Friday, March 08, 2013
Search for Consultant: P&Z Chair Wants RFP Pulled
By James Lomuscio
The chair of Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the chair of the Downtown 2020 Committee have some fence mending to do.
Catherine Walsh and Lou Gagliano: not seeing eye to eye. Phylllis Groner (l) and Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The year-old Downtown 2020 Committee, just reappointed by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, last month issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) to hire a consultant to undertake a downtown study.
But Thursday night, Catherine Walsh, chair of the P&Z Commission, said her body did not have a chance to give its input on the RFP before it was issued and wants it withdrawn. She repeated her withdrawal call in an interview today.
“I want them to be in the loop with us,” Walsh said. “What they’re (Downtown 2020) doing is great, and they have a lot of momentum. But we’re sitting here as the elected P&Z and not knowing what they’re doing.”
However, Lou Gagliano, chairman of Downtown 2020, said that a draft of the RFP was circulated to town administrative officials, including Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley for input, and that while he heard back from others, there was no response from the Planning and Zoning Department.
Still, Walsh said “an RFP is premature.”
“Their mandate is only the downtown, and our mandate is the whole town,” she said.
The Downtown 2020 Committee’s charge calls for it to plan for streetscape, parking, traffic, public restrooms and making better use of the river views downtown in the midst of upcoming development.
The committee said it is vital to have a coordinated plan with development projects on the horizon that include Bedford Square, replacing the Westport Weston Family Y, a movie theater on Main Street, redevelopment of National Hall, rebuilding the Westport Public Library and the Levitt Pavilion, possibly redevelopment of Save the Children, and possibly a move by the Westport Arts Center to Jesup Green.
The RFP was posted on the town’s website Feb, 27, and it states the submission deadline is March 14, and the proposal will be awarded by March 31. The selected firm will be charged with developing a Master Plan for Development and Implementation (MPDI) for the area.
“I think they need to see what we’re doing before they come up with their own plan,” said Walsh, noting that the P&Z has its own traffic and parking subcommittees, as well as a river views subcommittee.
She said added that Downtown 2020 members are scheduled to be at the P&Z’s April 4 meeting.
Walsh said that she also wants Downtown 2020 Committee members to attend P&Z subcommittee meetings.
Gagliano stressed that he did not watch Thursday’s meeting nor hear Walsh’s statement, but when others told him, “I was a little surprised these comments were made in a public meeting.”
“Prior to the issuance of the RFP, a draft was circulated to a number of people in the town administration, including Larry Bradley and (Assistant Town Attorney) Gail Kelly and (First Selectman) Gordon Joseloff,” Gagliano said.
“The reason it circulated was to get back comments, and Larry Bradley never got back to us.”
Gagliano noted that the RFP was modeled after one the P&Z issued in 2007 to hire a consultant to establish the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.
“If the P&Z feels that we encroached on their mandate as an elected body, we are sorry they feel that way,” Gagliano said. “That is not our intention, and we will continue working with the town during this process.”
He pointed out that Downtown 2020 Committee member Dan Kail sat in on a P&Z subcommittee meeting on Monday.
“We want to work with the P&Z,” Gagliano said.
Walsh agreed, and said that even if the RFP is not withdrawn, she welcomes working with the committee.
“They generate a lot of goodwill and thought, and this was just a reminder that we are the elected officials,” she said of her comments, which were not shared by all on the commission. “I want them to work with us.”
Comments: Comment Policy
If there is a winner to the bid, the 2020 then has to go before the Board of Finance to foot the bill for this study. The cost range is $175K - $250K.
Not sure how far this will go if the P&Z is not supportive. Not sure how far this will go regardless. Will be interesting to watch.
What is wrong with our town? We have a P&Z board, yet we form another committee to look a planning and they decide to spend money to do a study and not involve P&Z? Really?
We just saw this with the school safety study. They tried without getting our police involved.
Is this a leadership issue in our town? Or we just want to spend money? Or we don’t care who else can help with the process? Or we don’t want to involve that are involved?
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Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport