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Friday, February 24, 2017

Comings & Goings: Vespa Restaurant Shuttered

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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

02/24/17 02:11 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Comings & Goings: Design Within Reach Opens

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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

02/22/17 06:20 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Gallery: Design Within Reach Opens


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

02/22/17 06:15 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Expert Warns of Cybersecurity Threats

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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

02/21/17 02:42 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, February 20, 2017

Malloy Proposes Bill Reducing Liquor Prices

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.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Comings & Goings: Orangetheory Fitness to PRE

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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

02/18/17 09:59 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, February 17, 2017

Comings & Goings: Stanton Miles to 1803 Post Road East

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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

02/17/17 07:05 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: Skin Care & Laser Spa to PRE

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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

02/17/17 10:48 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Thursday, February 16, 2017

S&P Worried About Proposed Cost Shift Onto CT Towns

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.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.”

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02/16/17 08:26 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: Free People to Post Road East

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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

02/16/17 06:36 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Special Valentine’s Day at Westport Florist

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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

02/14/17 03:45 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, February 13, 2017

Feds Blink on High-Speed Rail Plan in CT

By Ana Radelat

www.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

02/13/17 07:43 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: New Indie Pharmacy Opens

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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

02/13/17 06:05 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, February 10, 2017

Legislators Begin to Push Back on Malloy’s New Budget

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.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.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Upfront Payment Puts Land Swap Back on Table

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.

WestportNow.com Image
This building housing the Villa Del Sol Restaurant at 35 Elm St. would be razed and swapped for part of the town-owned parking lot across the street. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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.

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02/09/17 12:46 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Comings & Goings: New Anthropologie Opens March 31

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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

02/08/17 09:07 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Westport Projected to See $6M Reduction in State Aid

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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

02/08/17 11:54 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Malloy Unveils $40.6 billion, Two-Year Budget

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.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.

WestportNow.com Image
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addresses the state legislature today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) CTMirror.org photo

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.

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02/08/17 11:19 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Police and Fire Budgets Show Slight Decreases

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.

WestportNow.com Image
Police Chief Foti Koskinas listens to Board of Finance members along with First Selectman Jim Marpe and Finance Director Gary Conrad. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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.

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02/08/17 09:38 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

GOP, Malloy Offer Plans to Restore Stalled Local Aid

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Republicans in the state House and Senate and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy both released proposals today to release stalled municipal aid that local officials hoped to receive this fiscal year.

And Republican leaders also said that their Democratic counterparts withdrew support at the last minute from a plan to restore education grants — and to close a small budget deficit as projected by nonpartisan analysts.

Democratic legislative leaders countered that the GOP plan still needed adjustments and that Republican leaders went “rushing into a news conference” rather than continuing bipartisan talks.

“We want to be bipartisan if that is an option,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby said during a late morning news conference in the Legislative Office Building. “We all could have been standing here today moving the state of Connecticut forward.”

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02/07/17 03:33 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, February 03, 2017

Last in 5-Part Series: When Fiscal Reality Meets Political Spin

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

When state budget director Ben Barnes told reporters Connecticut had “entered into a period of permanent fiscal crisis,” he did so just 13 days after his boss, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, had won the 2014 gubernatorial election with a polar opposite message.

While Malloy dismissed a major deficit forecast and pledged not to raise taxes, his Republican opponent, Tom Foley was even more upbeat about delivering tax relief and closing the deficit.

The challenge of wooing voters has taken on new dimensions as politicians increasingly are boxed in by Connecticut’s fiscal realities, and the 2014 gubernatorial campaign isn’t the only example.

In recent years, Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly have accused each other of making unrealistic if not ridiculous promises that fly in the face of the state’s mounting debts.

Click HERE for more of story

02/03/17 09:47 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Malloy: Teacher Pension Proposal to Hit Wealthy Towns

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today his proposed budget would shift $407.6 million, nearly one-third of the annual cost of municipal school teachers’ pensions, on to cities and towns — a move that would hit the state’s wealthiest communities the hardest.

WestportNow.com Image
Westport would be hard hit by the Malloy proposal. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) CTMirror.org graphic

Malloy also said the two-year budget he will present Wednesday to the General Assembly would propose eliminating the $200 property tax credit within the income-tax system, costing nearly 875,000 middle-class households as much as $105 million per year based on nonpartisan analysts’ estimates.

Unlike nearly all other state education aid, the state contribution to teacher pensions does not factor in a town’s wealth or local taxpayers’ ability to pick up some of the cost. It proportionately funnels the most aid to districts that can afford to hire more teachers and provide the highest salaries.

“At a time when state government is making difficult cuts to services, we can no longer exclude how we pay for teachers’ pensions from this conversation,” Malloy said.

Click HERE for more of story

02/03/17 02:50 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Westport Grand List Grows 1.36 Percent

In an indication of Westport’s continued economic health, the Grand List for 2016 jumped 1.36 percent or approximately $148 million to $11 billion, Tax Assessor Paul Friia announced.

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The breakdown of the 2016 Grand List as provided by the Tax Assessor’s Office. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed graphic

This compared to a 7.8 percent increase in 2015 (a revaluation year) over 2014, a 1.5 percent increase in 2014 over the previous year, and 1.3 percent increase in 2013.

The specific 2016 amount was $11,024,518,484 compared to $10,876,602,613 a year earlier. The list is the sum of the net assessed value of all taxable property — real estate, motor vehicles, and personal property.

Motor vehicles and personal property are valued annually, while real estate is updated based on the market values determined as of the town’s revaluation date of Oct. 1, 2015.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Comings & Goings: Nefaire Spa Opens

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Nefaire Spa, specializing in facials, massages, chemical peels, has opened at 141 Post Road East, next door to Westport Pizza. Founder Michael Chang (c), pictured with his staff, is a resident of the Danbury area and former analyst at a privately owned financial services company.  More information is available at http://www.nefaire.com. The 2,000-square feet space was formerly occupied by Healthy Choice Organic Mattresses, which closed in August. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

02/01/17 09:48 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Part 3 of a Series: Whether Taxing or Cutting, CT Faces Painful Fiscal Future

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

There is no shortage of ideas on how Connecticut should not solve the fiscal crisis caused by its massively unfunded retirement benefit programs.

There are plenty who say state government cannot tax its way out of a problem expected to last 15 years or more, and to attempt to do so would cripple an already weakened economy.

This camp places most of its hope in slashing labor costs. Unfortunately, the fastest growing expenses in the current budget have nothing to do with present-day workers, whose benefits are very close to the national average. And even reducing expenses tied to present-day workers comes with plenty of complications.

A second approach holds some reductions must be made but there’s no hope deep spending cuts can do it all and that major tax increases are unavoidable. Too much of the budget is tied up in fixed costs, and a slash-and-burn approach only would destroy the state’s quality of life while still failing to balance the books.

Click HERE for more of story

02/01/17 07:46 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sign Installation Within Reach

WestportNow.com Image
Today’s snow did not stop installation of a new Design Within Reach sign on the former U.S. Post Office building at 154 Post Road East. As first reported by WestportNow last June (see WestportNow June 8, 2016) the building is the new Westport home of the furniture retailer. It was occupied until a year ago by the Post 154 Restaurant. A worker on site said the store, which formerly leased space on Elm Street, plans to open by the end of February. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

01/31/17 04:43 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

A Peak Inside New Design Within Reach

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Workers were completing the interior installation today of the new Design Within Reach furniture store at 154 Post Road East. The longtime home of the U.S. Post Office and, until a year ago the Post 154 Restaurant, will see the official opening of the store by the end of February, according to a worker on the site. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

01/31/17 04:38 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Malloy to Propose Mandate Relief for Cities, Towns

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

UPDATE Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today unveiled a plan to ease mandates on cities and towns, led by elimination of a controversial cap on local budgets.

The governor, who is expected next week to recommend a major realignment of aid from wealthier to poorer communities, also proposed: changes to collective bargaining, tightening of prevailing wage standards, granting more flexibility in local property assessment rates and eliminating a requirement for a superintendent in small school districts.

“True partnerships are built on listening to the concerns and responding to the needs of the other party,” Malloy said. “Given the challenges we face in balancing the budget in the next biennium, the state and local municipalities must continue to strengthen our working partnership — and in some respects, begin to redefine this relationship.”

Local cities and towns have complained loudly over the past two years since the legislature established a cap system, with financial penalties when local spending exceeds certain limits.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Previously Denied, Developer Offers New Text Amendment

By James Lomuscio

With his high-rise Riverwalk project denied last March, Westport developer David Waldman has a newly proposed text amendment he hopes will pass muster when the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meets Thursday night.

WestportNow.com Image
The former Save the Children building at 54 Wilton Road. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Elements that remain from the first proposal include a riverfront boardwalk from Bartaco to the end of the Wilton Road property and welcoming to the property a town-sponsored pedestrian bridge over the Saugatuck River from Parker Harding Plaza.

Text amendment 725 to be submitted by his attorney William J. Fitzpatrick is a reworked version of the previous Riverwalk amendment and one Waldman says will be more pleasing to the commission since it is consistent with the 2007 Plan of Conservation and development (POCD).

On March 3, the P&Z by a 5 to 2 vote denied the Riverwalk amendment. (See WestportNow March 3, 2016) It would have facilitated a two-story, 25,000-square-foot office building and a 47-foot tall residential building for between 15 to 17 condominiums at the 2.45-acre former Save the Children site at 54 Wilton Road overlooking the Saugatuck River.

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01/30/17 08:13 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

First In A Series: CT Standing On Its Own Fiscal Cliff

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut stands on the cusp of an unprecedented fiscal crisis.

The budget that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will present to the legislature Feb. 8, in an attempt to close $3 billion in deficits over the next two years, is only a portent of a far greater, long-term challenge facing the state.

Simply, the bill is coming due in ever-increasing amounts for the 80-year failure of one of the richest states in the nation to adequately save for retirement benefits promised to teachers and state employees.

Hobbled by debts accumulated by generations of governors and legislators, Connecticut for at least 15 years to come is likely to face a bleak and politically dangerous menu of options that could shape the state’s economy and quality of life.

Click here for more of story

01/30/17 03:14 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

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