RTM gets a second look at Jesup Green possibly torn asunder | Westport Journal (2024)

May 2, 2024 | Community, Government, Real Estate | 7

RTM gets a second look at Jesup Green possibly torn asunder | Westport Journal (1)

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — Representative Town Meeting members on Wednesday afternoon again visited Jesup Green to get a hands-on look at how a multi-phase plan to remake downtown parking might affect it.

In play are what open areas would be paved over, perhaps replaced later with greenspace closer to the river, and trees lost or transplanted. All to replace some 40 spaces lost in the Parker Harding Plaza redesign, across the Post Road.

The uphill third of the green and several trees, some of them tall and mature, would be felled or relocated to make way for a terraced parking area.

All that would be to make up for the lost parking spaces updating Parker Harding Plaza to comply with current engineering/safety standards.

The question before the RTM is whether to approve the administration’s request for $630,000 from American Rescue Plan Act funding the town got from the federal government to pay for a redesign of the Jesup and Imperial Avenue parking lots.

If funding is denied, it appears the whole project would be dead in the water.

More than half the RTM and several other people had attended a field trip to the green two days earlier, and there were many questions, and lots of discussions with many people talking at once.

Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich brushed back some questions Monday, and again Wednesday with a smaller group, reminding people he saw the site visit as an informational gathering, not a public hearing to debate policy.

Ratkiewich referred attendees with questions about the trees that would be lost or moved to a report by the tree warden, on the town’s website for the Planning and Zoning Commission’s previously approved applications. That report is here.

RTM gets a second look at Jesup Green possibly torn asunder | Westport Journal (2)

Differing opinions from some of the town’s Tree Board were expressed at another meeting.

The question of building a parking deck at the Baldwin Lot off Elm Street, in years past reviled by many as too urban but revived by many in recent discussions, was raised by someone attending Wednesday’s field trip.

“That was a recommendation attached to the 8-24s,” Ratkiewich said. “It’s not binding.”

“Can you confirm that that is going to be part of the [$630,000 ARPA appropriation] that we’re going to be actually going to use some of that evaluate structured parking?” RTM Moderator Jeff Wieser asked. “I think that’s a really important point of overall review as a plan.”

Ratkiewich said that within the $630,000 request filed with the RTM for the ARPA-funded design work, “there is a contingency within the fund request.”

RTM gets a second look at Jesup Green possibly torn asunder | Westport Journal (3)

“And we feel that there’s probably enough that we can do that fund analysis,” Ratkiewich said. “We may have to supplement it with some in-house work, but we can do that analysis.”

“And a strong endorsem*nt from the RTM in our conversation would help that happen?” Wieser asked.

“Certainly,” Ratkiewich replied.

That appears more of a spoon-full-of-sugar talking point than real-time possibility to stop an impending, drastic alteration of the town green many longtime Westporters view as sacred.

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker attended both field trips.

She stayed on the sidelines Monday but weighed in Wednesday.

RTM gets a second look at Jesup Green possibly torn asunder | Westport Journal (4)

“The reason why the timing of evaluating the parking structure should happen now, and not should have happened before is because we’re evaluating whether or not the police station stays,” Tooker said, referring to a potential phase 3, when the town’s emergency services are consolidated somewhere other than Jesup Road.

“So, it would really be not good policy or strategy to make a decision on a parking structure for however many million dollars and for however much controversy before we make a decision on the police station,” Tooker said.

“That’s why these appropriations came before you at exactly the same time,” Tooker said. “We’re pushing the evaluation of a joint public protection facility and pushing evaluation of the rest of parking plus a parking structure at the same time, from a strategic standpoint. This is very strategic, very purposeful.”

The $630,000 parking lot design request is the tenth item on a very long RTM agenda, leading off with a vote on the 2024-25 town budget, which the body will take up as time permits over the course of May 6-8.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 36 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.

RTM gets a second look at Jesup Green possibly torn asunder | Westport Journal (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated:

Views: 6579

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.