Benjamin Buchalter '25

A house at the corner of Hiawatha lane. The old Saugatuck neighborhood lies in the western outskirts of Westport, near the train station.

In a small neighborhood just past the train station, a war has been raging. For the past two decades, the belligerents – Summit Development Group and the Save Old Saugatuck movement – have been fighting tooth and nail for the land rights to the Old Saugatuck neighborhood.

Last month, the Save Old Saugatuck movement scored a crucial victory and began a series of appeals that would block Summit from moving forward to construct a series of multi-story apartment complexes in the neighborhood along Hiawatha Lane, one of the roads that services the community.

“[Our attorney] has filed an appellate brief on a deed restriction that applies to all the houses that the developer wants to transfer into apartments,” Carolanne Curry, the creator of the Save Old Saugatuck website, said. “Which will protect the single-family houses along Hiawatha Lane.”

The Old Saugatuck neighborhood has been the target of a low-income housing project by the Summit Development Group, which owns a large number of properties in Fairfield County. Summit’s objective is to develop an area in the neighborhood along Hiawatha Lane – and then the surrounding area – into a series of affordable apartment properties for rent.

“The company focuses on value and development by redeveloping and repositioning undervalued assets,” Summit states on its website. Summit did not respond to a request for a comment on the developments along Hiawatha lane.

We’ve been fighting for 20 years and we will keep on fighting.

— Carolanne Curry

The primary concern of the Save Old Saugatuck movement with Summit’s development plan is the safety of constructing apartments in the Old Saugatuck area. Built on land which is notorious for flooding, the construction of a large apartment complex in that area opens the door for soil and building material erosion which could endanger the people living inside.

“[Old Saugatuck] has long been recognized as an area of wetlands, that is frequently saturated with water, and historically has severely limited building permitted,” the Save Old Saugatuck website says. “In fact, it is totally unsuitable for any plan that calls for a combined total of five, three, and four-story buildings.”

The Old Saugatuck area is not the only area that has protested such developments. In 2018, the Westport Neighbors group successfully managed to block the construction of a 6-story, 81 floor apartment building between Lincoln and Cross streets on the other side of the river. Among the concerns they listed – and one of the reasons for the development’s rejection – was flooding. Thus, precedent exists for the rejection of the Old Saugatuck development.

“We’ve been fighting for 20 years,” Curry said, “and we will keep on fighting.”