To the Editor:

In his last days, Obama chooses to publicly criticize Israel’s actions as the obstacle to peace.

No criticism for Palestinian intransigence and violence.

No criticism for Iranian anti-American demonstrations the day after he gives them $150 billion, nor for boarding an American ship and forcing our servicemen to get on their knees.

No criticism for Syria and the dictator Assad for devastating his country and citizenry.

No criticism for Saudi Arabia for their cruel human rights abuses and for subsidizing mosques throughout the world that preach hatred and violence against us.

No criticism for Cuba, but rather rewards despite not allowing free elections, a free press, free speech, etc.

Yes, Israel is not perfect. But we are not perfect.

Goodbye, gentlemen, and goodbye to your bumbling foreign policy.

Steve Laitman

Westport

Saugatuck should not be a second downtown

To the Editor:

The Coalition for Westport, a Westport political party, commends First Selectman Jim Marpe for establishing the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development Master Plan Steering Committee.

The time is right for the Saugatuck area to be carefully studied. The area is attractive to residents, visitors and developers for a variety of reasons: It is the historical root of Westport; it provides attractive access to the river; it is a destination for foodies and perhaps most importantly, it is a primary transit hub.

What is more, many of the buildings in the area defined as Saugatuck in the Town Plan of Conservation and Development retain features of their original design and construction despite having been repurposed (some more than once).

The challenge for land use agencies and planners is a classic balancing act: What shall be saved and what replaced? Do we envision the area as a second downtown? Or, as seems most likely and most prudent, do we encourage/require a mix of controlled residential (including multifamily and affordable housing within walking distance to the train station) and commercial development which respects the scale and character of the neighborhood?

The coalition believes Saugatuck should retain its historical heritage and small-town character. Therefore we support an expanded and enhanced neighborhood concept rather than the idea of a second downtown.

We come down squarely in favor of a mixed-use plan favoring residential expansion and enhanced essential services — local businesses, to cater to the requirements of the Saugatuck residential population, which will need such things as a pharmacy, a hardware store, a market and other essential services not now present in the area, which can be provided in “mom and pop” form without competing with Main Street retail. We also foresee some new retail and dining services that would attract additional visitors to the area.

One area that can and should be developed for those types of commercial uses is Railroad Place. This can be done without sacrificing those architectural features or facades at the easterly end of the street which are deemed worth preserving. A drop-off lane could also be created for the station. The coalition recommends that the remainder of the square block (with the possible exception of the office building) be devoted to a mix of housing types — 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments and townhouses, in both rental and condominium forms of occupancy — with adequate parking and passive open space provided. An appropriate percentage should be truly affordable.

To address the ever-present need for additional railroad parking, we urge adoption of a “Transit District” zoning regulation, which provides an incentive to private developers to create railroad parking to be administered by the town, in exchange for increased (but controlled) development density calculated in accordance with a regulatory formula.

Saugatuck residents will need relief from additional vehicular traffic coming into the area. Therefore both additional visitor parking as well as commuter parking should be created — most efficiently at, above or below grade in the ordinary course of construction.

The coalition would also support traffic flow rerouting plans that would alleviate congestion without any major construction or disruption for Saugatuck residents.

We encourage the newly constituted Saugatuck Steering Committee and the P&Z to adopt a plan that implements these thoughts and to coordinate efforts to arrive at a consensus to be formalized in the 2017 TPOCD.

Michael A. Nayor and

the Coalition for Westport