Finance Board approves $440K state grant
WESTPORT — A state grant is aiming to energize transit-oriented development in the area surrounding the Saugatuck train station.
The $440,000 appropriation to the town is part of an $11 million statewide initiative to support “transit-oriented development and responsible growth.”
“I want to reinforce the fact that there are no strings attached to this grant,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “There’s no implication on what the state wants to do other than focus on transit-oriented development.”
The Saugatuck area will undergo an analysis of the conditions and strategic planning to benefit residents, commuters and local businesses. A steering committee for the Saugatuck area is being finalized, according to Town Operations Director Dewey Loselle.
The town is mandated by the state to submit their plan of development to Hartford and periodically update the state on the progress of the initiative.
Many members of the finance board voiced their concern over a $6 million cost of construction for the streetscape design and a $160,000 cost, not included in the grant. Chairman Brian Stern described the board as “nervous” about the figure. Even members of the town were confused about how the number came to be, especially before the steering committee had any input on the matter.
“I’m not sure how the $6 million number was arrived at because we don’t have a plan,” Planning and Zoning Director Steve Palmer said.
Board member Michael Rea questioned whether the plans had already been drawn out for the grant, even though the steering committee has not been finalized yet.
“You’re appointing a committee to do this research and this study and evaluation. I would like to think that you haven’t already drawn a conclusion and picked a project and maybe even a developer,” Rea said.
The plan describes a three-acre space with a pedestrian plaza, green market, restaurants, retail, apartments, offices, movie theater, hotel and parking for up to 450 vehicles.
Marpe said the $6 million figure was determined by the town to give “a sense of the possible magnitude of projects coming out.”
Board member Sheri Gordon asked specifically about Romano’s Railroad Place design, to which Marpe responded that he believes “they are close to coming forward with some proposal.”