The trees of Jesup Green. / Photo by Thane Grauel
The trees of Jesup Green. / Photo by Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — A new concern has been raised about the embattled plan to redevelop downtown parking — the Tree Board is concerned valuable trees on Jesup Green might be in danger and it hasn’t been consulted.

The plan to reinvent the Parker Harding lot and Jesup Green parking, developed under direction of Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, has been heavily criticized by downtown store and restaurant owners because it would eliminate almost 50 parking spots.

Many people also have concerns about eliminating the cut-through traffic from Parking Harding Plaza to Main Street. Merchants and downtown area residents have expressed frustration, saying DPIC members are not listening and did not keep them informed about the project and its impacts.

Critics in a packed meeting June 8 assailed the plan.

The Tree Board met Thursday at Town Hall for a quieter discussion, and one its topics was the parking plan’s possible consequences for Jesup Green’s trees, which include three old oaks.

It was Sarah Adair’s first meeting as the new chairwoman.

“I put that on there because it’s my understanding that the plan right now for the downtown redevelopment is to get rid of the parking spaces down next to the water and move them up near the parking for where the police station is,” Adair said.

“If that’s the case then they would cut down those big tall trees …” she said.

“White pines and locusts I think are up on the embankment there,” longtime member Richard Stein said.

“We’re in an odd spot,” Stein said. “The Tree Board originally had a much wider range of function and responsibility.”

“We reviewed landscape for P&Z and commercial work. It was much broader, and it’s been chipped away at,” Stein said. “We do not have any involvement with P&Z anymore, so we’re not reviewing their plans, and it came down to we will only be consulted for town-owned property, of which we have not been, either.”

Stein later quoted from the group’s mission as stated on its webpage.

“The Tree Board is responsible for advising and assisting the tree warden,” he read. “Promoting the planting, maintenance, restoration and survival of desirable trees and shrubs on town property.”

“So, we should be involved in the parking lot, we should have been involved in the Baldwin Parking Lot,” Stein said of another recently completed downtown parking area. “We should have been involved in the park on Riverside Avenue.”

“We have not been involved, notified, asked on any town project,” Stein said. “Any time the town does a project they should be notifying the Tree Board for comment.”

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 35 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.