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Friday, June 13, 2014

P&Z: Daybreak Development Ideas ‘Ill Conceived’

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By James Lomuscio

Land use consultant Melvin Barr, representing the new owner of the former Daybreak Nurseries property at 500 Main St., came before Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) tonight will several options for the 2.2-acre property.

WestportNow.com Image
The Daybreak Nurseries property was purchased by a developer in February. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

In the pre-application review, he offered up the possibilities of rental senior housing, multi-family affordable housing, plus restoring the nursery’s iconic conservatory for commercial use. He even talked about the possibility of his client, Able Construction, building eight, small, single-family homes on the site, as well a previous idea for four homes.

“We want to put these ideas out there,” Barr said. “You have the opportunity to do something different.”

P&Z members, however, were not buying it, saying that the location at the intersection of Weston Road and Route 136 and not far from Merritt Parkway’s Exit 42 northbound, was already traffic congested.

“It is difficult to drive your car in this area,“said P&Z member Alan Hodge.

Peter Greenberg, owner of Norwalk-based Able Construction, purchased the property for $1,350,000 as the highest bidder in a foreclosure settlement in February. Daybreak Nurseries had been on site for nearly 73 years, and residential zoning had been grandfathered in with limitations.

Hodge asked if restoring the conservatory, a high glass, landmark that had fallen into disrepair, would be included in each of the development plans.

“Saving the conservatory is in play,” said Barr. “My client is trying to do something different.”

Jack Whittle, P&Z vice chairman, expressed concern that high intensity residential use, plus commercial, would exacerbate existing traffic problems.

“If you have a serious intent on affordable housing or age-restricted housing, the trade off is more traffic,” said Barr.

“This is ill conceived,” said P&Z Chairman Chip Stephens. “It scares me. It bothers me. In my opinion, this is one of the worst places in the region.”

P&Z member Catherine Walsh’s objection was not traffic related.

“I’m not in favor of extending the sewer lines,” she said.

“All four of these ideas would require a public sanitary sewer extension,” Barr responded.

When Hodge asked what the traffic count was when the nursery was in business, Barr said that it would be at best anecdotal.

“Traffic is a horror story there,” said P&Z member Al Gratrix. “A nightmare.”

Opened by Evan Harding in 1941, the nursery had fallen on hard times in recent years. But, under David Harding, Evan’s son, it managed to stay in business until early this year, selling flowers, shrubs, trees, firewood, and, in season, Christmas trees.

Posted 06/13 at 03:03 AM 

Comments:     Comment Policy

It’s almost embarrassing to read this article. Here we have a well known and respected developer trying to open up a discussion with P&Z about what to do with a property that has been quite an eye sore for many years and in dire need of redevelopment. Instead of pro-active ‘reactions’, it seems that everyone just reiterated the obvious regarding the traffic at that location which has been that way for well over a decade and is completely out of Mr. Greenbergs control. The word Planning is still part of P & Z.

Posted by Bob Chandler on June 13, 2014 at 10:03 AM | #

so many demands on P and Z in our lovely town and as the firm Abel is in business to develop property here might they propose a plan ....3 large homes set back from the road reducing traffic or town houses as cluster no more than the ones off Bradley rd ..gated area set back with entrance using that greenhouse at gate .....beautiful classy exclusive living….
now was that so hard ....

Posted by Cheryl A. McKenna on June 13, 2014 at 02:48 PM | #

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