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Saturday, December 16 News

Saugatuck Center deemed financially unfeasible

WESTPORT — Consultants presented a tough verdict for the financial feasibility of the proposed Saugatuck Center at a meeting this week.

According to Seth Shapiro, principal of Barton Partners and lead for the Saugatuck Center project, the project’s financial infeasibility stems from its lack of proposed density.

Shapiro and his team originally presented a development scenario to the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee that included 300 to 600 residential units, which the consultants said satisfied the market capacity for development in the neighborhood.

The proposed project, called, “A Gateway for Westport,” was aiming to make downtown Saugatuck more walkable, attractive and vibrant, while maintaining the district’s historic structures and reducing traffic congestion.

Feedback from members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Steering Committee urged Shapiro to come back with lower-density plans, however.

Shapiro came to the Nov. 27 meeting with two, lower-density development scenarios: one proposing 150 residences, and the other presenting 200 units.

However, Shapiro said the proposed densities inhibit the project’s financial feasibility.

“The only way most of these properties can be developed is if they are developed by their current land owners. Again, because the density and intensity are so low and the cost of construction is so high,” Shapiro said.

Still, many who attended the meeting were incensed by a proposed level of density they still considered too high.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Planning and Zoning Commission member Chip Stephens said. “They laid on this extra congestion, this extra building, this extra density.”

Selectman Melissa Kane also raised reservations about the project’s proposed scale. “I’m concerned the development they’re recommending is way beyond what the neighborhood wants or can physically accommodate,” Kane said.

Kane also expressed concern about the consultant’s lack of attention to parking concerns in the proposed Center. “I was surprised that certain elements of dealing with traffic seemed to be outside of the scope of dealing with the project.”

Stephens concurred, “They said we have to figure out the traffic itself, which was already an abomination.”

The Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee will next meet on Tuesday, Dec. 19. At 8 a.m. in Town Hall. Shapiro and his team plan to present a draft final report for Saugatuck Center at the meeting.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; @SophieCVaughan1

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