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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Part 3: After 32 Years and Service, Priced Out of Westport

(Editor’s note: WestportNow’s special series on seniors and housing today focuses on a well known couple who had hoped to continue living in Westport but finally decided to move to Charleston, South Carolina.)

By James Lomuscio

Steve Rubin, 71, and his wife Toni, 69, moved to Westport 32 years ago. They lived at Hidden Brook, an affordable apartment community off Post Road East run by the Westport Housing Authority (WHA). They raised their only child, a daughter, there.

Steve and Toni Rubin
Steve and Toni Rubin in Charleston, South Carolina with their 5-year-old Havanese named Sam. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Today, the Rubins are grandparents and live in Charleston, South Carolina where Steve says it’s much more affordable and winter weather is a breeze. He says they fell in love with Charleston’s charm after visiting on their way back from Florida a couple of years ago.

They kept visiting, each time for a longer stay and eventually moved down Columbus Day weekend 2014. They live in the West Ashley section of Charleston near the Ashley River.

“Since we moved here, three other Westport couples have called me, saying they’d love to move to Charleston,” Rubin said. “We all seem to agree it’s going to become a club of ex-Westporters.

“You don’t have the heating bills, and if you’re paying $13,000 a year in taxes, you pay $1,300 here,” he added.

He said while New Englanders battled a brutal winter this past year, his days were balmy. He recalled a New Year’s Day boat ride, on the deck and wearing shorts.

During the Rubins’ time in Westport, he worked in customer service at the Parks and Recreation Department, and Toni taught at a preschool. He also served 16 years on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) and boasts “100 percent perfect attendance for my entire tenure.”

Yet while they both loved the town, Rubin says that spending the rest of their lives there seemed less and less of a possibility.

“Steve and Toni Rubin made less than 80 percent of the Town of Westport,” he said.

One thing that piqued their interest and hope for remaining in town was the planned 135-unit, senior housing complex, 60, percent affordable, on the 22-acre, town-owned Baron’s South property. From his time on the RTM, Steve said he learned a lot about the planned project, which had been discussed for seven years. And he supported it.

He said he and Toni also hoped to live there to remain in town since they found WHA’s Hidden Brook “very small and confining.”

But after years of waiting and falling in love with Charleston, they moved. Then in March, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), the majority of which had opposed the senior complex on town land, voted 4 to 1 with 1 abstention to designate Baron’s South open space, ending any chance of a senior complex there. A majority of the RTM voted to overturn the P&Z decision, but the vote failed to meet the two-thirds super majority needed. Image
Steve and Toni Rubin: had hoped to live in senior housing on Baron’s South. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

“I think it was a message that would be seen as another nail in Westport’s coffin when it comes to seniors,” Steve said.

“There are no provisions for seniors to have a quality of life in Westport. It’s harder for seniors to remain. They’re subject to terrible weather conditions, and they’re paying a high price to live there.”

Rubin also said he cannot fathom why the P&Z objected to using only 3.3 acres of Baron’s South adjacent to the Westport Center for Senior Activities for senior housing and leaving the rest as open space to be maintained by the developer.

“We were not talking about giving away every inch of that property,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rubin says he is happy where he is, and he suggests other seniors follow suit if Westport offers seniors no other option.

Still, he misses Westport.

“The one thing I miss is meeting friends wherever I go, and I loved all the events, Longshore and the beach,” he said. “I miss that.

“If asked what I miss, I’d say a good pizza and a great bagel and clearly, the friends we made,” he added. “Slowly but surely, we’re making new friends.”
Next: a “heart-wrenching” move to Darien
For previous parts of this series, click here.


Posted 08/19/15 at 05:00 AM  Permalink


Comment Policy

The struggle to stay in Westport isn’ t limited to seniors: People of all ages would enjoy more affordable housing and less maintenance and easier access to amenities. While I know it ‘s difficult to leave one’ s beloved town, let ‘s not forget that many of those who left benefitted, earlier in their lives or upon the sale of their properties, from the zoning laws that discouraged denser housing. Patching the system to benefit seniors (and I will be one quite soon, so this isn’t a NIMBY issue) seems short-sighted when the bigger picture isn’t any prettier.

Posted by Stacy Prince on August 19, 2015 at 10:20 AM | #


Posted by Michael Calise on August 19, 2015 at 10:51 AM | #

Stacy. Did you read the news about the increase in ‘death’ taxes in CT?

Posted by Bart Shuldman on August 19, 2015 at 11:51 AM | #

It’s sad when it’s both tough to live and or die here.

Gee, who do we have to thank for that…

Posted by Jean Marie Wiesen on August 19, 2015 at 03:56 PM | #

The governor and the leadership in Hartford will drive those that can leave-out of the state. Especially the people they need to pay the high taxes. Then those that cannot afford high taxes will be left having to pay the tax. This could become a death spiral for this state. 

By the way, the increase in the estate tax was implemented retroactively to January 1, 2015.  So while families were grieving and trying to deal with the loss, they now get a huge bill. Unbelievable.

Posted by Bart Shuldman on August 19, 2015 at 04:50 PM | #

But wait?!  Steve and Toni Rubin lived for some years in a lovely home on Cross Highway, not just in affordable apartment community off Post Road East run by the Westport Housing Authority (WHA)!  They were my neighbors (fantastic ones) and they moved past when Steve retired from working and commuting to NYC.  I think their daughter was grown and gone by then, if my memory serves me correctly.

Cheers to them and their family and congratulations on moving to such a beautiful and upscale community as Charleston, SC.  I imagine they are loving being nearer to their family.  Charleston’s sister city is Spoleto, Italy and so she is home to the famous Spoleto Festival!

As a relocated, former (and grateful for such lovely memories of Westport) resident I celebrate the amazing and productive lives of the Rubins!  How amazing to have been able to raise a family in Westport and retire to lovely and gracious Charleston to spend golden years in the sun and with new friends!

Posted by Patricia Taylor on August 19, 2015 at 06:28 PM | #