Image by Patricia McMahon
A small sample of Save Westport Now's accomplishments and contributions...
Morningside Drive- 20–26 Morningside Drive South is a Historic District in the heart of Green’s Farms. In July 2017, the property was sold to a developer from California as an “Unique opportunity to own a piece of Westport's History.” Instead, after having multiple proposals refused by the Historic District commission and Planning and Zoning, the developer applied to build 19 attached homes, including 65 parking spots, right across from Greens Farms Elementary School. The neighbors formed a neighborhood group, Greens Farms United, to fight it. After hiring Lawyers and Experts, they contacted Save Westport Now for help. "SWN was extremely knowledgeable, meeting with us and helping us strategize next steps, providing not only guidance, but pointing out legal guidance we were not aware of," says Aurea de Souza of Greens Farms United. "They also helped us share our story on their website, social media, blogs, meetings, etc. Some of them came to our Town hearings and opposed the development with us." In the end, the pressure on the developer pushed them to withdraw the application and settle for building three homes instead of nineteen.
Westport Neighbors United- In 2018, Cross Street LLC proposed an 81-unit rental complex in a historic area of Westport, just a block from the town's worst intersection.The project, given the name of "The Westport Residences," proposed using several acres of land bordered by Lincoln, Post Road West and Cross Street, with the structure rising to a height of 65+ feet towering over neighboring homes. Neighborhood residents organized as Westport Neighbors United, and SWN assisted in helping them in understanding relevant zoning issues and how to effectively argue against the proposal at the P&Z. The proposal was rejected 7-0 at the P&Z, with commissioners citing important safety concerns.
Kemper Gunn House - SWN worked with Matthew Mandell and developer David Waldman to support the preservation of this iconic and historic house, disagreeing with the Coalition for Westport, which opposed saving the house. SWN lobbied the RTM to vote to overturn the P&Z's negative report. The RTM voted unanimously to overturn the P&Z's negative report thus saving the house. SWN also spoke up at the Selectman's meeting.
Compo Acres - When multi-billion dollar property owner Equity One tried to strong-arm its residential neighbors, Save Westport Now was there to support them get a fair and equitable solution. Here is a quote from Leslie Mahtani (06880) a neighbor in the area above the Compo Acres Plaza: "Thanks to Save Westport Now…we found out about the magnitude of the project. If this group hadn't distributed flyers to residents of our neighborhood, we never would have known the scope of this enormous project…The document sent to us by EO/P&Z gave a cursory description of the project that said nothing about flattening the parking lot, blasting, removing trees, etc. In any event, after SWN's flyer arrived, we were alarmed and went right to P&Z to gather facts…we persisted and as I mentioned, the end result should offer our neighborhood some valuable concessions." SWN Founder Sidney Kramer said " SWN's main mission of protecting residential neighborhoods in this instance included circulating flyers and knocking on doors to advise residents of the situation and their rights…"
Saugatuck Car Dealership - SWN supported local residents in demanding that the P&Z hold the line on maintaining the integrity of residential/transitional zoning regulations, and opposed the rezoning of RORD districts to allow the sale of motor vehicles in the heart of Saugatuck. In a letter from Mark Kirby, a local neighbor and founder of savesaugatuck.com, he thanks SWN saying, "SWN was essential in helping the neighborhood understand the zoning issues at play and how to navigate the process."
Amendment #737 - Village District Overlay Zone Regulations- SWN supported Amendment #737. Responding to pleas from local residents, SWN co-chairs Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg wrote to the P&Z, stating: " We are writing to express our support for Amendment #737. We believe that restoring the front setbacks to 30 feet in RPOD, RORD, AND RBD zones will protect nearby residential neighborhoods….Those three zones are designed to provide "transitional" areas between commercial and residential zones. They serve to ensure and promote buildings that are compatible with residential neighborhoods, and they prevent the degradation to the quality of life for those who live in and around them. Those zones are vital and must be protected."
Saugatuck TOD Committee - Co-chair Valerie Seiling Jacobs wrote a letter on behalf of SWN commending positive aspects of the proposed plans for Saugatuck, while also raising serious concerns about other aspects of the plans, stating, "Simply recommending more development (or a particular type of development) isn't good enough. Traffic is a huge problem that needs to be addressed and the only way to do that is to figure out how to reduce the number of cars."
The Cribari Bridge - Save Westport Now has carefully researched the many issues related to the bridge, and has worked collaboratively with neighbors, the First Selectman and The Westport Preservation Alliance to ensure that this important historical structure is preserved, and that Saugatuck's unique village is protected from additional traffic from tractor trailers. In November 2015, Valerie and Jeff, then Co-Chairmen of SWN, wrote a letter titled BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER: The Saugatuck Bridge. "Save Westport Now believes that the bridge should NOT be replaced with a larger or more contemporary structure. Save Westport Now believes that a larger bridge will actually encourage commercial and other traffic through the already congested Saugatuck district--especially when I-95 backs up. In fact, the dimensions of the current bridge have been instrumental in protecting the fragile infrastructure of Saugatuck's old town roads and Westport's small-town character."
Increasing Transparency and Improving the "user experience" with the P&Z - New procedures to give residents better access to information: In July 2016, Co-chairs Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg, sent a letter to the P&Z Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals proposing changes to current procedures to ensure that the public would be provided with better - and more timely information. Under the leadership of P&Z Director Mary Young, the P&Z now posts complete information on all upcoming and pending matters on-line providing the public with complete transparency and easy access.