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Westport Real Estate Agent: High End of Market Showing Signs of Weakness

The high end of Westports real estate market is beginning to show signs of weakness, according to a Westport real estate agent. And he said the real focus now is on teardowns.

Bob Casper, associate manager of the Coldwell Banker Westport office, told Fairfield County Business Journal while the town continues to have a strong housing market, he has seen weakness in homes priced in the $3 million range.

Last year, upper-tier homes sold for $3 million, he told the weekly newspaper. During the first six months of this year, $500,000 was shaved off the average price, he said.

Homes in the $1 million range, which he called ғour meat and potatoes, remain a strong market, he said.

ԓThe numbers are fine, he told the newspaper. ԓWere having a great year. We just have to work a littler harder with our very expensive properties, which makes sense because a lot of bonus money didnҒt appear this year.

But Casper said teardowns are ԓthe phenomenon in Westport.

With few, if any building lots available in town, ԓa builder comes in and tears down an $800,000 ranch on an acre and puts up a 6,000-square-foot house that will sell anywhere from $1.8 million and $3.5 million, depending on the level of detail and the neighborhood,” he said.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Profits Fall

Westporter Martha Stewart, facing a January trial on charges of obstructing justice in connection with an insider-trading scandal, is also facing lower profits at her company as result.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. today posted sharply lower quarterly profit, forecast wider-then-expected losses ahead and said it would remain under pressure until the legal problems of its namesake founder had been resolved.

The company reported lower second-quarter publishing and merchandising results as selling, promotion, general and administrative costs increased.

“We believe that the Martha Stewart Living core brand will continue to be under pressure until resolution of Martha Stewart’s personal legal situation,” Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said in a statement.

The company, which publishes Martha Stewart Living magazine and sells a line of home products at retailer Kmart, reported second-quarter net income of $931,000, or 2 cents per share, compared with $6.7 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier.

Operating income was $1.5 million, down from $13.1 million a year earlier. Revenue fell to $65.8 million from $78.6 million.

NY Times Highlights Circulation War Between The Advocate and The Hour

Sunday’s New York Times Connecticut section spotlights the circulation war between The Advocate of Norwalk/Stamford and The Hour of Norwalk (See WestportNow June 20, 2003).

The story quotes one Hour staffer as saying his newspaper and the area it serves—Norwalk, Westport, Wilton, and Weston—is the only barrier to The Advocate’s domination of lower Fairfield County.

“We’re the only other player here, and the towns we cover are the chunk they’d really like to have,” said Thomas Connors.

Close readers of The Advocate’s Norwalk edition have seen a subtle but noticeable increase in stories dealing with Westport in recent weeks as the newspaper seeks to expand further north in the county.

The latest came this week with two stories about the effort by a Westport doctor to gain approval for a controversial method of harvesting oysters off Westport’s coast using cages suspended from the surface.

The Advocate did note the story’s nominal Norwalk angle—the doctor is employed at Norwalk Hospital.

Durham Monsma, the publisher of The Advocate, told WestportNow last month that the newspaper for now is concentrating on Norwalk. But Monsma said the possibility of also competing with The Hour for Westport readers was “intriguing.”

While the population of Norwalk dwarfs its surrounding suburban communities, the towns of Westport, Weston and Wilton with their high net worth individuals are highly prized by advertisers. And that certainly is an incentive for any newspaper publisher.

Westporters Turn Out to Protest Oyster Application

Several hundred people, including many Westporters, turned out an Army Corps of Engineers hearing in Milford Wednesday night to voice opposition to a Westport doctors application to harvest oysters off of Westport and Milford using suspended cages.


Several hundred people, including many Westporters, turned out at an Army Corps of Engineers hearing in Milford Wednesday night to voice opposition to a controversial oyster farming application involving waters off of Westport and Milford. WestportNow.com photo

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell were among those opposing the plan by Dr. John Garofalo and his Mariculture Unlimited LLC.
It calls for raising Eastern oysters over 522 acres of Long Island Sound off the Milford and Westport coastlines using cages suspended 10 feet below the surface.
Blumenthal said the shellfish industry was important to ConnecticutҒs economy but that the proposed oyster farm locations were not the right places.
As the saying goes, location, location, location, but I believe there is a better alternative,Ӕ he said. The state official pledged to work with the applicant, state environmental experts, and towns bordering Long Island Sound to find that alternative.
Farrell said she had met with many of the interested parties in the controversy and also said she would work to find a solution. I ask you to consider denying this without prejudice,Ӕ she said.
Westports Conservation Department director, Alicia Mozian, said it is not that she and Westport do not support aquaculture. ғIt is the wave of the future, she said.
But she added that the Corps and state lawmakers must come up with a master plan for Long Island Sound first. ԓYou need to look at the larger picture and do it now, not later, Mozian said.
Garofalo opened the hearing with a brief presentation in support of his application. He said the system was not risky and had been successfully done elsewhere. Concerns about safety and interference with sailing in the areas were exaggerated, he said.
Ending his slide show with a picture of his daughter water skiing, Garofalo said he had great respect for the waters of Long Island Sound as a 20-year resident of Connecticut.
More than 80 people signed up to speak at the hearing, including a parade of speakers from WestportԒs yacht clubs. They pointed to the widespread use of the proposed oyster farm area by sailboats and recreational boaters for more than 100 years and said there was no reasonable alternate location for their activities.


State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell were among those stating their opposition to the oyster farm proposal at Wednesday nights hearing. WestportNow.com photos


Lee Weiner of the Minuteman Yacht Club said he questioned the seriousness of GarofaloҒs application because the number of buoys and lines involved seemed to be constantly changing.
John Gillespie of the Keep Westports Waterways Open group said Mariculture UnlimitedҒs application was smack in the middle of WestportӒs Main Street for boating.
He said he had great concerns about the health impact of a high mortality rate of oysters that would result from the operation. ԓThe state needs to develop a long-range plan to accommodate all interests, Gillespie said.
If the application were granted, said Martin Levin of the Milford Yacht Club, ԓthis is an accident waiting to happen.
One of the few speakers to support the oyster plan was a Milford aquaculture consultant, Edwin Rhodes. He said he had spoken to 10 people involved in similar suspended cable ventures and none had reported any problems with recreational boaters.
ԓWhen damage does occur, he said, ԓit is usually to the shellfish operation and not to boats.
Robert Byrne, acting deputy district engineer for the Corps, said the agency would continue to accept public comment on the application until Aug. 2. There was no indication when it might issue a final ruling.
Representatives of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, which will also have input into the decision, also attended the hearing. It lasted almost three and a half hours.
Westport Town Attorney Ira Bloom, who was also present but did not speak, told WestportNow the town was prepared to initiate legal action if the application were approved.

Westporters to Lose Another Nearby Bowling Alley

Years ago, Westport has its own bowling alley on Post Road East. But that was before the developers took over. So many Westporters have made Fairfields Circle Lanes their bowling destination choice. But now thatҒs going, too.

Todays Connecticut Post reported that after 44 years, the owner of Circle Lanes and property received an offer from a developer ғthat was just tremendous.

The newspaper, which cited no purchase price, said the Kings Highway bowling alley was likely to become an office building. It wil close Aug. 3.


07/22/2003 16:31 pm Comments (0)Permalink

Westport Oyster Applicant Goes on Offensive

With a week to go before an Army Corps of Engineers public hearing on his controversial application to harvest oysters in Long Island Sound, a Westport doctor has gone on the public relations offensive.

Dr. John M. Garofalo, 49, took out a full-page ad in todays Westport News and contributed a commentary defending the proposal, which involves using suspended traps off of Westport.

Recreational boaters have opposed the application, saying it causes safety concerns as well as disrupts sailboat races.

In the ad, headlined ғSave the Oyster! GarofaloԒs company, Mariculture Unlimited, LLC, said the project, which also involves a larger area off of Milford, Conn., is aimed at saving the New England oyster industry.

Without new technologies and successful grassroots enterprises, natural oyster populations on Long Island Sound will become a pleasure of the past,Ӕ it said.

In his commentary, which is also published on Maricultures Web site, Garofalo said, ғI think that some of the oppositions tactics have been to exaggerate the scope and effects of our initial proposal.Ҕ

He said he had offered a compromise proposal to the Cedar Point Yacht Club but that it was rejected.  It included an offer to decrease the size of the requested oyster farm from 366.8 acres to approximately 25 acres, Garofalo said.

MaricultureӒs compromise proposal is reasonable, non-threatening and, in fact, advantageous to our community, he said.

Garofalo said he is not proposing a nuclear power plant and does not represent any outside corporate developer. 

ԓI am simply your neighbor and I have been for 20 years, he said.  “I live and work in our community. 

ԓMy family and I sail, fish, dig clams and play on our water with you—and we care as much as you do about protecting everyone֒s recreational water activities.

The Army Corps of Engineers hearing is scheduled for July 23 in Milford.

Lets Go to the Hop:

Lets Go to the Hop: Staples Invites ґ60s Grads to Reunion


Staples High School alumni from the classes of 1965 and 1966 are holding a reunion next weekend and invite all Staples grads from the 1960s to join them.

The celebration kicks off Friday, July 25, with a welcoming reception by Dunvilles with check-in at 6 p.m. at the new addition to the Westport Historical Society opposite Town Hall (the old Bedford Elementary School).

SaturdayҒs event is a 5:30 pm. to 11 p.m. barbeque dinner by Ash Creek Saloon at the Westport Womens Club on Imperial Avenue.

Organizers say there will be live ґ60s music by the Old School ReviewӔ band featuring all star Staples alumni musicians.Ӕ

On Sunday, its down to Compo Beach at noon Җ bring your own food, drinks provided.

The cost is $50 per person or $75 per couple for all events.

RSVP to Gail Latimer Gorian at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Johno Lupton at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call 203 222-1424.

Send checks to SHSAA, c/o Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, Westport, CT 06880.

All proceeds after costs go to help fund the Staples Alumni Association.


07/15/2003 15:37 pm Comments (0)Permalink

NY Times Notes Westport Oyster Controversy

Todays New York Times, in the latest installment in its summer-long series on the evolving nature of Long Island Sound, takes note of the controversy involving a plan to harvest oysters using suspended traps off of Westport.

The Times said the aquaculture technique is similar to an operation in the eastern waters of Long Island Sound by the Mohegan Indians that won approval last summer despite local opposition.

ғ(The Westport plan) has also drawn fire from boaters who say the racks will destroy the use of a sailboat racecourse that has been used since the late 1880’s, the newspaper said.

ԓThe Westport developer, Dr. John M. Garofalo an obstetrician who founded his company, Mariculture Unlimited, two years ago ח said he specifically patterned his plan after the Mohegan project.

The leases he has signed with the state give him the right to use the bottom, and he contends that the use of the water column above that, which requires a separate approval from the state and United States Army Corps of Engineers, would be far enough below the surface ӗ 17 feet at high tide to be unobtrusive.

“גWe’re asking for the same thing, the same kind of gear as the Mohegans, and if they don’t give it to us, they have to explain what makes us different, he said.Ҕ

The Army Corps of Engineers plans a public hearing on the Westporters application July 23 in Milford.

NY Times: Jack Mitchell’s New Book a Surprising Little Gem

The New York Times offers a glowing review today of a new book by Jack Mitchell, chief executive officer of Westports family-owned Mitchells clothing store.

Written with Sonny Klein, it is titled, “Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results” (Hyperion, $19.95).

Mitchells, which also owns the equally well-known Richards clothing store in Greenwich, does a $65 million a year business selling to ordinary folks as well chief corporate executives among its 115,000 customers.

Excerpt: ғAt a time when so many companies seem to have strayed from the core mission of serving their customers, and when others are seeking fancy customer-relationship management software to avoid eye-to-eye contact, Hug Your Customersђ is indeed refreshing.

Mr. Mitchell describes how his company, founded by his parents in 1958, remains ӑrelationship driven, rather than simply interested in selling another Armani necktie. ґHugging may sometimes involve a bearhug, but more generally it means going the extra mile to satisfy, amuse or delight a customer.

The Times business section review wonders whether the company would be as successful if it were much larger. But all doubts aside, ” it said, “this book is a surprising little gem. The reader will almost certainly feel ӑhugged.

Mitchell, who has established his own Web site to promote the book, hugyourcustomers.com, will be at Westport’s Barnes and Noble for a book signing June 26 from 7:30 pm. to 8:30 p.m.

He and his wife, Linda, who is “women’s merchant” for Mitchells/Richards, live in Wilton.