It seems we just saved an old house, but at what cost? It now seems clear that Westport's town government, including a majority of Save Westport Now members on the Planning and Zoning Commission, ignored their fiscal responsibility in trading a valuable town resource -- scarce parking -- for a soon-to-be rebuilt house.
The concept of preservation is a noble one that the Coalition for Westport supports, but when carried to extreme, it can result in a waste of municipal resources, as it appears is the case with the Kemper-Gunn House. Many of those who spearheaded the effort to save this property have now come to realize that the property may not be one of the best examples of the style it supposedly represents. Yet government officials and townspeople have been intimidated into believing that they would be voting against motherhood and apple pie if they did not support dedicating public land and entering into a sweetheart deal to ensure Kemper-Gunn's survival.
Those on the P&Z who recently spoke against the project are to be commended, but it was too little too late. The most offensive argument in favor of the project was put forth by a P&Z member who argued that we shouldn't allow our concerns over the lease to spoil all of the effort the town put in to get to this point.
When did effort become the substitute for a good outcome? According to him, bad decisions must be supported once wheels have been put in motion. What a destructive, nonsensical and irresponsible approach for a public official to make.
The Coalition for Westport brought all of the issues -- cost, use of space and suspect architectural value -- to the attention of the entire Representative Town Meeting to the current and former town administrations in October 2013. The lack of response was disappointing. Now we will apparently pay the price. For a paltry return, we will give up valuable municipal land and support a soon-to-be lucrative private enterprise. It is a sad day when the town is held hostage by seemingly well-meaning people who, with misguided zeal, clearly failed to weigh the economic consequences of their actions.
The administration and all residents should remain vigilant to ensure that a Kemper-Gunn situation is not repeated in the future.
Coalition for Westport Town Committee