06880+ to the controversy raging after yesterday’s osprey nest removal. Regency owns the Fresh Market shopping center where the event took place. He writes:
To our neighbors,
As many of you are aware there was a removal of a nesting platform at The Village Center that served as a breeding ground and home for two ospreys. Before any work was done on this we consulted a variety of environmental and wildlife sources to find the best way to avoid having our upcoming construction disturb a nesting environment. We were informed that if the nest was not present before the breeding season then the ospreys would be able to make a new nest somewhere else. There never was any removal of existing eggs or birds at any point.
For those who might be unaware, the upcoming construction work is intended to redo the facade, upgrade the parking, a substantial tree installation, sustainable LED lighting, and a rain garden. However, although our intentions were to mitigate any disturbance to our avian neighbors, we may have missed the mark with seeing the whole picture.
Thanks in part to the community feedback that we have received, we have decided to reinstall the platform as soon as possible. Not only that, but we will modify our construction schedule for the breeding season, and will be providing a buffer area that cannot be disturbed until we can determine the fledglings have safely vacated the area. At which point, we will resume our efforts without any negative effect to the ospreys.
It is extremely important to us that we are good and responsible neighbors, and that includes our feathered friends as well as our human ones. We can’t thank everyone enough for their concern and interest on the topic, and a special thank you to those who reached out to us.
Jack deVilliers – Vice President at Regency Centers
Osprey on a pole, this afternoon. (Photo/Richard Hyman)
It appears now that Regency Centers — the owner of both the Fresh Terrain shopping plaza and Terrain — is the bad actor in yesterday’s removal of an osprey nest on a pole between the two properties.
Regency’s management company — or a sub-contractor — took down the nest. When confronted by Terrain employees, they claimed to be Audubon Society workers. They also did not have a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. A permit is mandated by the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918.
But here’s where the story gets really interesting.
This Thursday, April 4 (7 p.m., Town Hall), Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission has a regularly scheduled meeting.
Agenda item #3 is a request by Regency Centers for “Westport Village Center” — aka the Fresh Market plaza — for “a Site Plan approval for proposed exterior alteration to the building façade and modifications to the parking lot for property located in RBD and Residence A zones, PID# E09068000.”
In other words: The illegal osprey nest removal in preparation for parking lot work was done prior to P&Z approval.
Regency Centers — owner of the Fresh Market plaza — will ask the P&Z on Thursday for permission to make changes to the facade and parking lot.
And here’s where the story gets even more interesting.
Thursday’s meeting is a public hearing. Westporters are welcome to attend — and speak.
(You can also make your feelings known by email before the meeting: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Regency is well known to Westport — and the P&Z. When Regency bought the Fresh Market plaza, they promised to plant trees in front, and install a sidewalk. That has not yet been done.
Regency also owns Compo Acres Shopping Center (anchored by Trader Joe’s). Westporters — particularly those living behind the back parking lot — have not forgotten the work-first-ask-questions-later job done on the retaining wall there.
A similar incident occurred in the back of yet another property owned by Regency: the shopping center across the street from Fresh Market.
Thursday’s P&Z meeting should be very interesting indeed.
Meanwhile, back to the ospreys. Someone involved in the utility industry — who asked for anonymity based on the nature of his work — examined this morning’s photo of the removal of the nest. He writes:
The photo taken by the high school freshman of the bucket truck yesterday tells this old utility veteran several things.
This is a “streetlight” pole, set exclusively for mounting the 2 streetlights clearly shown in the photo, whose lights provide security lighting for Fresh Market’s parking lot.
12-year-old James Doan took this photo today, of an osprey at its old nest pole. His mother Carolyn says, “The male is flying around the female with sticks and possibly food. The cry is tough to hear.”
All streetlights are supplied by secondary wires, energized 100% of the time. So this pole has active power supplied to it — a safety hazard for anyone choosing to work on this pole top.
The utility always works with safety most paramount. If this contractor wanted to take this action they should have contacted the utility well in advance to get approval.
Since the utility erected the platform originally. I assume they would never have granted approval for this action. They also would never allow this contractor to work on their pole without authorization, and proof that the contractor is “qualified” to work on energized equipment.
Looks pretty clear that regardless of what DEEP or Audubon said to this contractor, they were also violating various rules and regulations of the utility and perhaps should be treated accordingly. License revocation? Fines? Local Westport electrical inspector might also be someone to get involved with this in that regard.
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