Baldwin lot updates focus on flood control

WESTPORT — The Baldwin Parking Lot off Elm Street could see some major improvements in the next year, particularly when it comes to flooding issues.

On Wednesday, the Department of Public Works hosted a public information session on potential updates to Baldwin Parking Lot. Langan Engineering, which has done previous work in the areas of Bedford Square, Main Street and 33 Elm St., has been hired by the town to assist in designing the project.

“There’s a lot of historical issues and things we think we could improve with this parking lot,” said David Gagnon, of Langan Engineering.

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Baldwin Parking Lot was built around 1970 on land referred to on historic maps dated 1928 as “The Swamp.” Over the past years, the lot has frequently flooded even in small rain storms, and the existing drainage system has been unable to adequately drain the lot. Gagnon said during flooding the town loses a number of spots in the lot.

One of the proposed fixes is to raise the lower portion of the lot and install new drainage structures to connect to the existing storm drainage.

“By doing that we pull the flood area back so your really engaging much more parking then you currently can when the area floods,” Gagnon said.

Additional plans include reducing parking spaces from 203 to 177 to accommodate larger vehicles and add more green space and lighting to the lot.

While there could be a loss of 26 spots, Gagnon noted the improvements will see 16 parking spots pulled out of the flood plain.

“We think a lot of the spots will be more usable as compared to before,” he said.

Director of Public Works Pete Ratkiewich said to make the lot conform to current zoning regulations, some parking spaces must be lost, adding the pipes currently in the ground flow backward, which contribute in large part to the flooding of the parking lot.

To remedy this, the lower portion of the lot is being raised by up to 2 feet. Ratkiewich noted his staff and Langan Engineering originally thought 2.5 feet would be best, but this would adversely affect neighboring properties.

“We have to wrestle with how high we can raise it to make those pipes flow downhill without affecting the adjacent properties,” he said.

There have also been talks of adding electrical charging stations to the lot, with preferred locations being the first six spaces in the lot closest to the Kemper-Gunn House, Ratkiewich said. Police are also interested in placing surveillance cameras.

Ratkiewich said he anticipates at least six months to a year to complete the project, with construction ideally starting in April.

“The best time to build this is in the middle of the summer because once we get into the school season then we’re going right into the holiday season, and we really can’t afford not to have parking in that area,” Ratkiewich said.

Residents wishing to weigh in on the Baldwin Lot project are asked to contact the Public Works Department.