Tag Archives: Rose Group

John McCarthy: Baron’s South, Consultants And Ethics

Today, RTM district 9 member John McCarthy sent this letter to the Board of Finance:

The recommendation of the Baron’s South Committee to negotiate a lease with the Rose Group for the development of Baron’s South brings up serious issues of ethics which I believe need to be addressed before you take any additional steps.

As the facts clearly show, a consultant who actively worked for the town to shape the zoning and limit the future use of Baron’s South is a member of the Rose Group’s winning proposal for use of Baron’s South.   I believe that this type of behavior clearly violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the State of Connecticut Ethics codes, specifically the code’s discussion of “Side Switching”:

“A former state official or employee may never represent anyone other than the state regarding a particular matter in which he or she was personally or substantially involved while in state service and in which the state has a substantial interest. This prevents side-switching. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-84b (a).” Page 8 under Lifetime Ban

Part of the Baron’s South land.

I acknowledge that this state statute does not apply to Westport. But applying this concept, which seems to me to be a bedrock principle of  government ethics,  to Westport and its officials, employees and consultants, I believe that the Baron’s South Committee should not have considered the Rose Group proposal without first publicly disclosing that there was potential conflict of interest, and getting and publicizing an opinion from an independent ethics committee.

A few questions which could have been addressed by such an independent ethics committee include:

  • Could the participation of this Consultant as a member of the Rose Group team have deterred other potential bidders from submitting a proposal?  Was this a reason why only 3 bids were received from the 30 bid packages requested?
  • Was the Consultant chosen by the Rose Group because of benefits it expected to derive from the Consultant’s  material involvement in setting the explicit direction for the development of Baron’s South?
  • Was the Consultant chosen by the Rose Group because of benefits it expected to derive from the Consultant’s ongoing relationship with members of town government and member’s of the Baron’s South Committee?
  • What ongoing activities does this Consultant have with the Town of Westport and should they have been publicly disclosed by the Baron’s South Committee? (Note that this Consultant has been publicly identified as being a Consultant to the Westport Housing Authority for an unrelated project as recently as last month.)
  • Could the participation of this Consultant as a member of the Rose Group proposal been expected to  create the appearance of a conflict of interest which could harm the public’s perception of the fairness of the bidding process?

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

As a body, should you continue to discuss and consider the Rose Group bid, I believe you will be sending the deliberate message that this is acceptable ethical behavior for dealings with the Town of Westport.  As a citizen and elected member of the RTM I believe that this message will not be well received by the citizens of Westport, and will have a very negative impact on the overall level of trust people have in our town’s governmental process.

In order to maintain the public’s trust, I believe you should tell the Baron’s South Committee that you will not discuss any proposal for Baron’s South at this time.

I would personally like to see any future discussion and process related to the use of Baron’s South be done through a special  committee made up of the 1st Selectman and elected members of the BOF, P&Z and RTM. But this should be addressed at a later date.

Baron’s South: Dueling Proposals

John McCarthy has followed the Baron’s South senior care center project closely. When the committee appointed by the first selectman announced its endorsement of a proposal submitted by the Rose Group, John was surprised.

He received information from the Hillspoint Group, which the committee had rejected. The Hillspoint Group used “limited information” provided by the committee in its September 21 meeting handout, and discussion at a public meeting the same day, to determine what was in the Rose Group’s proposal, and prepare a comparison.

John sent the document below — provided by the Hillspoint Group — to the RTM and Board of Finance. It says:

On the surface, this rejected proposal would have offered significantly more money to the town, and would have guaranteed that 70 units would be available for Westport seniors.

It also provided a mechanism with which the town could have provided “scholarships” to pay for housing seniors who needed help….

Economics: The Rose proposal offers a 1-time land purchase payment of $500,000 and an annual PILOT payment of $250,000. The Hillspoint proposal offers a base land lease payment of $1,250,000 plus escalation and real estate tax payments calculated to be $1,018,800 based on the current town mill rate, growing to an estimated $1,291,717 in year 10. The Hillspoint ground lease offer equates to a present value of approximately $29,000,000 at town borrowing rates.

Affordability: The Rose proposal offers to make available 59 one-bedroom, 550-square foot apartments at an affordable rent of $1,086 per month through an affordable housing tax credit program. The Hillspoint proposal does not require federal or state funding, and offers 70 units to be made available to Westport-only seniors with incomes ranging from $30,000 to 75% of median income.

Residents would be required to contribute a maximum of 30% of their income toward occupancy costs. The balance would be provided through a town-administered scholarship program funded as portion of the revenues paid by the project to the town.

Scholarship-occupied units would include 1- and 2-bedroom units ranging from 805 to 1,204 square feet. Scholarship residents would also receive health care services from the project’s health care center included in their life care residency agreement.

One proposal for senior housing at Baron’s south.

Aging in Place: One of the core objectives of the Request for Proposal is to provide an environment for aging in place. The Hillspoint proposal is to develop a continuing care retirement community licensed by the state to provide residential and health care services under a coordinated Life Care Residency Agreement. This provides for the ability of a resident, including couples, to reside independently yet have access to on-site health care services including in-home care, assisted living, skilled nursing care, memory support, rehab and hospice care. This is the ultimate form of aging in place.

The Rose Group proposal offers in-home and other offsite health care services to be provided under a separate contract — and at additional cost — by the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

Public Use/Open Space: The Hillspoint proposal offers to renovate the Baron’s Mansion and use it for public meetings and events, as well as enhancing the building to include a greenhouse and potting gardening center to be the focal point for a 5+/- acre botanical garden open to the public. The botanical gardens would include newly developed walking trails, picnic areas and other public amenities.

The Rose Group proposal does not include development of any new public facilities, nor even a responsibility to improve the existing conditions.

Summary: It appears that for the sake of not pursuing the administrative requirements of a zoning text amendment to enable a single-phase development, along with other modifications required to accommodate the details of any selected proposal, the Hillspoint proposal was eliminated from consideration. The Hillspoint proposal was eliminated from further consideration even though it appears to be overwhelmingly more beneficial to both the future residents it proposes to serve, and the financial health of the Town of Westport.

(To view the entire Hillspoint Group’s comparison with the Rose Group, click here.)