WESTPORT — A perceived conflict of interest has removed one firm from the list of potential companies to transform Saugatuck.

Out of 13 total respondents for the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development request for proposal, five were recommended to the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development Master Plan Steering Subcommittee by co-chairs Craig Schiavone and Mary Young: BL Companies, Harriman/Tighe & Bond, Barton Partners, NV5 (formerly RBA) and BFJ Planning.

Most the proposals were submitted by companies already familiar with Planning and Zoning, Cathy Walsh, the chair of P&Z, said. One of the recommended firms, NV5 (the same firm that worked as consultants for the town on the Downtown Master Plan), was flagged by members of the committee and the public as having a conflict of interest because they helped construct the same grant proposal they are bidding on—the same grant that resulted in the state awarding the town $440,000 for transit oriented development in Saugatuck.

Public Works Director Steve Edwards said he often enlists the help of consultants, like NV5, to help him with requests for proposals (RFPs). He said if such an action precludes the town enlisting that firm for future projects, it will make projects much more difficult going forward.

“We often times will seek out professionals in the field to provide us with input. I mean, they’re the ones that know exactly what a TOD is,” Edwards said at the subcommittee’s Dec. 22 meeting.

They did contribute to this, but they were certainly not the author of this,” he added.

John Suggs, RTM 5, said, “Bottom line is they were a paid consultant. They’ve been outed and acknowledged, today and at the RTM meeting, as being a paid consultant to help write this grant... I am stunned that you would even consider to bring them forward.”

The committee then decided to remove NV5 from consideration and are looking to interview the remaining four firms.

Frederick P. Clark Associates, a firm that submitted a proposal with Pete Romano’s Land Tech Group listed as a sub-contractor, was no longer considered in the running, the committee said.

The Saugatuck Transit Oriented Development Master Plan Steering Subcommittee will next meet on Jan. 3 at 8 a.m. when they are expected to finalize the short list of firms for the project.