Friday, April 19, 2024

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Conservation Approves Y Plan

By Jennifer Connic

After months of hearings, deliberations and controversy, the Westport Conservation Commission tonight approved the Westport Weston Family Y’s application to construct a new facility at Camp Mahackeno.

The commission voted 6-1 in favor of the application with William Blaufuss voting against the project. Blaufuss voted against and in favor of the plan in two preliminary votes earlier this week.

The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) still has the right to review—and possibly overturn—both the Conservation Commission’s approval as well as the earlier approval by the Flood and Erosion Control Board if asked to do so within 30 days. The RTM must act within 90 days of receiving a petition for review from either two members or 20 electors.

Westport Weston Family Y officials are planning to move their facility from the corner of Main Street and Post Road East in the downtown area to Camp Mahackeno adjacent to the Merritt Parkway. The plans include a septic system—called FAST—that would handle 34,000 gallons of sewage and water per day. The plans now need Planning and Zoning Commission approval.

The commission spent more than two hours working out the final conditions on the approval, which total 57.

Helene Weir, Family Y chief executive officer, said she was pleased and happy with the decision and was impressed by the work completed by the commission and its staff.

Family Y officials will submit the zoning application after they receive the final approval in the next 15 days, she said, and the conditions can easily be accommodated.

Debbie McGinnley, of Y Downtown, said she was surprised the commission could approve the application given the amount of information that was missing and the large number of conditions placed on the approval.

Blaufuss said he had wrestled with the decision on the application and it was not an easy one to make.

It came down to the fact that he felt the plan would add to the pollution and not either maintain or improve the situation, he said.

Lanning Bryer, who abstained from the two preliminary votes, said he also wrestled with the decision, but town officials have put an ordinance in place that will protect the area in case there is a problem with the septic system.

The ordinance gives him comfort with the decision, he said.

“The mechanics are in place to correct the system if there is a problem,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Conservation Approves Y Plan

  1. The Conservation Commissioners and their staff spent months studying expert testimony. They spent weeks debating it. Now that the Commissioners have made their decision, they and their professional staff deserve a standing ovation.

    Even if you don

  2. I hardly think the arguments of Dr. Robert Roseen, the pre-eminient national stormwater management expert from UNH and Dick Harris, water quality control expert who monitors our rivers for the DEP, or Sally Harold of the Nature Conservancy were “fallacious.”  The Conservation Commission clearly cherry-picked the record for “evidence” that suited their agenda – and even made some of it up to advance their position. 

    Even the Conservation staff, who did indeed work tirelessly on this application, is not in agreement with the Commission and did not think this application should have been approved. 

    It was clear from the beginning that the Chairman was looking for conditions to approve and ignored the “true scientific arguments,” which certainly did not come from LandTech or the rest of the Y’s crack team of “experts.”

    Anyone who was really following the testimony, the record, the science and the experts can see that the fix was in a long time ago.  There aren’t enough conditions in the world that will make the adverse impacts of this project “insignificant.” 

    The Conservation Commission did a hack job and didn’t even comprehend a lot of the issues, let alone “parse the thousands of pages of testimony” -or even cite the IWW and WPLO regulations in their deliberations!  A very, very disappointing show – especially among men who are supposed to be dedicated to conservation and protecting the environment. 

    Had this application been put forth by any other entity, it would have been denied months ago.  Imagine Fitness Edge or Southport Racquet Club applying for a special permit to build a 102,000 square foot fitness center on this land in a AAA residential zone?  They would have been laughed out of town. 

    No one but the YMCA could have pulled this off.  They begged for special treatment and they got it.  Pathetically and wrongly so. 

    In the end, it is the taxpayer and the people of Westport who will ultimately pay for this decision.  They have no idea what’s coming down the pike – but it’s going to be a big fat bill for cleaning up the river and monitoring the Y’s septic system.

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