After lengthy controversy over new Westport Y, few questions at construction forum

To deal with concerns that neighbors might have with the new headquarters the Westport Weston Family Y is building on its Mahackeno property, the Y staged a forum Thursday for questions and answers about the 54,000-square-foot complex.

Dan Drake, senior project manager for Turner Construction, shared details about construction plans and methods that his company plans to use during the roughly 18-month project. Less than 10 members of the public showed up.

"I personally was the project manager at Bedford, Saugatuck and Staples (schools) ... I hope you understand we've done it before in this town and we're sensitive to the neighbor's concerns," he said. "We want to be good neighbors ourselves."

"Let me reiterate that we are aware of the discussions and the requirements that govern this project," he said, "and we are following them point by point."

Drake said work on the south side of the 32-acre property would start in May, including tree clearing and demolition of two Sunny Lane houses and two Camp Mahackeno buildings.

"The Y is scheduled to move in late September, early October of 2014," he said.

The Westport Weston Family Y, after years of planning and litigation over its plans to build a new home on the Mahackeno property in the northwest corner of town, staged a ceremonial groundbreaking to mark the start of construction on the $39 million project.

Drake said all construction workers on the site would take part in an orientation so they would know what is expected. Among these guidelines, he said, are: "No access from Rice's lane. No smoking or drinking, obviously," as well as maintaining safety practices.

While personnel may arrived at 6:15 a.m., work will not begin until 7 o'clock weekdays, or 8 on weekends and holidays.

"In addition to controlling noise," he said, "we're also required to deep dust out of the air and dirt off the roads."

Toward that end, he said gravel anti-tracking mats would be used to clean dirt off trucks as they leave the site. "To keep dust out of the air we'll be using water trucks and misting machines."

Rob Reeves, executive director of the Family Y, said he and his wife, Joanne, live at 8 Sunny Lane, and are therefore sensitive to the project's impact on the neighborhood.

"We're going to do everything we can to meet the letter of the law ..." he said, "so we are good stewards of what's been asked of us."

Reeves said the Y's longtime downtown building at 59 Post Road East has begun to deteriorate. While he said work has been done to keep facilities running, it was determined "years ago that it wasn't sustainable."

He said at this point details about the new Y are changing, and encouraged people to keep abreast of developments through its website, He also encouraged people to contact him with any questions or concerns.

Jim Meehan of Westport, who lives nearby on Wilton Road, asked several questions about traffic.

"Obviously, I want to see the plan and I want to see how the traffic pattern is going to be affected," he said.

Among the changes planned are redesigning the entrance and exit ramps of Exit 41 off the northbound Merritt Parkway, which the Y will pay for.

Reeves said he would have a traffic expert on hand the next time the Y hosts an informational meeting, as well as someone to share more details about the sewage-processing equipment that will be used.

While he has some concerns about traffic the new Family Y may generate, Meehan has positive feelings about the project.

"It's going to be an incredible facility to have in our area," he said. "I'm excited about it."