Thursday, December 20, 2012
P&Z Gives Homeowners a Lift
By James Lomuscio
Westport homeowners living in flood zones hit hard by Storm Sandy got a lift tonight—5 feet to be exact—with the Planning & Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) unanimous approval of a text amendment that will make it easier to elevate their homes.
Developed by a P&Z subcommittee in response to 250 homes damaged by the super storm, text amendment 656 grants height, setback and coverage relief to houses in flood zones. It becomes effective Jan. 4.
According to Planning & Zoning Director Laurence Bradley, many of these homes are on very small lots and limited to a height of 26 feet. The amendment allows these structures to be raised to 31 feet, 5 feet above the 100-year flood level, without the need for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, said Bradley.
“Five feet of elevation will get us where we need to be,” said Bradley.
He noted that the increased base flood elevation (BFE) would also allow up to 225 square feet of increased coverage due to the need for stairs and entries, and that some of the setbacks would be reduced to as little as 5 feet.
There is also a provision in the amendment recommend by the Fire Department for the securing of above-ground oil and propane tanks.
Prior to the vote, Bradley also noted that it applied to existing homes only, not new construction.
Resident Michael Calise questioned why new construction was excluded. P&Z member Ron Corwin responded that if the amendment were to be expanded to include new construction, the current one would have to be withdrawn.
“Our mission was to get people back into their homes, to get this through to address these people who can’t afford to build any houses,” said P&Z member Chip Stephens.
“We’ll get there,” said Acting Chairman Jack Whittle, about another amendment to address new construction. “I think in 2013.”
In other matters, the P&Z unanimously approved a change of use application for 20 Wilton Road, allowing the conversion of a salon to a restaurant with an outdoor bar, plus second floor office space.
Owned by NatHall 1220W LLC, the building is part of the planned National Hall redevelopment.
According to Bill Fitzpatrick, attorney for the owner, the restaurant coming in is Bar Taco, which has other establishments in Stamford and Port Chester, N.Y.
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Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport