A waiver to allow this wall, built in the town’s right-of-way in front of a Mayflower Parkway mansion, was denied Wednesday by the Board of Selectwomen.
Speaking to the Board of Selectwomen about a waiver to allow a seven-foot-wall built improperly in the town’s right-of-way on Mayflower Parkway were, from left, lawyer Jay Klein, who sought the waiver on behalf of the contractor who built the wall, and Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug and Town Engineer Keith Wilberg, who both opposed the request on grounds that it would set a bad precedent.

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — A seven-foot-tall wall erected in front of a Mayflower Parkway mansion — built improperly in the town’s right-of-way — must come down, the Board of Selectwomen ruled Wednesday.

A waiver sought from the selectwomen to allow stone-and-fencing structure to remain in place was denied out of concern that it could set a precedent for other private property owners to encroach in the town’s rights-of way — despite the $150,000 estimated cost to move it.

The owner of 18 Mayflower Parkway is listed on town records as Perky Pelican LLC, and was not represented at Wednesday’s meeting.

Land records, however, also indicate the property was sold by NBC News anchor Craig Melvin and his wife, Lindsay Czarniak, a broadcast sports reporter, to the Perky Pelican LLC for $5.05 million in 2021. It is not clear if Craig and Czarniak still own the property through the LLC, since state records do not identify the owner and list only its agent as a Westport accountant.

Attempts to contact Melvin and Czarniak were unsuccessful Wednesday.

“I have no comment” on ownership of the property, said Westport real estate attorney Jay Klein, who represented Luis Castaneda, the landscaper who built the wall.

Klein was hired by Castaneda, of First Step Landscaping in Norwalk, to present Wednesday’s request for a waiver of the town’s policy on encroachments on town property, which if approved would have allowed the wall to stand. 

Klein told the selectwomen the wall encroaches about three feet onto town property, but contended it does not interfere with utility connections and does not pose any health or safety issue.

“It was a mistake to put it where it is,” Klein said of the wall, which was built in 2021. But “we believe there is good cause” for the town to grant the waiver allowing the structure to remain in place, the lawyer argued.

Town staff and the selectwomen did not agree.

“I have examined this and it is encroaching five feet on town property,” said Keith Wilberg, town engineer. “It’s on town property and it shouldn’t be.”

He said he was sorry about the high cost of moving the wall, but didn’t want approval of an encroachment on town property to set a precedent, especially when a mistake was made even though the owners reportedly had a survey done before the structure was built. “We could have a neighbor saying, ‘I want a wall like that,’ ” Wilberg said. “I can’t in good conscience approve this.”

Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug also did not recommend approval of the waiver. Allowing the wall to continue encroaching on town land could “set a precedent for the rest of the road  — and the rest of the town,” she said.

Selectwoman Andrea Moore said she, too, worried about setting a precedent. 

“I understand mistakes happen, but I do hold professionals to a high standard,” said Selectwoman Candice Savin, referring to the landscaper. “I don’t think it rises to the level of granting a waiver.”

After First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker agreed with her fellow selectwomen as well as the staff recommendations, the board voted unanimously to deny the waiver.

After the meeting, Klein declined to comment about future actions by either the owners or landscaper, or the prospective removal of the wall.

“I have no comment on the matter outside of what was discussed at the meeting,” he said.

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman and has taught journalism at New York and Southern Connecticut State universities.