Tag Archives: Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee

Roundup: Downtown Plan, Coastal Living, Dracula …

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There’s a new sheriff downtown.

Randy Herbertson replaces Dewey Loselle as chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee. Loselle — former chief operations for the chair — resigned recently, after many years in the post.

Herbertson is president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He owns The Visual Brand, a design agency on Church Lane.

The DPIC is responsible for carrying out the Downtown Master Plan. Under Loselle, the group implemented streetscape improvements on Elm Street, new sidewalks and lights on Main Street, Veterans Green sidewalks and more.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe — who appointed Herbertson to the post — thanked Loselle for his long service.

Randy Herbertson

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Speaking of planning:

Neighbors watched warily all winter, as activity began on 12 acres of land bordered by Clapboard Hill Road, Morningside Drive South and Turkey Hill Road South.

Stakes with pink strips appeared in the ground, and a new gravel path was built from Clapboard Hill.

Is one of the town’s last large tracts of private property being developed?

Plans are underway for several new homes. There are wetlands issues, and the Conservation Commission required those borders to be withdrawn. The permitting process with other town boards is still in the early stages too.

Meanwhile, another home nearby is being built on a separate property.

(Photo/Nicholas Eisenberger)

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I usually avoid posting links to listicle stories: “50 Best Suburbs For Seniors!” “Top 500 Schools in America!”

They’re clickbait. Their methodology is dubious at best, and manipulable for their own demographics. Besides, if Staples High School is #1 in one poll, then #2 in the next, taxpayers get all their knickers in a twist.

But Coastal Living’s “Best Beach Towns: Dreamy Places to Live” issue is worth noting — if only for the writeup. It’s the way the world (or at least that portion of it that reads Coastal Living) sees us:

“You can’t imagine the volume of COVID refugees,” says Shari Lebowitz, citing the cheering sight of new families with baby strollers and slow-waling toddlers along the tidy sidewalks of this leafy enclave on Long Island Sound.”

The magazine says that Lebowitz — owner of Bespoke Designs — moved here for “a cultured little town that supported entrepreneurs. Westport, driven by small waterways with open space for wildlife, also has a charming stretch of tawny beach that serves as the town’s outdoor living room all summer long. (Dogs and their happy owners take over in the off season.)”

MoCA Westport is a “small contemporary art museum that punches well above its weight with arts education, performances, and world-class exhibitions.”

Lebowitz gets the last word: “I can make coffee and drive down to drink it on the beach every morning before work. What more could I want?” (Hat tips: Lisa Gold, Tom Feeley)

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What better way to mark the 1-year anniversary of the COVID lockdown than with a horror show?

This Sunday (March 14, 6 p.m.), a worldwide audience can fire up the computer and listen to “Dracula.” Staples Players presents the 4th in their winter radio shows via livestream, at www.wsptfm.org.

Following 6 previous radio shows this pandemic year, “Dracula” promises to be another smash. It’s a great drama. Cast and crew have been hard at work perfecting timing, sound effects, and (of course) their Transylvanian accents.

Jamie Mann, David Corro and Violet Cooper have key roles. David Roth and Kerry Roth co-produce the show; Don Rickenback is music director, and Geno Heiter oversees the audio.

NOTE: If you missed the original broadcasts of 2 previous Players radio shows — “Little Women” and “Sorry, Wrong Number” — they’ll be on the WWPT-FM livestream the following Sunday, March 21 (6 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., respectively).

The cast and crew of “Dracula.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

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On the Staples sports scene:

Last night — for perhaps the first time in Wrecker swim team history — 3 siblings swam on the same relay team.

Justin (senior), Jason (sophomore) and Jared (freshman) Lessing joined Daniel Rosenkranz. The foursome placed 2nd in the 200 freestyle relay at the Senior Day meet against Danbury. Staples’ other relay team won that race; both helped the Wreckers to take the entire meet.

Coach Todd Gordon fulfilled the Lessings’ longtime dream of swimming on a high school relay squad together. He’s a former swimmer and pitcher at Harvard University. Justin plays both sports at Staples too. This was his first meet of the year, after suffering tendinitis in his pitching arm.

From left: Jason Lessing, Jared Lessing, Daniel Rosenkranz and Justin Lessing. Daniel and Justin are co-captains.

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More Staples news: Congratulations to Students of the Month Moses Beary, Marley Brown, Gianna Amatuzzi, Camryn Zukowski, Sophie Hekmat, Quinn McMahon and Maggie Montoya.

The awardees — nominated by teachers — are students who help make Staples High School a welcoming place for peers and teachers. Principal Stafford Thomas calls them “the ‘glue’ of community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together.”

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Westport’s yard waste site resumes regular hours of operation, starting this Monday (March 15): weekdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m. to noon.

The location is 180 Bayberry Lane (by the Westport Weston Health District).

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

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Temperatures are ticking up into the 60s. Daylight Savings starts Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Avenue parking lot snow bank shows no signs of melting.

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

We will mark its progress by various dates: Easter. May Day. Memorial Day. The 4th of July …

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State Senator Will Haskell is the new chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee. He previously chaired the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.

“For the last 2 years, I’ve kept a Metro-North timetable from 1970 on my desk in the Senate,” the 2014 Staples High School graduate says.

“Over the last 5 decades those trains have gotten slower, not faster. It’s time to reverse that trend by investing in green infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs and helping our constituents get where they need to go.”

State Senator Will Haskell, with a Metro-North train.

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And finally … Lawrence Welk was born today in 1903. He died in 1992, at 89. A one, an’ a two …

 

Name That Lot!

You may have heard the name Sigrid Schultz.

A pioneering female war correspondent, broadcaster and author who risked her life to expose Nazi secrets to the world, she hid her Jewish heritage from the likes of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, whom she loathed but entertained in her Berlin home for the sole purpose of extracting information.

Sigrid Schultz

After Schultz and her mother fled Germany, they bought a house and barn at 35 Elm Street. When Sigrid died in 1980, the town demolished her home to expand the Baldwin parking lot.

This famous woman has remained largely unknown in her adopted hometown. But that may change soon, if a Downtown Plan Implementation Committee recommendation to name the new Elm Street parking lot — the one next to Bedford Square, created by the demolition of Villa del Sol directly opposite the Baldwin lot — is approved by the Board of Selectmen, acting as the town’s Traffic Authority.

Then again, it may not be named the Sigrid Schultz Parking Lot.

DPIC member Dewey Loselle suggested celebrating former Public Works head Steve Edwards. The longtime but low-key director nixed that idea.

Another suggestion was to honor the residents of 22 1/2 Main Street — the African American boardinghouse that went up in flames (probably arson) nearly 70 years ago. The location was adjacent to the new parking lot.

It might be tough coming up with an appropriate name — “22 1/2 Main Street lot” would be too confusing for the Elm Street address.

But that hasn’t hasn’t stopped one Westporter from taking a second look.

Chip Stephens grew up here. As a Planning & Zoning Commission member, he attends DPIC meetings. He wants to make sure the name of the new lot reflects town sentiment — not simply the will of one committee.

Pete Wassell

Perhaps, he says, the lot should be named after the Wassell brothers. Harry, Bud and Pete were all killed within 15 months of each other, during World War II.

Or, Stephens says, maybe there are other Westporters we should consider.

So let’s have a townwide discussion, right here on “06880.” Click “Comments” to offer suggestions, and debate the ideas.

Sure, it’s only a parking lot. But, as Stephens notes, “it will be there forever.”

FUN FACTS: So who is this Baldwin that the other Elm Street lot is named for? Herb Baldwin — a former first selectman. 

And on the other side of Main Street, Parker Harding Plaza is named for co-sponsors Emerson Parker and Evan Harding. Fortunately — considering the state of that parking lot — everyone has forgotten those two.

36 Elm Street was demolished in January, to make room for a new parking lot next to Bedford Square. (Photo/Jen Berniker)

 

Fresh Toquet

Toquet Hall is one of Westport’s most intriguing spaces.

Located in an alley between the Post Road and Jesup Green — on the 2nd floor of what was once Westport’s opera house — the teen coffeehouse provides a big, open spot for middle and high school students to hear bands, watch shows, play pool and hang out after school and on weekends. All in the heart of downtown.

It’s also one of Westport’s most underutilized spaces.

The games area at Toquet Hall.

The games area at Toquet Hall.

Since it opened in 1998, a core group of kids has always enjoyed Toquet Hall. The vast majority, however, seldom set foot inside. Many have no idea it even exists.

A small crew of teenagers and adults have set out to change that.

The Toquet Hall enhancement group — part of the Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee — and Toquet teen governing board have worked on a few upgrades.

They include:

  • Fix the stage and flooring, helping reduce noise impact on the retail space downstairs — while allowing more usage and expanded hours
  • Renovate the snack bar, adding more items like french fries and smoothies
  • Build a storage closet above the stairs, to maximize space on stage for more musical performances, movies and plays
  • Improve signage, for better visibility and access (it’s pretty hard to find).

Work begins this summer.

A GoFundMe site is helping raise the $35,000 needed.

Meanwhile, all Westporters — whether they’ve ever been to Toquet Hall or not — are invited to an open house this Saturday (June 18, 2 to 6 p.m.).

Don’t know where it is? Follow the handy directions below!

Toquet Hall directions

Greens Farms Academy's Harbor Blues singing group performs ...

Greens Farms Academy’s Harbor Blues singing group performs …

... and middle schoolers enjoy an afternoon workshop.

… and middle schoolers enjoy an afternoon workshop. A group of teenagers and adults hope to renovate the space, attracting many more kids.