Wednesday, March 08, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
State officials today sparred for the second day in a row over whether to give communities more time to adopt their local budgets — a fight that left the extension issue in limbo following a 90-minute Senate debate.
Democratic leaders announced early in the afternoon they expected to adopt a bill in the Senate that would suspend municipal budget adoption deadlines set in local charter or ordinance until June 30.
The 36-member Senate is divided between Democrats and Republicans, but Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat, can cast a 37th and tie breaking vote. In addition, Republican Sen. Tony Guglielmo of Stafford was absent from today’s Senate session.
But after a 90-minute debate, Democrats tabled their bill and accused Republican senators of waging a filibuster.
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Bill Taibe (r) and partner Massimo Tullio today opened their new restaurant, Jesup Hall, in Westport’s Old Town Hall, 90 Post Road East. Taibe, who brought Le Farm, The Whelk, and Kawa Ni to Westport, said, “Jesup Hall is a mix of Westport’s history. It pays homage to Morris Jesup who had a strong hand in Westport and it’s the former Town Hall site.” He said the restaurant is similar to LeFarm, not just in the type of cuisine it serves, “but the lifestyle it emits.” Taibe added: “We’re going to take our time to let the menu evolve. Our customers will make it clear what they like.” He said the menu now ranges from burgers — with all meat coming from Fleisher’s Craft Butchery — to appetizers like foie gras roti and entries like slow roasted duck breast and grass fed beef rib steak.” Tullio describes the wine list as “new world wine with an old world feel — it’s fuller in body. We offer great wines from vineyards in Ontario, Canada and Washington state.” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The Radio Shack store at 877 Post Road East was busy today as deep discounts attracted customers amid reports parent company General Wireless will file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -— the second in two years. A worker at the store could not confirm rumors of its closing. “I know the company filed for bankruptcy, but we don’t know if this store will close,” he said. “All sales are final. No returns will be accepted so it could well be that the store may close.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The future of retail, restaurants, and shopping for the area were the main topics of conversation today at a “Fairfield Real Estate Outlook” seminar sponsored by the law firm of Halloran & Sage and hosted by the Westport-Weston and Greater Norwalk Chambers of Commerce.
“Experiences are what people want,” real estate broker Julie Vanderblue of the Higgins Group told the meeting at the Inn at Longshore.
“If it’s just another mall, it won’t cut it. It needs to be exciting and if done right they will come, especially if walkable.” She was responding a question about downtowns, malls and the future of retail asked by the moderator of the session, attorney Eric Bernheim.
Joining Vanderblue at the dais for the two-hour event attended by about 110 business people were Andy Pforzheimer, co-founder of Barteca, owners of Norwalk’s Barcelona and Westport’s Bartaco, developer David Waldman, and John Hannigan, co-founder of Choyce Peterson, a commercial real estate brokerage firm.
Saturday, March 04, 2017
Petco opened today at 1850-70 Post Road East, the former location of Pet Supplies Plus, which closed last July after 20 years. As part of the first day’s festivities, Greenwich-based Adpopt-a-Dog and Westport’s TAILS were on hand with dogs and cats up for adoption. Westport Animal Control Officer Gina Gambino and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, joined in with staff to celebrate the opening. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Friday, March 03, 2017
By Tom Condonwww.ctmirror.org
In one of his recent meetings with residents of Hartford’s suburbs, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin observed, as many have before, that if Connecticut were created today, it almost assuredly would not be with 169 cities and towns.
His point was that the state’s ancient and fractionalized political organization, combined with its heavy reliance on property taxes, stacks the deck against hard-pressed Hartford, which has high needs and less taxable property than some of its suburbs.
He asserted that the region’s fate is tied to the health of the core city, and asked for support at the Capitol and for more cooperative sharing of services or resources among towns, sometimes known as “regionalism.”
This notion has never been terribly popular in a state where a tradition of local authority can be traced back to its Puritan settlers. But while autonomous municipal government — home rule — is the norm and likely to remain so, regional cooperation has been inching ahead, especially in the past decade. Towns are sharing such services as building inspection, permitting, property revaluation, solid waste management and others.
Gallery: A look inside Bedford Square’s Anthropologie and Amis Trattoria, which will open March 31. The current Anthropologie at 1365 Post Road East will close March 11, according to Lauren Minor, Anthropologie general manager. Anthropologie and Amis Trattoria are owned by Urban Outfitters. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Westport Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern said tonight that a “modest” tax increase is likely despite the fiscally responsible proposed town and school budgets.
“I do think we will have a modest tax increase in the fall,” he said after hearing details of the budgets tonight.
The reason? Stern only had to point to Hartford, and harsh words flowed.
“Hartford should quit asking us to fill the gap for their own ineptitude,” Stern said about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan for towns to pay one-third of teacher pensions.
Having won a $750,000 one-time upfront payment, the Westport Board of Finance tonight gave its approval to a land swap with developer David Waldman on Elm Street.
Selectman Avi Kaner outlined the deal to the board, calling it a “triple win” for the town.
In addition to the one-time payment, the town will receive approximately $38,000 in annual taxes and gain nine parking spaces, he said.
More importantly, Kaner said, the town will benefit by the beautification of Elm Street as part of its overall downtown renewal.
Ray Dalio, the Greenwich billionaire founder of Westport-based Bridgewater Associates, is stepping down as interim co-chief executive officer by April, according to a post on his LinkedIn.
Ray Dalio: changes effective April 15. Forbes.com photo
Dalio, 67, will remain the hedge fund’s co-chief investment officer.
David McCormick will move into the co-CEO role with Eileen Murray, replacing Dalio and Jon Rubinstein, who will be leaving the firm, according to the post.
“I’m excited about this change and expect to remain a professional investor at Bridgewater until I die or until those running Bridgewater don’t want me anymore,” Dalio said in the post.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Westport’s Vespa Restaurant, 2A Post Road West in the National Hall Building, has not been open for business since mid-February, and there is no sign on the door. Its voicemail message says reservations are still being accepted, but calls to the number and building owner Greenfield Partners were not returned. The 120-seat Italian casual dining restaurant opened two years ago in the long vacant ground floor space. After the building converted to a 15-room luxury hotel in 1993, there were several restaurants on the ground floor, but they gave way to office space in 2005 before Vespa opened. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
After months of work, furniture retailer Design Within Reach opened its doors today at Westport’s 154 Post Road East. Area Manager Kristine Langevin (l) conferred in one area of the 9,000-square foot space on two floors with Rob Goughary, Westport proprietor. An opening party is planned for Thursday, April 13. The space, occupied since the 1930s by the U.S. Post Office, most recently housed the Post 154 Restaurant, which opened in August 2013 and closed in January 2016. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Scenes from the new Design Within Reach store, which opened today at 154 Post Road East in the former longtime home of the U.S. Post Office. One of the store officials said as recently as Saturday someone entered the store with arms full of mail, asking what happened to the post office. The store includes a large patio area, which will open in the warm weather to display patio furniture. Design Within Reach, which formerly had a store on Elm Street, replaced the Post 154 Restaurant, which closed in January 2016. WestportNow.com photos
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
In a Westport talk, Gary Tiger of Brookfield-based Southridge Technology today warned about cybersecurity threats to laptops and desktops. He told the weekly meeting of the Westport Rotary Club that 90 percent of passwords can be broken into in seven seconds. He urged attendees to create 8-to-10 character passwords that include at least one capital letter, numbers and at least one symbol. “Such complex passwords can take 20 years, rather than seven seconds, to decipher,” he said. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Monday, February 20, 2017
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today announced that he has submitted a legislative proposal to the Connecticut General Assembly that will update an antiquated state law that currently forces the owners of certain retail stores to sell their products at artificial prices set by liquor wholesalers, resulting in unnecessarily high prices for consumers.
Connecticut is the only state in the country that has a law mandating that the retailers of alcoholic beverages sell their products at a minimum price above wholesale cost determined by the wholesaler industry, Malloy said in an announcement.
This means that – unlike everywhere else in the nation – these retailers cannot set the prices of the products that they put on the shelves in their own stores. he said.
As a result of this law, which the state adopted in 1981, the artificially determined prices typically end up being higher than the prices that these products sell for in nearly every other state in the country, forcing Connecticut residents to either pay more money or travel to a bordering state where the identical products are sold at a lower price.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Orangetheory Fitness opens at 645 Post Road East sometime before May, according to the manager of its Norwalk studio. The Florida-based franchise business has more than 500 locations nationwide. Wilton residents Mark and Fred Molina are the franchise owners of locations in Fairfield, which opened in 2014, Norwalk, which opened last year, and the Westport location. The Fitness center offers one-hour group classes tailored to the individual participant. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Friday, February 17, 2017
Stanton Miles, a Westport mainstay for 65 years as purveyor of home decorating and power vacuum service and sales, has relocated to 1803 Post Road East across from Stop & Shop. It was formerly located at 1620 Post Road East. Current co-owner Mike Roland said, “In our type of business, our customers might visit us only once a year or even less than that. So far, we’re happy to say, most customers are finding us here at our new location.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Greenwich Skin Care and Laser Spa will open in March at 645 Post Road East, next door to Free People women’s trendy clothing, which also opens in March. According to a staff person at its Greenwich location, the Westport location is the first expansion of the business, which opened in Greenwich 11 years ago. The spa services include laser treatments, skin and body care. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Thursday, February 16, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
A major Wall Street credit rating agency has issued back-to-back critical analyses of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s new, two-year budget proposal.
S&P Global Ratings warned today that Malloy’s proposals to shift one-third of the cost of the teachers’ pension program onto cities and towns, and to realign other grants, “creates budgetary uncertainty for local governments.”
“If implemented, these proposals will create winners and losers,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Victor Medeiros.
“Although we view the ability of a state to pass budget pressures on to lower levels of government in times of state budgetary stress as a credit positive for the state, the credit impact on local governments could be negative should they not be able to adequately adjust to this new funding paradigm.”
Free People, a trendy clothing and accessories store, opens at 645 Post Road East in March, according to workers on site. Owned by Urban Outfitters, it has more than 100 locations nationwide in more than 30 states. Other Fairfield County locations are at the Danbury Fair Mall and in Greenwich. The new store opposite Mitchells is the former home of Patio.com. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Tina Ahlberg, manager of Westport Florist, 1 Treadwell Ave., today shows off a compact Valentine’s Day floral arrangement. “Our most popular items today were roses and compact floral arrangements like this one,” she said. She said Valentine’s Day is the second busiest day of the year for the store with only Mother’s Day weekend busier. Added Ahlberg: this is an extra special celebration for the store because this month marks the second anniversary of its opening at the intersection of Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Monday, February 13, 2017
By Ana Radelatwww.ctmirror.org
Washington – In the staredown between the Federal Railroad Administration and opponents of part of its plan in Connecticut to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor, the federal government has blinked.
It has agreed to consider additional input from those concerned about the route in Connecticut, and more importantly, the FRA is willing to modify that plan.
The NEC Future plan has been in the works for years. The FRA says it would reduce travel time between New York and Boston by 45 minutes and between Washington, D.C., and New York by 35 minutes and add tracks and railroad cars to a refurbished railroad system in the Northeast.
Other states have lauded the plan. But NEC Future has met heavy resistance from Connecticut, a pushback centered largely on a bypass of an existing rail line along the coastline that would run through Old Lyme and other historic coastal towns.
Click HERE for more of story
A new independently owned pharmacy, Shoreline Integrative Pharmacy, has opened at 1835 Post Road East at the intersection of Bulkley Avenue North. Owned by Weston residents (l-r) Karen and Phil Hein, pictured with pharmacist Rachel Babineau, the 2,200-square foot facility offers a wide range of health services, including prescription fulfillment, a full line of natural products, supplements, baby and child care products and other health-related products and services. “We’re a homey, independent therapeutic business involved in the community,” said Phil Hein. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Friday, February 10, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
The General Assembly today began its review of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s new two-year budget with a strong, bipartisan pushback from the Appropriations Committee.
Lawmakers challenged proposals to reallocate local aid, open nonprofit hospitals’ real property to municipal taxation, continue dedicating some sales tax revenues to transportation, and close 40 percent of next year’s deficit with state employee concessions.
Malloy, who met with Capitol reporters at a separate news conference, said legislative resistance comes as no surprise.
The governor, who highlighted several key aspects of his plan in the days leading up to its full presentation on Wednesday, acknowledged there are a lot of difficult choices.
Thursday, February 09, 2017
By James Lomuscio
A land swap between the town and a developer that would net the town nine parking space on Elm Street is back on the table, according to Selectman Avi Kaner and developer David Waldman.
Waldman had scrapped the land swap idea in early December, saying the numbers did not work in terms of what the town wanted financially and what was economically feasible for him.
“The economics just didn’t work for me, and as a developer I had to let it go,” Waldman, principal of David Adam Realty who is heading up the nearby Bedford Square Project, told WestportNow on Dec. 5. (See WestportNow Dec. 5, 2016)
Since then, Waldman working with Kaner and Brian Stern, chairman of the Board of Finance, appear to have reached an agreement. It is expected to go before the finance board in April, and if successful, the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval.
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
Anthropologie & Co,, the women’s casual fashion store at 1365 Post Road East, will close on March 11 and reopen on March 31 at its new location in the new downtown Bedford Square development, according to a store worker. Installation of the signage above the entrance of the new store was recently completed. The YMCA logo on the former Westport Weston Family YMCA can be seen behind the new sign. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
UPDATE This graphic provided by the state’s Office of Policy and Management shows Westport will see a $6 million reduction in state aid in the fiscal year beginning July 1. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Office of Policy and Management graphic
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today unveiled a $40.6 billion, two-year budget that closes $3.6 billion in deficits by seeking $1.5 billion in labor concessions, imposing $400 million in annual pension costs on cities and towns, and scaling back tax credits for the middle class and working poor.
The plan, which would spend $20.1 billion next fiscal year and $20.5 billion in 2018-19, also dramatically overhauls the financial relationship between the state, municipalities and hospitals. It ends nonprofit hospitals’ long-standing exemption from local property taxation while increasing state payments to the industry, in turn generating more federal Medicaid dollars for Connecticut.
The pension fees and the hospital funding changes were designed not only to close major shortfalls in state finances driven largely by surging retirement benefit costs, but also to shield Connecticut’s financially distressed cities.
The labor savings target, which involves $700 million in the first year of the new budget and $800 million by the second, has an ugly alternative. According to Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes, the alternative would be to seek at least 4,200 additional layoffs.
By James Lomuscio
Next year’s police and fire department budgets seemed to please the Board of Finance as it pored over Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe’s proposed $79 million 2017-18 municipal budget Tuesday night.
The proposed police budget of $8,141,397 represents a 0.5 percent decrease over the current year, and the $9,110,386 proposed fire budget is down 0.7 percent.
The Police Department decrease does not factor in salary changes as contract negotiations continue. Officers have been without a contract since June.
Still the first responder overall budgets seemed on target with Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern’s zero-base budgeting directive as the town girds itself against the state’s fiscal malaise.