The Coalition for Westport supports The Hamlet at Saugatuck

Oct 24, 2022

The Coalition for Westport enthusiastically supports The Hamlet at Saugatuck proposal which presents a rare opportunity to improve the function and appearance of a key “gateway” to our community. Westport has the demand for, and the ability to sustain, two significant commercial hubs: Downtown and Saugatuck.

Thoughtful, even bold, development of both areas should be viewed favorably by those who care about Westport, its economic future and its quality of life. And even as we consider ways of linking disparate areas of downtown, we are presented with an opportunity to consider ways to link a revitalized Saugatuck to downtown by upgrading the river crossing, creating and encouraging use of bike lanes, and improvements to public transportation.

At present, much of the Saugatuck area is unattractive with aging buildings in need of repair. This proposal promises to address much of that problem by upgrading building facades, re-skinning the Saugatuck office building, and creating new, attractive buildings on Charles Street, all in an architectural style compatible with the area and its history.

We have studied the proposed text and map amendments in light of Westport’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), and Transit Oriented District (TOD), (even though the latter has not been adopted.)

In our view The Hamlet brings to Saugatuck residents many benefits which are long overdue, including a significantly improved appearance, public access and active leisure opportunities at the riverfront, improved pedestrian circulation, an increased variety of uses, avoidance of unsightly on-grade parking, and amenities for residents.

Developing Saugatuck is not a new idea. Prior to adoption of the 2017 POCD, 74 percent of those responding to a survey agreed that “We should encourage the revitalization of Saugatuck Center,” a sentiment consistent with CT General Statutes (Section 8-23) which mandates that a POCD incorporate “statewide growth management principles” including “a concentration of development around transportation nodes..”

The Hamlet proposal furthers these objectives and is consistent with the current Westport POCD which recommends:

  • Enhancing and strengthening Saugatuck Center.
  • Maintaining and enhancing the sense of place and economic strength of downtown Westport and Saugatuck Center.
  • Guiding economic development that enhances community character, minimizes potential negative impacts and adds to the Grand List.
  • Providing below grade parking to reduce parking as the primary land use.
  • Requiring architecture consistent with the surrounding area protecting the historical character of Saugatuck.
  • Attracting “appropriate business and economic development enhancing the overall character of the community.”

In sum, the proposal will enhance the public experience by emphasizing waterfront access, additional green space and street-scape improvements; allow and encourage improved public transit options, bike lanes and a new safe and efficient river crossing; promote a mix of new uses and services to visitors, commuters and area residents some of which, (a grocery, pharmacy, and hardware store), are conspicuously absent, and provide parking strategies to support both commuters and local businesses while reducing street side and ground level parking.

The applicant has demonstrated a sensitivity to concerns about height, density, views and traffic and appears to have a willingness to compromise. In our view it is likely, even probable that in the public dialogue about land use and development such adjustments in the proposal should be sufficient to address opposition based on understandable citizen concerns. As further evidence of the applicant’s willingness to address the commission’s objectives, in its revised text amendment proposal the number of affordable units has been increased to 25 percent rather than the required 20 percent. As the review process continues, it is our intention to submit additional comments as warranted.

The undersigned members of the Coalition urge you to give this proposal favorable consideration.

For further information:

Larry Weisman, chair, Policy Committee, lpweisman@gmail.com

Ross Burkhardt

Ken Bernhard

Ron Corwin

Jo Ann Davidson

Melisa Diamond

Michael Dinshaw

Roger Leifer

Ellie Lowenstein

Mike Nayor

Denise Torve

Joe Strickland


Town of Westport Affordable Housing Plan – 8-30J

Commentry from the Coalition for Westport on the Town of Westports draft Affordable Housing Plan.

June 12, 2022

To: The Affordable Housing Subcommittee and the Planning& Zoning Commission

From: The Coalition for Westport

The Coalition welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft Affordable Housing Plan prepared by the subcommittee which, in our opinion, has done an admirable job of soliciting and responding to public comment and focusing on the task at hand.

The State has made it abundantly clear that affordable housing is a priority and that lack of sufficient affordable housing is a threat to local land use control, but even without a state mandate, affordable housing should be a primary goal of the Westport community. In our view there can never be too many housing choices or opportunities to welcome new arrivals.

Having said that, we offer the following thoughts and suggestions:

* We think the plan should insist that affordable housing be fairly and widely distributed throughout town, as individual units or in small clusters, rather than be aggregated and set apart in large developments which may be seen as exclusionary.

* While all housing built in Westport should be designed and constructed in a sustainable manner, it would not hurt to suggest that the same should be true of affordable housing.

* We would like the plan to emphasize adaptive reuse of existing structures for affordable housing and to welcome mixed use projects with first floor retail or offices and housing on upper floors. It is our perception that there is a great deal of vacant space which could be utilized to meet affordable housing goals.

* We enthusiastically support the housing trust fund concept.

* The draft plan uses the term « family ». Since people may differ over what constitutes a family, we would suggest substituting the word « household » to avoid confusion.

We view this as an important document – perhaps equal in importance to the POCD -and while it is by its very nature conceptual rather than detailed, it should set a high bar to be implemented by regulation.

We appreciate the work that the Committee has done thus far, and we look forward to continuing the dialog and to adoption of a meaningful plan.


The Coalition for Westport