Editor’s note: The following opinion essay written by Bob Jacobs, a former member of the Downtown Master Plan Steering Committee, was submitted for publication by the Westport Journal.

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The most recent plan for parking on Jesup being put forth for P&Z approval demonstrates a dismaying lack of responsible governance and collective lack of imagination. The 2015 Master Plan for Downtown Westport (DMP) plan was approved by the P&Z and the town upon its completion.

From the Westport town website: “The Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee shall serve as the appointed committee responsible for initiating and carrying out the implementation of the Downtown Master Plan.”

The relevant page related to Jesup and Baldwin from the DMP clearly shows a “reinvention of Jesup Green,” and specifically removal of parking and an increase in family-friendly amenities, including a playground and a place to launch small boats. It also shows “Evaluate the need for Structured Parking at the Baldwin/Elm Lots:”

Instead, we have a proposal to expand parking on Jesup put forth by the town at the last minute on March 22 before the P&Z meeting March 25 that shows parking to remain on Jesup and expand on Jesup Road:

This is contrary to its mandate to implement the DMP. It is also disingenuous and misleading for the town to have prepared a plan for Jesup that ONLY shows parking at the top and no waterfront parking:

Jesup is our town commons and its integrity should be protected at all costs. It has the potential to become a lively destination for Westporters to come together. In all of the discussions driving the DMP, the mantra was to “enhance our sense of community.” 

We should be focusing on amenities that energize use of the green rather than adding parking which adds no energy for use of the green. When the Police Station is relocated, it is enticing to imagine a lively community center on the top edge of the green to energize the green with events and activities. There would space for additional parking.

Many may feel we may be too far down the road to reconsider a change of course on Jesup and parking. But no shovels have been put in the ground and Parker Harding can go ahead while we explore the cost of another deck on Baldwin. It is simple planning logic to put concrete on concrete rather than concrete on green.

With the March 22 last-minute unveiling of the Jesup plan with waterfront parking, I feel that the town has been snookered by an eleventh-hour bait and switch.

In my practice as an architect, I would advise my clients that if it took additional cost, time and effort to achieve their goal, it was worth it. Otherwise they would live with regret. I hope the town and the DPIC has the courage, imagination, and common sense to implement the DMP as proposed for Jesup and embrace the obvious solution on Baldwin. To do otherwise is to miss an important opportunity for the town and, like in Gorham Island, live with regret.

Note: In checking a refresh of the DPIC website they have added and modified the March 22 plan to show “convert parking to green space.” A step in the right direction, but still a departure from the DMP.

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The full Downtown Master Plan is attached here: