Before Yacht Haven, the property was occupied by a shipworks and a coal gasification plant. Pollutants, including arsenic and mercury, contaminated the ground and the water. Cutler joked that if you drank a glass of the water, you'd die of cancer a few days later.
Cutler is a hippy. He's got soft, brown eyes and a white beard. His voice is gentle, soothing. He sounds a lot like Bob Ross, the late television landscape painter guy. Cutler moved out to Bainbridge Island to get as far away from Philadelphia, where he went to college and graduate school, as he could. "I was done with urban, with cities," he said.
Before he begins to design a building, Cutler engages in what he calls "apprenticing the land." He studies its topography and its history. He walks the land himself, often requiring his clients to accompany him. Dalio and his wife had joined Cutler as he surveyed their Wyoming property.
"Before we can love anything, we have to understand its nature. If you love money, it's because you understand its nature. If you love a woman, it's because you understand her nature. If you are going to love a structure and a property, first you have to understand its nature," Cutler said.
For the first few minutes of Cutler's presentation, the crowd in the Westover auditorium was captivated. He showed them pictures of what the land looked like during the Colonial era, during the 19th century and early 20th century. He explained its history and how it came to be so polluted.
"You have a piece of land here in your city that is going to require an enormous amount of work to heal. It has been damaged by you ... in this city. We have the opportunity to use the resources of Bridgewater to heal the land," Cutler said.
That's when they lost it. The shouting started. The SOBs turned on Cutler. The chair of the planning committee, Theresa Dell, told Cutler he would not be allowed to talk about the 14-acre property that Bridgewater wants to use because the official purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the plans for the new boatyard nearby.
"He called them murderers, basically," one person at the meeting said. "He accused them of murdering the planet."
Cutler tried to sound forgiving. He explained that it was a long time ago when the land was polluted. People had different attitudes.
Unfortunately for Cutler, he had lost the room. And, more importantly, Chairwoman Dell. She told him he would not be allowed to proceed if he continued to talk about the former Yacht Haven property.
But how could Cutler explain why the new boatyard should be in a different location than the old one without talking about what he had planned for the old property? Nevermind, Dell told him. No more talk about healing the polluted property that had been Yacht Haven.
Dell is herself a boat person. One person familiar with the matter says she owns a boat and has "diamond-encrusted, anchor-shaped earrings." (Dell didn't return a phone call to her home number, so I can't confirm this.)
"It was shocking. It was the worst I've ever been treated in 20 years of public meetings. If I were a different kind of person, I would be angry," Cutler said afterward.
(Read more: A big Bridgewater fund is under the weather)
Cutler never got to explain his design for the Bridgewater "campus." It includes two buildings separated by an interior courtyard and surrounded by a public park. The green rooftops will make the buildings invisible from the sky. And mirrors on the walls around the courtyard will disguise the buildings, reflecting only images of nearby trees, so that until you are actually in the buildings you won't see them.
Instead, Cutler was told to sit down. He was followed by a stream of dozens of SOBs. Boylan was their leadoff batter, followed by Penney Burnett, who warned that hedge funds "don't last long." She is on the official list of Bernard Madoff's victims, so it's easy to see why she distrusts hedge funds. Then on and on it went, until around 11:30 at night.
And it's not over. The board will meet again next week to hear additional speakers—most of whom are expected to oppose the development plans.
Bridgewater is attempting to stay out of the fight, for now. A spokesperson said that the company is "excited about the prospect" of building a new headquarters but continues to evaluate "outstanding issues." No one from Bridgewater spoke at the meeting, although there were a couple of people from the hedge fund in attendance.
When Cutler had dinner with Dalio recently, the two men only discussed the headquarters project for "about 45 seconds," according to Cutler.
"It's not something Ray is obsessing about. He's a busy guy with a lot on his mind," Cutler said.
A person familiar with the matter said that Bridgewater is "hedging its bets" and looking at different properties, just in case the Stamford location doesn't work out. Some people backing the project believe that it will win approval from the planning board despite the vocal opposition.
Cutler's not coming back for the next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 20. He said he has prior commitments. But even if he was free, who would blame him for not wanting to climb back into the water with the boat people of Stamford?
—By CNBC's John Carney. Follow him on Twitter @Carney