Some Westporters say will truly change Westport and its values, while others assert their desire to “revitalize” downtown.
“We should look into every possible way of getting our community as lively as we can while remembering that this is a family town, we want to keep it that way,” says Nina Streitfeld, a 40 year Westport resident.
Striefeld describes a life where parents stay home with their children helping them with their homework and “getting to know them” on weekday evenings.
“Why must we have a community that is going into the night during the weekdays? That is good for an urban environment, but I don’t know that we want that for Westport,” she says.
Howard Bass spoke against a Westport that encourages young families to stay at home with the kids on weeknights. He thought it was ridiculous that one would decide to turn down a zoning change to encourage Westport parents to stay home with their children more often.
Gloria Ginter, a 26 year Westport resident, says more development will threaten Westport’s quaint small town atmosphere. Ginter says she obtained 368 signatures of people in opposition of the zoning change in under six hours, noting that many of them were out-of-towers.
“Not only are most Westporters against this, but also the out-of-towners who shop in our stores and add to our tax revenue. Do you want to lose this?” Ginter says. “We are a small quaint town, and if we lose this we lose everything.”
Bass was upset that a public discussion concerning a zoning change turned into “public exaggeration and complete public distortion of the facts and the issues that are at stake.”
“The town’s plan, so clearly articulated, is to revitalize this town; to enable the town to have shoppers, to have a nightlife,” Bass says. “There are thousands of people in Westport who want downtown Westport to have a reinvigorated nightlife, to not go to downtown Fairfield to eat outside, to go shopping.”
While that may be true, other Westporters shared a very different opinion and simply told the developers to “go somewhere else” in search of other little Connecticut towns that strive to look more like Stamford.
Sherry Korn, an 11-year Westport resident who represents young families with young children, says she doubts the proposed zoning change and potential development will cause Westport to feel like New York City or Stamford.
Korn explains that when she first moved to Westport her family was at the movies and out to dinner downtown all the time.
“Now, to be honest, I almost never go downtown. If we go to dinner, we go to other towns,” she says.
Korn thinks Westport needs a well thought out, integrated plan that is similar to other quaint, charming New England and Connecticut towns, such as New Canaan and Fairfield.
“They still have the quaint charming buildings, they still retain the original home town feeling that I think we are all looking for, but they have a reason to go downtown,” Korn says… “As much as everyone wants things to stay the same, they really can’t. We have many young families that are moving here that want more out of our town and I think this is our opportunity to provide that.”
Many residents who spoke has their decisions made, but some folks were unsure of the correct choice and called for the town to ultimately slow down and to carefully plan this development.
Bass alluded to the some remarks that were made earlier in the meeting about the developers’ financial interests, noting that several of the Bedford Square Partners have been awarded recognition for the character of the buildings they have revitalized in downtown Westport.
“Instead of more banks taking up retail space, the developers brought shopping. Look at the Patagonia building, that has actually won a historical award,” Bass explains.
Bass put strong emphasis on the fact that this vote is only about
“The town of Westport, our way of life, our family structure, none of this stuff is at stake,” Bass says. “(It’s) just a very small parcel of land to have a zoning change so that instead of two random buildings and a decrepit alley, we can have something that we are proud of as Westport residents.”