Saturday, October 14, 2006

So Where Does the Time Go?

Drop Cap Letter: Yes, I know, Gordon’s Journal has been AWOL for a while.  Busy days and long hours. But here’s a little catch-up.

This week a group of fifth graders from the Westport schools came in to talk about community issues, everything from big houses, obesity in young people, emergency preparedness, taxation, traffic, sidewalks, biking on town streets, whether I would run again and of course, the Y at Mahackeno.

They listened politely and intently. Clearly they had done their homework and truly were interested in the issues and my answers. The Westport Minuteman had a good story about it in this week’s issue.

Last week, there was a letter in the Westport News suggesting I had been silent on the Y issue. I guess the letter writer was not paying attention to last fall’s debates where it was a main issue in the selectman’s race and to my comments reported in the press since then.

As I told the youngsters this week, in the best of all worlds the Y would be centrally located. I have had numerous conversations with Y leaders in which I offered to work with them to find an alternate location downtown. But the answer has been the same—they are focused on moving to land they already own at Mahackeno.

The Y, like any land owner in Westport, has the right to apply to use their property as they see fit. If their efforts are unsuccessful, I stand ready to work with them on finding someplace else.

I don’t recall discussing affordable housing with the fifth graders. But it certainly is something on the front burner for all Westporters—Gorham Avenue, Saugatuck, you name it. 

I sat through much of the P&Z meeting this week along with many other Westporters listening intently to the presentations. I had hoped for an opportunity to speak along with my fellow Westporters. Maybe next time.

What I’ll say is what many others have said – the proposed development on Gorham Avenue and Main Street is too intense for the neighborhood. There is no question Westport needs more affordable housing, senior housing, workforce housing, etc. But not at the cost of destroying neighborhoods, especially one so historic as the Gorham area.

We as a community must find places where we can erect this kind of housing. Baron’s South certainly is one place and we are actively pursuing plans to do so. There are plans that have been on the drawing boards for some time to expand such housing in the Hales Court area. We hope to move ahead on these as well.

The six units approved for West End Avenue for the Interfaith Housing Association will help out. So will some units in a proposed development by the Gault family in Saugatuck.

But any plans for creating this kind of housing in Westport must be done in a measured way and must have support of the community. Next month—date to be decided—I hope to have a “Citizens Summit on Affordable Housing” where we as a community can begin earnest discussions on the issue.

I look forward to seeing many of you there.