Editor’s note: The following letters address the Representative Town Meeting’s anticipated Tuesday vote on the recent Planning and Zoning Commission decision to rezone part of the Saugatuck neighborhood.

Disregard critics of P&Z’s decision

To members of the RTM:

It is apparent that there is significant support for rehabilitating the Saugatuck area.

Nevertheless, there are some who, while taking pains to appear neutral, wish to construct roadblocks to efforts such as the “Hamlet” proposal, which, although large and complex, is also bold and imaginative.

Westporters know that P&Z hearings can be long and arduous. They also know that the commissioners are experienced and do yeoman-like work to parse all aspects of the applications that come before them.

They consistently impose high standards on applicants, and require them to explain fully and justify their proposals

We are confident that all aspects of the Hamlet application and its effect on the town as a whole have been addressed and none has in any manner been ignored. To imply that P&Z commissioners are lacking in experience or thoroughness does not reflect the extraordinary efforts put forth by the commissioners.

Weight should not be given to suggestions which are, at their core, meant to obfuscate and delay implementation of P&Z decisions. The P&Z is entirely capable of determining how applications should be handled and how they should be implemented.

We are confident that the members of the RTM, in the discharge of their duties, will disregard comments which are disingenuous rather than constructive and are designed to impede a full understanding of the P&Z decision regarding the Hamlet project.

Respectfully,

Coalition for Westport

Larry Weisman, chair, Policy Committee                                                 

Ken Bernhard

Ron Corwin, former chair, Planning and Zoning Commission

Jo Ann Davidson                                               

Melisa Diamond

Michael Dinshaw                                               

Roger Leifer

Ellie Lowenstein, former chair, Planning and Zoning Commission

Mike Nayor                                                          

Denise Torve

Joe Strickland

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RTM members must vote on the record

To the editor:

I have been reading your informative articles about the proposal to make changes to the Saugatuck area of Westport. I am sure the developers have done a comprehensive appraisal of what is needed to deliver their vision of the “Hamlet of Saugatuck.”

In addition, I am positive the members of town boards and commissions along with our elected and appointed officials of the Town of Westport have done their due diligence to familiarize themselves with ALL available information about this important project.

In my opinion, ALL MEMBERS OF THE RTM SHOULD GO ON THE PUBLIC RECORD WITH A VOTE FOR OR AGAINST THE PROPOSED PROJECT. In my opinion, a voice vote only on this project fails to dignify the project and the process.

A long time ago, I learned from many town officials the RTM represents the “voice of the people.”

In my nearly four decades of service to the Town of Westport, town officials should show their pride and fulfill their AUTHORITY, RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABLY TO THE OFFICE THEY SERVE WITH A CLEAR DISTINCTIVE VOTE ON A PROJECT OF THIS MAGNITUDE.

William J. Chiarenzelli

Retired Westport police chief    

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Don’t overturn the P&Z’s decision

To the RTM: Uphold the Hamlet/Text Amendment #819!

I have lived in Saugatuck since ’86. My little marina is on the Saugatuck. I am raising my three girls in Saugatuck. I am NOT an investor in this project, but I have my life’s work here in Saugatuck proper and have watched every meeting to learn what this project proposes and what can be built. I urge you before you take a position on this you need to be informed.

The RTM should absolutely support Text Amendment #819.

Why? Starting in two months when Westport’s moratorium from state statute 8-30g expires, the state can allow any developer to build a mammoth housing project in this location. That’s the law, NOT MY OPINION. If you feel the state mandate of 8-30g is vague, go ask the bulldozer operator on Hiawatha or the folks on Lincoln, or better yet, park in Fort Apache and TRY to cross the street to walk the marshland at the Wilton/Kings Highway site where the court just overturned the P&Z to allow another huge project. The test bores (green pipes) are in the woods to clear up the “vagueness.” Keep in mind that the Hamlet site is a big lot, flat with recently upgraded sewer capacity. It’s a dream site for 8-30g.

There isn’t “another option” or “a third way.” This is privately owned land by longtime Westport families. They are proposing a mixed-use site with substantial internal parking, balancing hours of need with ample outside parking, an acre and a half-acre of open public space, a boardwalk on the river and the kicker … gave design control to the P&Z. An 8-30g will not have ANY of that!

My marina would probably do a lot better if they were proposing 350 residential units instead of 35, but the lesser density is better for the town as is their design that calls for mixed-use and substantial public space. I’m putting the interest of the town ahead of my personal interest. I can’t say the same for these petitioners creating fake co-op city models from their $10M homes. You can look up where they live and their offices. 

If it’s 8-30g, it’ll be a huge box with no parking like the model depicted. If you are concerned about railroad parking, be concerned about that!

Last week, these folks sent around an email claiming that the commuter parking was being “confiscated.” The police chief debunked that myth at the RTM committee meeting. Then they claimed the parking leases were about to expire and the chief pointed out that actually the leases run until 2031. Now they’ve come up with this nonsense that the state will pull the leases. That’s bullsh*t. The state would not object to a unique mixed-use development where right now we have boat storage and a dry cleaners. It’s always okay for people to have different opinions, but it’s not okay to stir up fear from conjecture or worse … tell outright lies. 

There’s no one lining up to purchase this land to develop it at a major loss, so it’s nonsense to point to the TOD study as some viable alternative. If these petitioners wanted to develop the land, they should have purchased it and then they could build what they want, and take that loss. They can make ROAN an offer right now. They won’t. 

For too long, Saugatuck has been viewed as just a parking lot. Finally, there’s a chance to revitalize it. finding a balance with changing transit needs and mixed uses. The P&Z did a great job here putting the town first and they deserve the full support of the community and RTM to make this a huge success for all to enjoy.   

Robbie Guimond

Westport