Staples Music Notes

Staples High School has a newly formed Music Parent Association. We are a group of parents whose mission is to assist and support the music students and music department at Staples High School. We are fortunate enough to be able to have this new monthly column in the Westport news to keep the community updated on musical events at the high school.

The music department is currently rehearsing for it's wonderful Holiday Candlelight Concerts that are scheduled for Dec. 18 and 19. The concerts are the music department's gift to the community, and approximately 3,000 people attend each year.

Staples High School student will be participating in Western Regional Music Festival auditions in November. The finest music students from 26 different Connecticut high schools will participate in either Jazz Ensemble, Chorus, Orchestra or Symphony Band. This annual event is sponsored by the Connecticut Music Educators Association.

Calendar:

Saturday, Nov 21, Western Region High School Auditions -- Danbury High School.

Wednesday, Dec. 2, SHS 9/10 Fall Concert, 7:30 p.m., SHS Aud. -- Band 9 and Orchestra 9 & 10.

Friday, Dec. 18, Candlelight Concert, 7 p.m., SHS Auditorium.

Saturday, Dec. 19, Candlelight Concerts, 7 and 9:30 p.m., SHS Auditorium.

Fran Southworth

Staples Music Parent Association

Dear fellow Westporters

Now that the election is over, I'd like to express my appreciation for having been able to serve on the RTM and the Board of Selectmen. For those opportunities, I will always be grateful.

While I readily admit I was disappointed that only 172 brave souls voted for me, I still am highly satisfied that I was able to put forth my positions on taxes, senior tax relief, Camp Mahackeno and public assisted housing (not to be confused with senior housing). It is my hope that somewhere down the line my platform will somehow come into play during the next administration, which is the may reason why I was a write-in candidate in the first place.

Speaking of the next administration, I congratulate Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen on their victory. They are both good, honest people. I wish them nothing but much success during the next four years.

Allow me to close with one final thought: it was an honor to have served you, my fellow Westporters.

John Izzo

Westport

Adopt-a-Soldier

Please join me in supporting a very special program called "Adopt-a-Soldier" by becoming a sponsor to a soldier. My name is Marian and I am a long-time resident of Westport. Perhaps you've participated in my drive for Operation Iraqi Children a while back at the Westport Senior Center. If you did, thank you.

I am now working with a wonderful program called Adopt-a-Soldier, 3rd Infantry Division, in Savannah, Ga. Several weeks ago while visiting the Ford Plantation in Savannah; I attended a dinner given to honor the local military officers and their wives. The event was held at the plantation's clubhouse in a beautiful southern-style mansion with a grand entrance stairway. It had all the quintessential southern accents including an extraordinary tree-lined entrance with two civil war cannons on loan by the local brigade for the occasion. I must say I was very impressed with it all. All of the officers looked very distinguished in their full military dress. I even had the opportunity to meet a Brigadier General and his wife. I was surprised at how young and good-looking he was. The officers' wives, along with several other volunteers from the Adopt-a-Soldier program held a silent auction for goody baskets for the troops, and they graciously introduced me to the Adopt-a-Soldier program and the good it does.

Adopt-a-Soldier was developed as a way for a soldier (male/female) to find a connection with someone from the states. It really does help them to know that someone cares about him or her. Please keep in mind that many of these young men and women may have little or no support from their homes and families in the states and therefore receive no letters or care packages. Also, most of the younger soldiers have never been overseas, and can feel a little overwhelmed by such a transport. Your kindness helps them get through. They truly appreciate finding someone to connect to and look forward to communicating with someone nice back home. That someone can be you! I personally plan on having my 8-year-old daughter Lindsay create the Christmas card this year for our soldier. She's an amazing artist and enjoys being involved, too.

A very good indication that this program is very much needed is that 80 percent of the soldiers deployed eagerly sign up for the program before boarding the plane to leave for their mission, especially the younger soldiers. The 3rd Infantry Division will be heading out to Afghanistan over the next two weeks. Please sign up today with Carol so we can give a soldier your name before they go.

E-mail Carol.Megathlin@comcast.net. Carol will then assign you a soldier with his/her e-mail address. The sponsor e-mails the soldier, introduces him/herself, and asks for the soldier's APO mailing address in Iraq or Afghanistan. The sponsor then sends care packages, e-mails and letters to the soldier for the duration of his/her deployment. Whether you send treats and goodies, books or toiletries, it all gets used and is very much appreciated. The soldiers are like kids at Christmas when they open their boxes and letters. Many friendships have already been established between soldiers and their sponsors. The U.S. Postal Service has made it affordable to send a mid-size package with an $8 flat rate with no weight restrictions. I usually fill my package with DVDs, books, pens, paper, art supplies, cards, treats, toothpaste and other toiletries. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can recover your expenses through a military donation tax code deduction.

Carol will send out an occasional update to all the sponsors who have given her their e-mail addresses. These updates feature items of interest and information for sponsors and may include messages from the Major General with his thanks for your support.

Marian Rockwood

Westport

Will National Hall

survive P&Z rezoning?

The front page article published last week titled "Planning for Westport's downtown revitalization -- Corwin seeks to create a vision of vitality" is rather puzzling in view of the fact that after seven weeks of deliberation the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is poised to accept a text amendment that will turn the Inn at National Hall and the surrounding buildings of the Historic Design District complex into a sleepy office park.

Last Oct. 1, Greenfield Partners, a real estate investment firm, presented their application for a text amendment revision that would rezone the entire Historic design district known as National Hall. Currently all ground-floor space is zoned for retail use. Under their proposal retail space on the ground level will be reduced to 10 percent. The Inn will no longer exist and the result could be only one building with any retail at all as the rest would be entirely devoted to offices on first second and third floors.

Incidentally don't be surprised if you have not heard anything about this proposal or the Oct. 1 hearing as it has not been reported until now. (Editor's note: the Wednesday, Nov. 18, Westport News contained a story about this property, however, this letter was received after press time for Wednesday's paper.) Not even the nearby and surrounding property owners were given official notice. The hearing was closed that evening and no further input is allowed.

The applicant, Greenfield Partners, an out-of-town real estate investment firm, has a contract to purchase the seven building complex plus the parking garage located on the opposite side of Wilton Road for $10 million with a contingency that they will only perform if the P&Z grants the text amendment permitting rezoning to accommodate the change the zoning of the National Hall HDD to predominately office use. The current owners, The Antares Group, purchased these properties from Greenfield Partners in 2006 for the sum of $19 million.

While some change of use may be necessary to insure the viability of this complex, eliminating hotel/residency and drastically reducing retail use will change the entire character of the West Bank Gateway to our town leaving us with an office park with blind shuttered windows along the Post Road West.

Testifying on behalf of the applicant at the October hearing was an entourage of supporters. Among them, David Waldman of the Downtown Merchants Association testified that the The National Hall complex in particular and West Bank district in general is not economically viable for retail use. Perhaps some of the local family owned retail owners in the area who average between 10 and 15 years in their west bank/downtown locations would disagree. For instance: The Age of Reason, The Westport River Art Gallery, The Mandarin Collection, Circa Antiques, L'Antiquaire, The Needlework Shoppe, Glen Leroux, Westport Aquarium, Design Upholstery and Signorello, to name a few.

These merchants pretty much represent what remains of the mom-and-pop retail establishments in our town, the primary reason being that rents are about half of those on Main Street. From the bridge to the Arts Center these shops and galleries bring variety and character to Westport and support our image as a town devoted to the arts.

Yes, there are a number of retail vacancies on the west bank at this economically troubled time. In the case of the National Hall complex, retail vacancies may be self-inflicted. Over the past 10 years, long-term retail tenants have been pushed out and prospective and inquiring tenants until today receive no response to their offers to lease the retail spaces.

The economic downturn has produced a high rate of vacant storefronts on Main Street. Does that mean we should rezone Main Street? Has anyone taken into account the vacancy rate of office buildings?

How does this proposal fit into the Town Plan that Corwin sites in your article: "In the Westport 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development -- known as the Town Plan -- an entire chapter was dedicated to the Westport center, which includes the Levitt Pavilion, the Westport Arts Center and, of course, Main Street and part of the Post Road East."

The last time we looked, National Hall, our beautiful historic jewel overlooking the river, and probably the most photographed buildings in town, was smack dab in the middle of this Westport Center and certainly worth revitalization.

Turning National Hall into an office park is hardly the way to revitalize this area. Once it is gone, we all loose. Call our elected officials and demand a public open hearing on this monumental issue.

Dina Roger, CC Wong, Paula & Michael Savignol, Christine Ursitti Savignol, Terri and Vito Brancato

Westport

Thank you

On behalf of the Staples High School boys swim and dive team, we would like to thank everyone who purchased a towel, hat or made a donation to our team this weekend at our annual Fundraiser. Thanks to all of you, it was a big success.

We owe a special thank you to the stores, which allowed us to sell our merchandise to their customers.

Thanks to S&S General Manager Mark Gerson, who gave us permission to be there all day on Saturday and to sell at both entrances. Since it was pouring rain, we were very thankful to be under cover.

On Sunday, we sold at four different locations: in front of Vineyard Vines in downtown Westport, the Farmer's Market located behind Saugatuck Congregational Church, at the Sherwood Island Diner and Elvira's.

The large sidewalk space outside of Vineyard Vines provided us with our biggest Sunday selling location. Thanks to Tracy of the Condo Board at 90 Main St. for scheduling us in at this plaza. In addition, many members of the Downtown Merchants Association were very supportive of our efforts.

We also set up a stand right next to the fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmer's Market and met lots of friendly people. Thank you to Mary Ann West for this ideal location.

The Tziolis Family gave us permission to sell outside the Sherwood Diner. We found it worked best to ask their customers if they would like to purchase a hat or towel on their way OUT of the diner. Everyone seemed in quite a hurry to get inside and enjoy a delicious Sunday morning brunch. Being at the diner made us realize that we are really going to miss their son Stefan during our upcoming season.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to sell outside of Elvira's -- we enjoyed sitting outside on their picnic benches and greeting all the runners and dog-walkers. Thanks to the Yiovanakos for allowing us to sell to everyone on their way into Elvira's on a beautiful Sunday.

Thanks as well to all the parents of the swimmers who took time out of their weekends to come and supervise our sale -- we really appreciated having you with us. We greatly value having your support and encouragement, now and throughout our season.

And finally, we need to thank our coach, Jeffrey Schare, who is always there for us both in and out of the pool. He gave us not only encouragement, but also selling tips throughout the weekend. Thanks for spending your weekend with a large group of swimmers and divers -- we know how hard it is for you to leave your own family behind.

We are especially grateful because this is our only fund-raising event of the year and it allows us to cover all the costs for our upcoming season. We hope many of you will come to the SHS pool this winter (wearing your Staples hats) and cheer us on. We are looking forward to our upcoming season and again we would like to thank all of you who supported us this weekend.

The Staples High School Boys Swim and Dive Team

Westport

Shame on you

Shame on you, Jim Ezzes. With all your smooth talk of clean campaigning with out attacks on the opponents, you pulled a whopper. You attacked, in a letter to the newspaper, one of the finest and most respected citizens of Westport, a former chairman of the Democratic party, Sidney Kramer.

Kramer founded Save Westport Now in order to protect neighborhoods and to prevent over-commercialization in Westport. He was owner of our wonderful Remarkable Book Shop on Main Street (Remark is Kramer spelled backwards), that his wife Esther ran. Kramer ahs been contributing his smarts, his time, his caring and his money to this town for more than 50 years and you had the gall to attack him personally because he didn't back your candidates in this election. To attempt to paint this kind, quiet, unassuming nonagenarian as a bully was shameful behavior on your part.

We expect the chairman of a political party to be able to keep his cool during a campaign and not have to resort to personal attacks on anyone. There were personal attacks in this campaign, Jim, and they came from you. I think you owe Mr. Kramer a public apology.

Anne Fogel

Westport