19 condos proposed on historic home property
WESTPORT — The battle over the proposed construction of a McMansion-style home on a historic Greens Farms property last year has resurrected with a vengeance, and a new plan to build 19 condos on the land.
Morningside Drives Homes LLC submitted an application in October to Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department to “demolish the farmhouse on 26 Morningside, and in its place, construct 19 three-bedroom townhouse dwelling units in five buildings,” the application reads.
Six of the units are proposed to be income restricted, which allows the application to qualify under the 8-30g statute of the Connecticut General Statutes.
The properties at 20 and 26 Morningside Drive South, which sit across the street from Greens Farms Elementary School, garnered significant attention in January 2018 when the town’s Historic District Commission unanimously denied Morningside’s application to build a mansion at 20 Morningside.
Greens Farms residents and historic preservation activists at the time appeared at several historic district meetings to advocate against development on the property, which was previously owned by the now deceased artist couple Walter and Naiad Einsel.
Walter and Naiad, both prominent artist well-known for their commercial design work and kinetic sculptures, moved to the mid-19th-century farmhouse at 26 Morningside in 1965. The couple also bought the adjoining lot at 20 Morningside, which housed Walter’s artist studio.
“They were the face of the Westport artist colony. These people were it. They were the first couple in the Westport arts community and their house was a wonder,” Morley Boyd, a historic preservation activist in town, said in 2017.
A decade after Walter died, in 1998, Naiad requested Local Historic Property Status for both properties from the town of Westport, to protect the character of the buildings and property.
In 2007, her wish was granted, and the 20 and 26 Morningside Drive South Local Historic District was born.
Shortly after Naiad died in 2016, the lots were sold to Emil Fish, each for $1.5 million, and transferred to Morningside Drive Homes LLC.
Morningside Drive Homes proposed in 2017 to build a home on the 20 Morningside lot. However, its historic status required the company to obtain a “Certificate of Appropriateness” for any proposed building changes.
The historic district denied the application, saying the proposed house was too large and eliminated the rural nature of the property.
Now, Morningside has submitted an application that calls for 19 townhouse-style units in five buildings across both properties.
In towns like Westport that don’t have enough affordable housing in the eyes of the state, any 8-30g application brought before the town’s zoning board can skirt local building regulations and only be denied on traffic, safety or environmental grounds.
The application will appear before the Conservation Commission on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
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