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Monday, July 18, 2011

Geiger’s Nursery Eyed for Affordable Housing

By James Lomuscio

The prospective buyer of Geiger’s Garden Center is hoping that Westport’s new zoning regulation promoting affordable housing can help a planned development take root at the nursery.WestportNow.com Image
Geiger’s Garden Center at 1135 Post Road East would become a mixed use commercial and residential development under proposed plans. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Lawrence P. Weisman, the attorney representing the undisclosed buyer under contract for the 2.5 acre site at 1135 Post Road East—opposite Green’s Farms Elementary School and the Post Road East shopping center anchored by Barnes & Noble—presented a pre-application review to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) last week.

It called for a mixed use commercial and residential development with 10 two-bedroom apartments, three of which would be leased or sold as below-market rate or “affordable.”

Laurence Bradley, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, described the presentation as “a first” under the new regulation.

“This is the first time it would be used since we put it in place,” Bradley said on Sunday.

The presentation was made under the inclusionary housing regulation that the P&Z passed in December, a regulation that would cluster apartments next to commercial structures along the Post Road corridor providing that 20 percent were listed as affordable.

Bradley noted that longtime Westport resident Michael Calise, the lead petitioner who unsuccessfully tried to overturn the regulation before the Representative Town Meeting, currently has an appeal against it in Stamford Superior Court.

Weisman’s proposal was for a 10,000 square foot commercial building and between 10 to 14 apartments in another building at the rear of the property, Bradley said.

“Right now the site is mostly gardens and a couple of small buildings that would be removed,” he said.

The plan, however, would require rezoning since Geiger’s is in the Business Preservation District that only allows buildings up to 2,500 square feet.

“The first thing they would have to do is to rezone to a General Business District which would allow a building up to 10,000 square feet,” said Bradley.

That is where Weisman and the prospective buyer are taking advantage of the inclusionary zoning regulation.

“It says you can overlay, and by rezoning into General Business District, they would be allowed to build bigger buildings on the property,” Bradley said.

“This is a first time that anybody has ever come in with a proposal to apply the regulation,” he added.

“It was just a pre-application, no hard application. It was just a testing of the waters. There were some concerns, but I think he (Weisman) got enough to go forward, though he did not say who the purchasers were.”

Weisman said Sunday night that the next step would be “for us to file an application and to have the inclusionary housing zone apply to it.”

“We will try to have it so that it is heard sometime in September,” Weisman said.

“I’m glad they enacted that legislation,” he added. “It will bring some housing into the area, it will create some affordable housing and a commercial building.

“It’s good for the neighbors, and it’s good for the owner. It will be a win-win situation for everybody.”

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Posted 07/18/11 at 09:00 AM



Comments

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As I understand it, the affordable housing state regs mandate that 10% of all housing be affordable across the town.  Any development that adds more housing, by definition raises the total of affordable housing that we must have. Although 20% of this proposal is affordable and will eat into our “affordable housing deficit” we would need many such developments to hit the mark.

Our text amendment which was written for the Baron’s South proposal is coming back to bite us in an uncomfortable place.

Posted by mary ruggiero on July 18, 2011 at 12:17 PM | #
 

This is not affordable housing, it is once again developers, speculators and lawyers abusing a well meaning law to change the nature of our town by overbuilding and destroying open space.  it will provide 3 /10 of the units below market prices in exchange for overriding the zoning and building size regulations.  How long until WN shows Longshore, Compo and Wakemans with the headline Affordable housing to replace wasted space on town land…..  don’t laugh….. as you kiss Geigers Gardens and Barons south goodbye Win Win ??  Maybe in Westchester

Posted by chip stephens on July 18, 2011 at 12:24 PM | #
 

Let me paint this picture – The Geiger property is in the Business Preservation District (same zone as my property is in) which has a maximum allowable footprint of 2,500 sq. ft. but we need to change the zone to a General Business District which allows a maximum building size of 10,000 sq ft..
Of course all in the name of affordable housing.  ??? So. - were where all the suits when I made that very argument against applying this poorly conceived regulation to Zones other than the General Business District.? Now I have Larry Weismann presenting my argument on someone else’s dime!! How cool is that!  Next up?

Posted by Michael Calise on July 18, 2011 at 03:13 PM | #
 

This is exactly what Mike said about the zone change to P&Z and the RTM.  Everything comes around sooner or later, this is pretty soon.

The question is should or should there not be a zone change here to allow for a bigger building and greater density?  That’s what will be before the P&Z and this community.

Posted by Matthew Mandell on July 18, 2011 at 08:37 PM | #
 

just what this town needs, more development. with one goal in mind, MONEY. the builder could care less about “affordable housing”

Posted by John Schmidt on July 20, 2011 at 01:24 AM | #
 

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