Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Sewer Foes Criticize Farrell
By Don Casciato
Printed in the Westport News

In the aftermath of the Board of Selectmen's approval last week of sewers at the former F.D. Rich site, the action has been met by a barrage of e-mail criticism by the opponents of the project.

Eighteen communications have been received, according to First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell.

In addition, Farrell said that two visitors to her weekly Brown Bag Luncheon Wednesday questioned the decision in which Democrats Farrell and Carl Leaman voted for approval of the sewers at the site.

E-mail communication is an increasingly popular tool for those trying to gather support on political, environmental and social issues. Most recently, it has been used by those against the United States going to war in Iraq.

Since late 2001, the town boards and commissions have been considering the request to construct houses on the site which is called the Reserve at Poplar Plains by the developer, ARS Partners.

Most of the opponents in their e-mails attacked a comment by Farrell in the Westport News.

Asked in a news account if there had been reaction besides the e-mail of Matthew Mandell, a leader of a group against construction of the homes, Farrell said that there hadn't been much response so far to the decision.

Some of the letter writers seemed to assume that she was referring to comments during the recent hearings held by the selectmen, when she was actually referring to the time from the end of the meeting at about 7:45 p.m., Feb. 26, to the morning of Feb. 27 at most 16 hours.

It is a typical question asked by curious reporters.

It appeared Farrell had given a straight answer, as she could have added "give it more time" beyond 16 hours, but she didn't.

On Monday before a meeting of the Westport Democratic Town Meeting and the Democratic Women of Westport, Farrell said she was shocked by the number of e-mails.

"The public should be assured that we have not misunderstood either party in the dispute," said the first selectwoman. "We've been concerned about public safety."

Copies of some of the letters were sent to the Westport News.

Some of the highlights follow:

As to the reaction issue, Barry Kresch stated, 'There are many of us in the community who do care about the issue and the process. We have jobs and families, and unfortunately can't make every meeting. We do our best, but you can be sure we follow events."

He also questioned "narrowly written regulations that permits a vote in a way that avoids dealing with the substantive water quality and health issues [and] does not do your constituents any kind of service." Kresch also focused on Carl Leaman's statement: "We have to approve this whether we like it or not."

Rhoda Berke also challenged the reaction remark. She reminded Farrell: "Please, just at the brown bag lunch alone, the people who spoke pleaded for you not to approve the sewers. The neighbors were well represented at the lunch. Not one citizen attending the lunch spoke out in favor of the approval. All speakers urged you to not give your approval." [The brown bag lunch in question refers to one last month not the one this week.]

She continued: "But alas, you did, and perhaps Diane, you didn't get the reaction you expected because we all pretty much expected you and Carl's vote would be as it turned out a huge disappointment to all of us. I guess we were all hoping for you and Carl to do something very independent and extraordinary not!"

Betsy Campbell pointed out that opposition was expressed at the second hearing of the Board of Selectmen acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA). "I was at the second hearing on this matter and there were many concerned citizens from the immediate area and other parts of town who were decidedly against the proposed sewer line."

Bill and Heidi Laros also sounded off.

Bill Laros pointed to the traffic the project would bring to the area. "I live on the corner of Partrick and Crawford Roads and the roads are already inadequate in terms of their width and the speed at which cars travel."

He predicted there will be auto and most likely pedestrian accidents in the future unless the roads are made wider and speed bumps are installed.

Heidi Laros added, "It's been so disappointing to see such a lack of interest on the part of the members of the WPCA [a separate function of the Board of Selectman] to listen to the constituents in the neighborhood regarding the Patrick Road development issue."

She ended her note on a diplomatic note. "Thank you for the hard work you do for the town of Westport. I think you want to do right by the residents of this town, and I think stepping up and providing support to the community would be an appropriate way of showing just that."

The housing proposal of ARS Partners now goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission.