The Westport Weston Family Y's move from downtown is the single most controversial issue I can recall in my lifetime in Westport. No other matter has so divided the town, with well-meaning people on both sides.
The Y, having failed to secure a favorable deal on Baron's South during the Farrell administration, made the decision to move to Mahackeno. As its application wended its way through the town's approval process, the Planning and Zoning Commission's approval was almost overturned by the Representative Town Meeting (as an RTM member, I voted to overturn). Emotions ran high in the town and harsh words were spoken. Lawsuits followed, but in the end, the Y prevailed.
Its victory came at a heavy cost; the town was virtually rent in two. In a difficult recessionary environment, which affected the library and the Levitt Pavilion as well, the Y's fundraising efforts fell short of expectations. This outcome resulted in a diminished plan for the new building -- without room for either the 50-meter pool for the competitive Water Rats group or space for the much-respected day care program which the Y had run for years. There were also concerns that the Y could not fulfill its obligations vis-à-vis neighbors and the traffic improvements promised.
To me, the principle of doing what's best for Westport trumps holding the Y to its promise to pay for road work at Exit 41 of the Merritt Parkway, a promise made in good faith at the time but now would drive the Y into significant debt. The building is a fact on the ground. The Y needs to complete the remaining aspects of the project as promised. That's the promise that matters now. That's why I came to support the bonding request to cover Exit 41 road work.
I think it's time that we stop taking sides and come together as a community. The Y has been an integral part of Westport for more than 100 years, and I want my children's children to enjoy the benefits of this terrific institution. Let's focus on the future.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg