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Mahackeno Site Visit Draws Crowd

Stanley Nayer was one of several Westport residents that tagged along with the Board of Selectmen to review traffic plans at the proposed site for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s new facility off of Route 15 at Exit 41. Like the rest of the people present who were not explicitly part of the of the site plan review, Nayer, the chairman of town’s Senior Commission, wasn’t allowed to pose questions or comments to the board.

“They haven’t taken into account the entrance on the other side of the Merritt Parkway or that this is the edge of Westport. People on the other end of town are going to take Exit 42 so they can jump off here,” said Nayer. He said he is concerned that seniors won’t want to deal with traffic congestion at the new location and will stop using the YMCA.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Second Selectwoman Shelly Kassen were at the commuter lot with representatives from the YMCA and Land-Tech Consultants Inc. to review plans to redesign the roadways and ramps. The surrounding roads will be widened, new traffic lights installed and the on and off ramps for northbound Route 15 will be moved 88 feet closer to Camp Mahackeno onto the roadway already owned by the YMCA.

Kassen was concerned that cars coming off of the highway would get stuck waiting for lights to change at the end of the off ramp. Peter Romano from Land-Tech said sensors will maintain a smooth traffic flow by changing the lights only when necessary.

Most of the work on the ramps would be completed before actually cutting into Route 15 and disturbing the flow of vehicles on the highway. Romano said when they get to that point, it may take a week or two to complete the tie in. “It will be a challenge. When we get to the actual construction phase we will work out the specifics of the plan,” Romano said.

Two court appeals are standing in the way of building the facility. One appeal against the Westport Conservation Commission's approval is awaiting a decision by Stamford Superior Court Judge William Mottolese. The second appeal, against the Planning and Zoning passage, will also be heard by Mottolese later this year.

“If we didn’t have the appeals we would be in the ground now,” said Romano. He expects the appeals will be resolved in time for construction to begin in the second quarter of 2011. The roadway improvements should take four months by his estimate.

Y Downtown head Indy Goldberg said the YMCA and the town have not adequately explained who is paying for the roadwork and the plans have changed since their original presentation. She said keeping the YMCA where it is would allow the town to spend resources fixing other traffic issues in Westport.

While not allowed to voice questions or concerns at the site visit, residents will have a chance to be heard at a June 22 public hearing. Goldberg said she has a list of questions ready and waiting.

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