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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Committees Okay Saugatuck Plan Grant Application

By James Lomuscio

A Westport application for a $250,000 state grant to fund a master plan for the Saugatuck section of town got unanimous approvals tonight from three Representative Town Meeting (RTM) committees.

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Railroad Place opposite the Metro-North tracks would be among areas included in the study. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The approvals to apply for the funds came with the proviso that there would be no strings attached to the state Office of Policy and Management (OPM) money.

The request, authorizing First Selectman Jim Marpe to sign the OPM Responsible Growth and Transit-Orient Development Grant application, will go before the full RTM at its Tuesday, Feb. 2, meeting. The deadline for submitting the application is Feb. 4.

Dewey Loselle, town operations manager, presented the request to the RTM’s Long-Range Planning, Planning and Zoning, and Transit committees at a joint meeting.

He said the money, 100 percent of it at no cost to the town, would establish a Saugatuck Planning Committee comparable to the Downtown Steering Committee, the master plan of which is currently being implemented.

“Our goal is to get this grant,” said Loselle. “Once you have a plan, it’s easier to get other grant money.

“Basically a lot of the elements are guiding what kind of development you want there, the density, what kind of amenities you want to include, and we want to protect the good things that have happened there already,” he added. 

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A view of Riverside Avenue from the Metro-North Westport station in Saugatuck.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

RTM member Velma Heller was one of the first to support the request.

“Of course we should go for the grant because it can lead to other things,” she said, adding that the Saugatuck plan should be established in accordance with all of the other revitalization interests in town.

According to the grant application, the master plan would look at recent development trends in Saugatuck, its residential and business communities, transit issues, parking, commuter buses and train ridership.

Among the items listed in the application’s vision statement are: enhancement of a second town center; complementing the downtown; shaping development around community goals; sidewalk and street improvements for better bicycle and pedestrian access to the train station; and infrastructure improvements.

RTM member Matthew Mandell, who represents Saugatuck, offered caveats that the town not be beholden to the OPM in terms of transit and infrastructure demands, such as the state’s plan to impose eminent domain along rail lines.

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A view of the Saugatuck area from Riverside Avenue and Franklin Street. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“I think we’re playing with fire, but that doesn’t mean the cave man can’t control the fire,” he said, his metaphor drawing a few snickers.

“I worry about the strings that are attached with the OPM. Studying this and not being in control, I worry. ...Keeping it our study is very important.”

“You’ve got to separate this from that,” Loselle said. “There are no strings attached. This is our study, our plan for saying what we want in Saugatuck instead of letting willy-nilly development happen.”

Before the votes, Board of Finance member John Hartwell stressed that access to public transportation must be underscored in the grant application.

“Somehow, this transit-oriented grant application has to look at public transportation,” he said.

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Posted 01/27/16 at 10:20 PM  Permalink



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