Committee, consultants spar over finalized plan for Saugatuck
Westport — A 16-month effort to envision the future of Saugatuck culminated in the completion of a consultant-prepared master plan for Saugatuck and an accompanying preface, written by the project’s steering committee, that repudiates large swaths of the consultants’ plan.
“We note with regret that the committee and the consultants were at times at odds on key points throughout the process,” the committee’s preface reads.
The project, entitled “A Gateway for Westport,” began in 2016 after Westport received a $440,00 state grant to explore preliminary ideas for transit-oriented development, parking, and improved streetscapes in Saugatuck.
The 15-member steering committee — composed of Westport residents and stakeholders, all appointed by First Selectman Jim Marpe — hired the Pennsylvania-based Barton Partners to serve as lead consultant for the project and, throughout the process, sparred with the consultancy on many of its recommendations, finishing the project Wednesday, over time and over budget.
A particular point of disagreement regarded Barton’s recommendation, as outlined in the vision plan section of the consultant’s report, to add several single-story, bi-level parking decks at the Saugatuck Train Station in an effort to consolidate parking closer to shops and the station and make room for new apartments, retail space, and streetscape improvements in the area.
“The committee rejected in its entirety the parking decks in lots one and two and the liner buildings. We rejected the entire chapter called ‘A vision plan for future consideration.’ That title is misleading. That vision is only of Barton and not the committee,” said Cathy Walsh, a Saugatuck committee member and Planning and Zoning commissioner. “We were extremely upset the consultants refused to take that concept, that chapter, out of the report.”
The committee did agree with Barton’s recommendations for improves streetscapes, green space, and waterfront access.
Before any of the plan’s ideas can come to fruition, they would first need to be proposed by a developer, perhaps in the form of a public-private partnership, and approved by town’s different planning and zoning bodies.
Whether the ideas will ever see the light of day remains to be seen.
“It’s absolutely not our report. We are not endorsing it. We are not rejecting it. It is Barton’s report,” said Saugatuck committee member Peter Gold, who is on the Representative Town Meeting.
“They gave it to us — Thank you very much. I’ll put it on a shelf,” he added.
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