Debris dumped at Baron’s South? Town officials say no
WESTPORT — The town-owned Baron’s South property that sits just outside downtown Westport was the site of yet another controversy this week when a concerned resident voiced the alarm about an alleged dumping of construction debris on the grounds.
“I saw what I calculated to be roughly 1,000 yards of a mixture of gravel, stone, fill, and construction debris — bricks, chunks of asphalt, metal, and asbestos pieces,” resident Morley Boyd, a town historic preservation activist, said of his observations from a walk on the property last week.
Town employees, however, disagree with Boyd’s observations of the property.
Building Official Steve Smith contested Boyd’s identification of the material as debris and said the fill is clean fill, otherwise known as soil. The town recently built a new parking lot at the adjoining Westport Center for Senior Activities and needed a place to put the dirt displaced from the parking lot’s construction, Smith said.
“There was a surplus amount of soil and we chose to temporarily store it in this location,” Smith said, noting the town wants to keep the soil for future use on other projects.
“We’re not trying to cover up anything,” Smith said Thursday, adding he only found a handful of metal pieces in the soil and all of these pieces were removed from the property.
The Westport News visited the property Friday morning, however, and found countless pieces of construction debris sprinkled across the land, including what appeared to be chunks of metal, pieces of asphalt, and other unknown objects, such as jagged metal, not characteristic of soil.
Still, Conservation Department Director Alicia Mozian said she inspected the site Monday and did not see any evidence of uncontrolled sediment washing down the property’s driveway in a way that could harm the river across the street.
“I saw that the soil was stabilized,” Mozian said.
The property, colloquially known as Baron’s South, includes about 20 acres of open space and a mansion built by the Austrian Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff after he immigrated to the United States during World War II and founded Evyan perfumes.
The town purchased the property after Langer died and over the years the town had a variety of plans for the property — from a senior housing complex to a new location for the Westport Arts Center, but these did not come to fruition.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to designate the entire property open space in 2015, effectively making it a park, and now the land falls under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Department, which plans to further enhance the park, parks department director Jennifer Fava said.
These plans were halted while the senior center completed its expansion, which was finished in January. Now, the parks department will start moving through the process to enhance the park, Fava said.
“The potential is huge in the sense that it’s a defining aspect of our downtown area,” Boyd said. “It’s dodged all kinds of things so I remain hopeful that there is an opportunity to make this really shine in the way I know it could.”
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