RTM signs off on $139K to complete funding for downtown plan
The remainder of funding needed for a downtown master plan -- $139,000 -- was approved unanimously Tuesday night by the Representative Town Meeting.
The RTM had previously approved $65,000 for phase one of the project, which included a traffic study by RBA Group.
A contract can now be signed with the consultant group for the next phase, which will include collecting information from existing and prior master plans and studies, said Ken Bernhard, interim chairman of the Downtown 2020 Committee, which is overseeing the project.
He said the consultant group will also reach out to the community to "see what they want, what they want Westport's future development to look like."
"The whole idea is for us to have a preferred plan for our town and for the developers -- so everyone has a common goal," he said.
Right now, Bernhard added, projects move forward in isolation from other developments. The plan will give a "community perspective."
Besides the town funding, the project has received a $497,000 grant from the Connecticut Main Street Group, which gives money for downtown improvements, said Lou Gagliano, former chairman of the downtown committee.
He said the bulk of the grant money will be used for sidewalk and curbing improvements and lighting.
Bernhard said the future of the downtown committee depends on which candidate for first selectman wins in the November election.
"I'm optimistic both can see us proceeding," he said.
Funding for the project became the focus of controversy recently because -- although the entire amount was initially approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission -- Cathy Walsh, the P&Z chairwoman, sent an email to Board of Finance Chairman Avi Kaner just prior to that board's vote on the funding request.
Walsh's memo said that a majority of the commission members had misgivings about funding the entire amount. As a result, the finance board initially only approved $65,000, an amount that the RTM also approved.
That caused Gagliano, who served as chairman of the Downtown 2020 Committee since it was formed last year by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, to resign. On Wednesday, he said he's still not sure if he will return, adding he's also waiting to see who wins the first selectman race.
"I want to see how they go about it from an organizational standpoint," he said.