Saugatuck Draft Proposals

At the September Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design meeting, the town's consultants presented a number of near- to long-term ideas for Saugatuck, including parking changes (including a one-story parking deck), traffic flow changes, and some potential developments both public and private (including between 150-200 new housing units built over ten years.) The proposal can be found here.

The committee will hold a meeting this Wednesday (10/4) at 8am at Town Hall to discuss these proposals. If you have any comments you'd like to share and can't make the meeting, please feel free to email info@savesaugatuck.com.

You can also read a text summary of the near term recommendations from the slide presentation here:


Near-Term Recommendations (1 to 3 years)

Slide 19 – Franklin Street Angled Parking. Execution of this improvement is imminent and the proposal predates this study.

Slide 20 – West Gateway/Strofolino Park. This shows the reconfiguration of the triangularly shaped Strofolino Park in to a more user-friendly open space, with sidewalks and landmark elements. Charles Street, on the north side of the park, is reconfigured to provide additional property for commercial development up against I-95 as well as to concentrate the open space/gateway into a more defined place (see slide 25.)

Slide 21 – Public Realm improvements on Railroad Place, Franklin Street, Charles Street, and Riverside. Each Street is treated differently, with the overall goal of clarifying and defining the public realm: Franklin Street: Currently one way northbound, would be converted to bidirectional, with curbs and sidewalks. Bi-directional conversion could occur in future phases.

Charles Street: Placement of curbs and sidewalks, as well as parallel parking spaces and street
trees.

Riverside Avenue: Public/business supportive parking is reconfigured and concentrated on
Riverside, with angle parking replacing both public and private parking areas on the east side.
A round-a-bout ends Riverside at Railroad Place, providing a more formal drop-off and pick
up location.

Railroad Place: The sidewalk adjacent to the shops and restaurants on the north side of the
street is expanded from 4 feet to 8 feet. Parallel parking is maintained, but total space count
reduced along this street as it is more than replaced elsewhere around the block.

Slide 22 – This portion of Public Realm improvements includes the northern portion of Riverside
Avenue and what had been referred to as the North Gateway. In place of what was once envisioned as a potential roundabout, Northern Gateway improvements now include defined crosswalks and landscape improvements at the intersection of Saugatuck, Treadwell and Riverside. Riverside Avenue itself would be improved through the placement of curb bump outs that define parallel parking spaces on the west side, and the addition of a planted verge and street trees on the east side. Both of these improvements will help define the sidewalks along this busy thoroughfare and make them more comfortable to utilize.


Slide 23- As with the northern portion of Riverside, the area to the south of the Cribrari Bridge is also shown with landscape and sidewalk improvements. Here, however, the scheme is reversed, with parallel spaces on the east side and a planted verge on the west. Additionally, what has been referred to as the East Gateway is shown here, with a small pocket park to the south of the Parker House on public land as well as enhanced crosswalks at the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside.

Near-Term Private Realm

Slides 24-25 – In conjunction with the improvements to the Western Gateway and Strofolino Park, as well as the reconfiguration of this portion of Charles Street, a larger parcel is created to allow the construction of a small market building, perhaps focused on take-out prepared foods for commuters.

At 5,000 square feet, this use is much smaller than typical convenience retail so the target ownership group would need to be a smaller entrepreneur or locally-based business person. Parking is tucked behind the building, with the front facing Charles Street and an outdoor eating area facing Strofolino Park.


Slides 26 & 27 – Already the focus of an unofficial redevelopment proposal, this block directly adjacent to the train station is predominantly (though not completely) assembled into a single ownership entity. Excluding the corner of Charles and Franklin Streets, the proposal here shows the preservation of all structures along Railroad Place, and the construction of three liner buildings surrounding a two level parking structure completely hidden from view and privately owned. The lower level would provide parking for the private development program, with the upper level accessible to the public/business customers. The parking deck is covered by an amenity deck for the residences proposed. In total, this proposal shows between 45 and 60 residential units and approximately 10,000 square feet of street facing retail.


Slides 28 & 29 - The Private Realm here is focused on the former Button Factory building and the
former Post Office, with the marine-oriented businesses left as is. The former Button Factory building would be renovated for residential use, while the Post Office building would be redeveloped into mixed use, with below building parking accessed from the east side, where the floodplain comes into play. Overall this private sector intervention would total 28 to 32 residential units, and approximately 2,000 square feet of retail.

Slides 30 & 31 – The Parker House site is the focus of an existing land development application, with our recommendation showing a possible reconfiguration of the parking area and waterfront in conjunction with that redevelopment and the proposed Public Realm Improvements. Specifically, we are proposing public access to the water’s edge in an effort to extend a pedestrian-friendly waterfront trail from the yacht club to the East Gateway Pocket Park.

Slides 32 & 33 – The side yard and rear yard of the Fire House should become a waterfront trail and public access point to the Saugatuck River with the potential for a small plaza and sitting garden for use by the public as well as firefighters at the fire station.


Slide 34 – This is a summary slide showing all of the TOD Study area and the proposed Near-term
intervention.

TOD Study Update

The Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Master Plan committee is a state-funded initiative to suggest improvements to the public realm of Saugatuck.  In the last Saugatuck TOD Committee meeting, it became apparent that this study may lead to significant changes to Saugatuck, and it is essential that we remain vocal to ensure Saugatuck remains livable for current and future residents. Such proposals range from reasonable improvements to sidewalks and pedestrian access to much more worrisome ideas that could lead to increased traffic, diminished pedestrian access, and denser development more akin to what you'd see at Fairfield metro or South Norwalk than is appropriate for Saugatuck.

David Sarno, who lives on Riverside, attended the last meeting and wrote up some notes on his impressions. You can see them below or posted here on the Saugatuck Updates blog, where you can also find the latest powerpoint presentation from the consultants on this project and the results of their community survey. 

It's very important that Saugatuck residents and those with an interest in the neighborhood remain engaged with this process. If you can make it to the meeting on the 15th, please let me know. The typical meeting room is small and if we have enough people the town will host it in a bigger venue. It is likely that this is the meeting where public/private partnerships for denser development will be discussed. 

From David:

Below is a summary of what I observed following the last TOD committee meeting held last month.

As you’ll read, there are a number of controversial recommendations from the Barton Partners consulting group hired to perform the study.  The most controversial include introducing a parking garage at the train station, placing a roundabout on the intersection of Riverside, Saugatuck, and Treadwell avenues and the complete closure of Charles Street to vehicular traffic.  Based on what I observed, it appears the committee isn’t properly directing Barton Partners and I am left with serious concerns that the money the State provided isn’t being used wisely or that the outcome will bring any meaningful improvements. 

I am urging you to get engaged.  There are two ways you can get involved to see for yourself:

  1. There is Saugatuck TOD Master Plan committee meeting on August 15th at 8:30am and our presence at these meetings is important.  You will have an opportunity to ask questions and share your opinions.  
  2. If you cannot attend the above meeting, get involved by reaching out to committee members via email or phone and let them know you are concerned, have questions, or would like a better opportunity to be engaged by requesting additional community forums be established during evening or weekend hours, when it is more convenient for people to attend.  You’ll find a list of committee members below.

Thank you,

David Sarno

Observations from the July 18th Meeting

On July 18th, the Saugatuck TOD Master Plan Steering Committee met at town hall.  The Barton Partners consulting group presented various suggested improvements for the public realm, but left the public/private partnership related proposals to be discussed at a future meeting.  Fifteen suggested improvements were reviewed, with the first seven of the fifteen receiving the majority of the time available for review and discussion.  To see all fifteen suggested improvements, click here

Of the seven proposals that the committee focused on:

Three were quite controversial and one seemed outright foolish:

  • Close Charles Street in the section that provides easier access to 95 Southbound and makes it easier for those on Saugatuck to turn toward the train station.  Essentially, take away a congestion-reducing road and intentionally increase congestion in the hopes of discouraging use of Saugatuck as a cut through.
  • Introduce a roundabout at the intersection of Riverside, Saugatuck, and Treadwell despite the fact that there once was a round about, and it was removed and replaced with traffic lights.  Such a roundabout will certainly make that corner more dangerous for pedestrians, as we currently have lights at that corner to stop all traffic to enable pedestrians to cross safely.  To do this would most likely require using eminent domain and taking land from land owners.
  • Introducing a parking garage structure on Ferry Lane lot three and making Ferry lane one-way only.  Not only would this slow parking and exiting the train station, but it would create an eye sore.
  • The silliest proposal was to provide waterfront access on Ferry Lane at the underpass - it is probably the least desirable section of waterfront and would require that Ferry Lane be turned into a one-way street (which mentioned above would slow station traffic significantly).

Not everything proposed was controversial or silly.  There were a few proposals that spoke to various configurations of Riverside Avenue that would widen streets, improve landscaping, and benefit bikers, drivers, and patrons (depending on the selected configuration).  Honestly, these all seem like fairly obvious recommendations that wouldn’t require a consultancy to propose.  Furthermore, there was a good suggestion to improve traffic flow to better enable drop-off at the train station.  This was perhaps the only novel recommendation of the lot.

At the end of the meeting, Barton Partners asked the committee if they had the priorities in the correct order.  Feedback was mixed.  One committee member said he couldn’t weigh in on the priorities until he saw the entire proposal in totality (which would include the public/private partnership recommendations).  Others felt that the grouping of the parking lot configurations should be consolidated and introduced as a single proposal.  In the end, it seemed that no conclusions were made, no direction administered, and that these meetings will continue on their current path - Barton Partners throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks and hoping to deliver something of value.  It's up to the community to help provide more direction here--or a the very least to make clear the ideas the community favors and those it does not so that we don't wind up with proposals that are either bad for everyone or bad for everyone except those seeking to profit from denser development of the area. 

Saugatuck TOD Master Plan Committee Members:

  • Co-chair Mary Young, Director of Planning & Zoning
  • Co-chair Craig Schiavone, town planning experience
  • Eileen Berenyi, town planning experience, Office in Saugatuck
  • Andy Boas, Investment Manager, Office in Saugatuck
  • Al DiGuido, Saugatuck merchant
  • Marty Fox, Westport Transit Director
  • Ed Gerber, representing the Westport Historical Society
  • Ward French, Chair, Architectural Review Board, Saugatuck resident
  • Peter Gold, Chair, RTM Transit Committee
  • Robert “Buck” Iannacone, 5th Generation Saugatuck resident
  • Samuel Levenson, Financial Communications Consultant, Saugatuck Area Resident
  • Mike Mahoney, Commuter Rail Council Member, commuter
  • Matthew Mandell, Executive Director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce
  • Cathy Walsh, Chair, Planning & Zoning Commission
  • Ian Warburg, Preservationist

Contact information for the committee can be found here.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Wouldn't this be less of an impact than other retail options?

The zoning amendment allows Tesla three uses: service, sales, and destination charging. All three of those uses will primarily be attracting new cars to our roads—either current and future Tesla owners from throughout lower Connecticut or long-distance travelers heading up and down I-95. While it's likely true that a busy grocery store at the 20 Saugatuck Avenue site would mean more cars in and out of that particular lot, those would primarily be local trips—in other words, cars already on our roads. And no one takes their groceries out for a test drive. Having more services in the neighborhood could in fact reduce traffic by allowing Saugatuck residents to walk to a store or pharmacy instead of having to drive to the Post Road.

 

What does a Tesla dealer look like?

They look like a car dealerships, not the fancy storefront galleries you see in malls or on Greenwich Avenue. You can look up their other locations on the Tesla Motors website. They mostly neighbor other car dealerships and box stores on busy commercial strips. There doesn’t appear to be a single example of another location similar to this Saugatuck proposal. (We’d invite Tesla to offer such an example if there is one.)

 

Doesn’t Tesla sell less than 100,000 cars a year?

Make no mistake, this will very quickly become a very busy location. The number of Teslas in CT will at least double this year into next as the more affordable Model 3 becomes available. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk says the company will be selling around one million cars in the U.S. within three years. Mr. Barr’s proposed zoning language does nothing to protect Saugatuck from Tesla doing whatever it takes to meet those targets—from, for example, filling that lot with Model 3s that are constantly looping around the neighborhood, or from delivering and selling hundreds of cars from Saugatuck Avenue every year. 

 

If Tesla is so bad, what would the neighbors want at this location instead?

Anything allowed by the current zoning. When most of use bought our houses, we read the zoning regulations closely and determined that we’d be willing to live with the approved uses outlined in RORD #2, even though we ultimately wouldn’t get to choose the exact tenant. We welcome the landlord to find tenants consistent with the current regulations. Most of those uses—offices, grocery stores, restaurants, retail—would all be better and more useful for the immediate neighborhood than a Tesla dealership, even though they will all mean more noise and traffic than the currently vacant lot.

Westport DOC Assessment

The town's Department of Conversation just filed its assessment of the environmental risks associated with the two sites proposed by Tesla—one on the Saugatuck, the other on a stream that flows directly into it. 

The stream that runs under the 20 Saugatuck Ave site on the side of the building where the shop doors and wash bays would be located. This stream empties into the Saugatuck River next to the rowing club.

The stream that runs under the 20 Saugatuck Ave site on the side of the building where the shop doors and wash bays would be located. This stream empties into the Saugatuck River next to the rowing club.

Save Westport Now Opposes Zoning Change

Saugatuck Neighbors is honored to have the support of Save Westport Now in opposing Text Amendment #733; they just shared this letter they're planning to read into the record at Thursday night's hearing.

 

Dear Westport Residents,

 

At Thursday night’s P&Z hearing, Save Westport Now intends to oppose the adoption of a new text amendment that would allow Tesla to sell and service electric vehicles in an “RORD” zone in Saugatuck, a use that is currently prohibited under our existing zoning regulations. We would like to share our reasoning with you.

Restricted Office-Retail Districts (RORD) zones are designed to provide transitional areas between commercial and residential zones. They serve to ensure and promote uses that benefit and are compatible with residential neighborhoods, and they prevent the degradation to the quality of life for those who live in and around them. Those zones are vital and must be protected.  

The regulations are clear and specific regarding both permitted and prohibited uses in RORD zones. The uses that ARE permitted, including grocery stores, delis, restaurants, and a wide spectrum of other uses, reinforce the philosophy of a transitional zone: they are commercial uses that elegantly blend local residential living with relevant and appropriate commercial activities. They are uses that are compatible with walkability and neighborhoods. They are uses that attract and provide services to local residents. The uses that are not permitted, including car dealerships and service stations, are not consistent with that philosophy. For that reason, they are expressly prohibited in these important transitional zones.   

And we note that this prohibition is not premised on the fact that cars have historically been powered by fossil fuels. There are myriad other reasons to prohibit automobile service stations and dealerships in these transitional zones, including avoiding noise, traffic, and test drives. In other words, to claim an exception based on the type of fuel proceeds from the false premise that the only thing that matters is the type of fuel. The reality is that motor vehicle service stations and dealerships have no place in these zones—regardless of fuel type.

Save Westport Now is not opposed to the sale or servicing of electric vehicles in town, nor are we making a statement against the applicant. To the contrary, we support sustainable technologies and look forward to welcoming the commercial purveyors of those products in appropriate locations. But, based on the intent and language of the RORD regulations, we join the chorus of opposition to this Text Amendment.

We believe that the Planning & Zoning Commission is duty-bound to vote to deny this text amendment to ensure the integrity of the RORD, protect neighbors from commercial encroachment, and preserve the quality of life for surrounding residents.  

Respectfully, 

 

Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg, Co-Chairs

 

 

Redevelopment of Saugatuck

The Town of Westport has established a committee and hired consultants to identify opportunities to improve Saugatuck to improve the quality of life for Westporters.  To date, some of the consultants' findings could lead to dramatic changes to Saugatuck, including high density housing (300-600 units) and expanded parking (which would mean more traffic, as parking spots are like the Field of Dreams—if you build them, the cars will come). It's critical that the neighborhood speak out and insistent that historical value of Saugatuck be preserved. 

For more information on the plan - visit http://gatewayforwestport.com/

There is an important meeting tonight, June 12th, 6:30pm at Town Hall. - Make sure you attend to either get informed or voice your concerns!

Saugatuck Neighbors Meetup!

If you'd like to learn more about the Tesla zoning amendment or Saugatuck Neighbors, please join us Sunday evening at 6pm at the home of David and Amanda Sarno, 462 Riverside Ave. The idea is just to meet neighbors, get coordinated for Thursday's hearing, and discuss some of the longer-term changes potentially coming to the neighborhood as a result of the Transit Oriented Design study. If you think you can make it, please email info@savesaugatuck.org so that we can get a headcount.  

Tesla Bill Update

Tesla's bid to sell direct in Connecticut was not called for a vote before the close of the legislative session yesterday, though Tesla is continuing to lobby Governor Malloy to include a license to open dealerships in the budget. Regardless of whether Tesla succeeds or not this year, Tesla's proposed zoning language is currently written in such a way as to allow a dealership in Saugatuck at whatever future date an approval happens. Tesla has brought legislation to Hartford for three consecutive years and has pledged to continue doing so until their bill passes; over the ten-year term of a lease in Saugatuck, it's virtually certain that Tesla will win the right to sell direct. It's for that reason that we're opposed to any zoning language allowing a dealership, whether now or in the future.