Watershed Alliance seeks home at the Head
A long-ago Ford garage might soon become the new home of the Westport Watershed Alliance.
The Alliance approached the Board of Selectmen this week in hopes of finding support for its plan to buy the former Head Garage at 493 Old County Road.
Under that plan, the WRWA would buy the garage from present owner Dan Tripp who is listing it for around $150,000.
Since the building sits on a small (.12 acre) town-owned lot next to and east of Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures at the Head of Westport, the WRWA would pay a lease to the town and has also offered to pay money in lieu of taxes (as a non-profit, the WRWA is property tax exempt).
If the deal goes through, the WRWA would move its offices out of its present rented space space at 1151 Main Road in the Central Village area.
WRWA Executive Director Matt Patrick said the old garage is just what the organization needs for a headquarters.
"It's right at the Head, close to the water and near to where some of the important work we have been involved in goes on," he said.
The WRWA holds its annual River Day celebration at the Head of Westport and built a model rain garden system there (next to the kayak shop) that corrals and filters stormwater that flows down Old County Road toward the river. It is also a closely watched location since it is through these waters that waters from the northern watershed meet the upper Westport River.
One hurdle to clear is the fact that an 1850s enabling act governing the property limits lease-length to three years.
"For us to get a mortgage from a bank … and to make the sort of investment we have in mind for the property, we would need at least a 30-year lease," Mr. Patrick said. The WRWA hopes the Selectmen will agree to pass the matter on to town meeting voters in the form of a Home Rule Petition.
In addition to moving its offices there, the WRWA hopes to transform the building into an environmental showcase of sorts with composting toilets, solar energy system, rainfall collection system and more.
He said the building is structurally sound but would need considerable investment to get it into condition for the uses WRWA anticipates.
Mr. Patrick said he believes this would be a good arrangement for Westport.
"We'd be paying the lease and money in lieu of taxes and we'll really fix it up."
The garage building has about 3,200 square feet of space and small parking area to the rear.