What is Save Westport Now?
We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan grass roots organization, focusing primarily on Planning and Zoning matters. Our mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance Westport’s residential neighborhoods, historic resources, open spaces, and quality of life
How did we come to exist?
In 1980— more than 40 years ago—a developer submitted plans to tear down one of the oldest and prettiest houses in Westport in order to build a 52,000 square foot building on Gorham Island. (That’s right, 52,000 sq. ft.!)
By the time local residents realized what was happening, the bulldozers had already razed the house and the developer had already obtained the waivers that it needed from the Flood and Erosion Control Board and the Conservation Commission.
Enter Sidney Kramer. He and Elizabeth Gerteiny, Connie Greenfield, and a few other extremely wise folks around town, quickly realized that if they didn’t do something, Westport would soon lose all of its charm.
Meanwhile, other developers were lining up with requests for zone changes and variances to permit them to build office parks, condos, and other large projects that threatened to gobble up every last bit of open space in town.
Sidney and the other founders realized that Westport citizens needed a coordinated way for residents to fight against these kinds of oversized commercial projects and a way to protect existing residential neighborhoods. So they created Save Westport Now and enlisted Miggs Burroughs’ help.
In fact, Miggs designed the poster that was first used to recruit new members.
And the rest is history.
Lots of folks joined SWN, including a few famous ones. In 1981, Paul Newman donated the shirt off his back—and we mean literally—SWN auctioned off the shirt at a fundraiser.
Sidney Kramer eventually sued to stop the Gorham Island project and was instrumental in getting the size of the building reduced. (Yes, it was supposed to be bigger than it is.)
Since then, SWN has been an important force in town, monitoring land use decisions to ensure that the zoning regulations are applied consistently, fairly, and in a way that protects existing neighborhoods.
We endorse candidates, and sometimes run our own slate of candidates, for the Planning and Zoning Commission. In the last election, our candidates were elected by wide margins.
We attend town meetings and speak out when we think a project threatens a residential neighborhood or our town’s character.
So, for example, when someone wanted to change the rules to permit 60-foot tall buildings downtown, we made our objections known.
But we also stand up when a plan makes sense—like preserving and moving the Kemper-Gunn house.
Recently, we stood up and contested a developer’s request for a variance to put commercial dumpsters in a residential zone—not only in a residential zone, but in the 15-foot setback, right up against the neighbor’s property line.
We want to make it easier for residents to obtain information about projects that will affect the town. Accordingly, one of our more recent projects was to increase transparency and promote an enhanced “user experience” with the P&Z. We’re pleased that now, complete information for upcoming and pending P&Z matters are posted on-line easy access to all.
As every available square foot is examined for its development potential, our job has become harder. But we will continue to fight for the rights of residents and neighborhoods.
Thank you for interest in Save Westport Now. We’re here for you, and we hope you will support our efforts.