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Boatyard battle back in court as BLT builds new one at Harbor Point

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Davenport Landing Stamford boatyard
An aerial view of the boatyard building pad in the foreground.
Photos via Harbor Point Development, LLC

Davenport Landing, a new boatyard and apartment complex at Stamford’s Harbor Point, is on its way to completion by 2018. But the approved project, which follows nearly five years of legal action and negotiations between the city and Harbor Point’s developer over the demolition of another boatyard that has blocked further redevelopment, has sparked another lawsuit from an environmental opponent.

“We expect the boatyard to be finished this fall,” said Ted Ferrarone, chief operating officer at Harbor Point Development LLC, a subsidiary of the Stamford-based developer Building and Land Technology (BLT). “The second phase of the project is a 218-unit apartment complex that is under construction now and will probably open next summer.”

Ferrarone said the Davenport Landing project at 28 Southfield Ave. contributes to a “renaissance to the waterfront.” The project, on a 4.4-acre site where construction work has begun on a new 25,740-square-foot boatyard building and the 218-unit apartment building at an estimated cost of $27.9 million, will be “fantastic” for boaters,
he said.

“It is a modern, well-thought-out, fully planned, full-service boatyard,” said Ferrarone. “It is very rare to see a new boatyard being built in New England.”

BLT in 2007 acquired the 60-acre site that became Harbor Point, BLT’s $3.5 billion, mixed-use redevelopment of Stamford’s South End. Brewer Yacht Haven, a 14-acre, 360-slip boatyard and marina, operated on a peninsula at the site, and the city’s zoning board included a clause in its approval of the development that mandated the continued operation of that facility. It prohibited BLT from shutting down the boatyard without the zoning board’s approval.

In 2011, BLT announced a plan to convert the Brewer Yacht Haven site off Bateman Way into a $750 million headquarters complex for the Westport-based hedge fund Bridgewater Capital. The developer terminated the boatyard’s lease and tore down the facility in December 2011.

Following the demolition, the city issued a cease-and-desist order in early 2012 against BLT that prevented it from building on the peninsula. BLT was brought to court and a judge ordered the company to restore the boatyard.

Instead, the company tried to make a deal with the city to build a new boatyard at a 3.5-acre site it owned at 205 Magee Ave. — a landlocked parcel that would require new construction to connect it to the water. The city rejected the offer and over the next four years BLT and the city negotiated on how to proceed with the stalled project. Plans for Bridgewater Capital’s new headquarters were dropped. At one point, BLT unsuccessfully attempted to get the restrictive boatyard clause eliminated from its
agreement with the city.

In August 2016, the stalemate ended when the city approved a BLT proposal that would bring a new boatyard to Davenport Landing instead of rebuilding the former Brewer Yacht Haven site. Plans also call for construction of a boat storage facility for Davenport Landing at the 205 Magee Ave. location that city officials previously rejected as the site of a replacement boatyard.

The city’s action on the BLT proposal was challenged by Soundkeeper Inc., a Norwalk-based nonprofit focused on preserving the Long Island Sound and its watershed. Soundkeeper accused Stamford city officials of violating the state’s Coastal Area Management Act and its own zoning regulations in its deal with BLT and
filed a lawsuit against the city zoning board and the 14-acre property’s owner in state Superior Court.

“We support maritime uses on the coastline of Long Island Sound as specified in the local coastal zone management plan,” said William G. Lucey, who patrols the Sound as soundkeeper for the nonprofit. “Public and industry access to boat yards and maritime businesses is already at a premium and the loss of more coastal real estate to residential uses continues this downward trend.”

“Furthermore, the ongoing construction work (at Davenport Landing) has consistently blown large amounts of styrofoam across the area, into residences, wetlands and storm drains leading to the Sound. This issue dates back to 2014, with fresh complaints from local Stamford residents beginning this past May. Efforts to remediate the styrofoam’s spread have been inadequate, according to our on-the-ground contacts.”

Reed W. Super, a New York public-interest environmental attorney representing Soundkeeper in its lawsuit, rejected the notion of the Davenport Landing boatyard as a replacement for the demolished boatyard. “I don’t really care at all about Davenport Landing,” he said. “They can keep building it if they want to, but they have to put the original boatyard back on the 14-acre site.”

BLT’s Ferrarone declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

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