In planning for Westport's future, we must take a broad overview of what we want to accomplish and be aware that any one decision may have a major effect on other goals.
Woody Klein's fine piece in the June 5 Westport News ("Changing the face of Westport -- too much too fast?") points out the disjointed and rather haphazard way planning and development takes place in Westport. He identifies nine different projects that are in various stages of development and suggests that we digest these plans before we move too quickly.
Many of the projects are improvements confined to their original locations, so disruptions to daily life may be moderate. While this list represents a significant amount of activity, it also indicates that good things are happening. We should be concerned with quality, not quantity. The Coalition for Westport (CFW) believes that as long as the character of Westport is left unharmed, progress should not be considered a bad thing. When the town, within the confines of responsible fiscal policy, continues to provide residents and enterprises with desirable facilities and services, it is engaging in good governance.
We also can add to Woody's list the beautification of Parker Harding Plaza, an idea that has been kicking around more than 20 years. The plaza is a parking area between the Saugatuck River and Main Street retail stores. Numerous proposals have suggested converting it into a park/promenade, arguing persuasively that it makes more sense for people -- rather than vehicles -- to enjoy the river views. The damage to the downtown area from Super-storm Sandy and previous flooding is another major reason for redesigning and buttressing the plaza. To make progress at Parker Harding, the overall parking situation downtown must be addressed. We cannot just eliminate a major source of parking without finding a suitable substitute. Most suggestions point to the Baldwin lot and proposals for a parking structure there.
Mr. Klein has underscored a significant need. The town administration and the Planning and Zoning Commission must take a critical overview of the plans that are now on the drawing boards, as well as those that have been discussed over the years but have never gotten off the ground. The town's goal should be to achieve what's best for Westport by working with all stakeholders and simultaneously working to meet the goals and priorities established by the P&Z's comprehensive Plan of Conservation and Development. We need a long view, not only for downtown but for all of Westport. Prudent planning requires broad consideration of the effects of proposals and decisions, not just the accomplishment of individual goals.
Improving Westport is a good thing. It should be done in a proactive environment with the participation and leadership of all interested parties. CFW's position is straightforward: the town's elected leadership has a responsibility to help coordinate private efforts and integrate them into aspects of the Town Plan with the singular view of doing what's best for all who live and work here.
Coalition for Westport