RTM OKs $65K for traffic study, but debate over full downtown plan persists
Published 7:25 am, Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The Representative Town Meeting, by a 26-1 vote Tuesday night, approved $65,000 to contract with RBA Group for the traffic phase of a controversial proposal for a downtown master plan.
Prior to the vote, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who established the Downtown 2020 Committee last year, told the legislative body that the traffic study, "alone does no good."
Joseloff said he hopes the Board of Finance will approve funding for the rest of the downtown plan at its Wednesday night meeting.
The finance board last week approved the $65,000, but not the entire $204,000 for the overall downtown plan, which has been proposed by the Downtown 2020 Committee to help coordinate plans for major private and public capital plans in the area during the next decade.
While the Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved that entire amount, just prior to the finance board's vote last week, an email was received from P&Z Chairwoman Cathy Walsh expressing concerns about the enterprise.
Sent only to Avi Kaner, the finance chairman and Republican candidate for selectman, Walsh's email said the majority of her panel had misgivings about funding the entire amount. Walsh, also a Republican, declined to elaborate on that statement when questioned later by the Westport News.
RTM member Dick Lowenstein on Tuesday night asked how the commission members could "change their minds without holding a public meeting" and how they could seemingly overturn a public vote in private.
He asked that Walsh be present at the next RTM session to explain what happened.
As a result of the finance board's decision, Louis Gagliano, who was chairman of the 2020 Downtown Committee, resigned from the group saying he no longer felt other town officials are committed to the project.
G. Kenneth Bernhard, who took over for Gagliano, said "time is of the essence" to get the traffic study done. He said it can be done only after summer and before the year-end holidays, or they will have to wait until the spring.
Among the residents who spoke Tuesday were Jeff Block, who wanted to know how much the entire project would cost, and Connie Greenfield, a 44-year town resident, who expressed concern about Westport remaining a "small town."