Minutes of the Kane and Harmer Meeting

Minutes of Y’s Men Meeting of October 6, 2016

Melissa Kane and Bill Harmer

First Selectman Jim Marpe introduced the speakers. Melissa Kane, Co-chair of the Downtown Planning Implementation Committee, and Bill Harmer, Director of the Westport Library.

Ms. Kane spoke at length of the significant efforts to keep Westport in the forefront of innovation following the Downtown Master Plan. The focus is small town character, connections to both sides of

the river, and outdoor public spaces. The downtown plan was adopted in 2015 by the Selectmen to enhance the feel and use of downtown.  Starting point is the conservation/development master plan to improve community life.  Areas addressed are parking, traffic, with public outreach for input using Facebook, web page, surveys (3000 responses), architectural renditions and open house.

The Plan presents 53 strategies/recommendations both long and short term covering areas such as: public and traffic mobility, parking, storm water control. 

Over the next two years the immediate priority is working with the Downtown Merchants to address areas of improvement, maintenance, signage throughout the town and working with the Transit District to improve non car access. Focus will be on a sidewalk network and bike path covering Main St., Imperial Ave., upper Main St., Jesup Green, Elm St., Avery/Baldwin parking lot combination and improving Post Road crossing safety. Also improving Toquet Hall teen center by soundproofing and expanding kitchen facilities. 

Key to this effort is to resolve storm flooding. To that end funding in the amount of $800,000 has been secured for a Master Drainage Study.

These short term goals stress low cost, high impact with engaged community involvement at all levels.

Mid-term projects over a two to five year time line addresses reinventing Jesup Green regarding traffic, parking, and a more people friendly space.  Also addressed are Imperial Ave. Parking Lot, Parker-Harding Parking Lot with a five year look at cafes, perhaps a barge restaurant.

The activity will follow a well-defined implementation plan covering initial steps, costs, milestones, timing, and public and private partnerships -both profit and non-profit with long term sustainability.

For those interested please see web site for a more detailed look at the 53 recommendations/proposals contained in the plan.

Mr. Harmer who recently moved from Chelsea, MI, has won many national awards for outstanding library innovation.  The library in Chelsea was voted the Best Small Library in the US.

Mr. Harmer spoke to the revised library plan that addresses community needs at a much reduced cost of $19.5 million with no change in the current footprint versus the original plan costing $27 million that envisioned expansion. He noted that the existing building is not state of the art, not adaptable to human interaction and does not meet community needs of a high use by a wide range of demographics. The building is in need of renovation. With slides and narrative Mr. Harmer described the space allocation plans to use the upper level for community events in an auditorium configuration, and more specialized use of space with the lower levels for books and quiet space.  The lower level will be opened up to get more light and tie into the river space and view. The revised plan will provide flexible space use that addresses changing community needs.