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Neighbors Assail Zoning Change for Linxweiler Property
A proposed zoning amendment that would allow the construction of at least 12 units of supportive housing for individuals battling mental illness or substance abuse at a Post Road East property in Westport was laid bare at tonight’s Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing.
The Linxweiler Homestead, bequeathed to the Town of Westport by Joanna Linxweiler upon her death in 1981. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Richard Redniss, the Stamford land use consultant who wants to develop the 1.3-acre, town-owned Linxweiler property for Homes for Hope, formerly known as Interfaith Housing Association, at 655 Post Road East began his appeal by trying to clarify supportive housing to the 60 residents who had gathered in the Town Hall auditorium.
“Child molesters and sex offenders are not allowed to be in supportive housing,” Redniss said. “They must be able to live independently, and conducting any illegal activities on the property is grounds for release.”
His assurances, as well as his conditional site plans for the development of the property did little to quell myriad concerns from residents who live on nearby Crescent Road and Sue Terrace. From 1984 to 2008, Interfaith Housing had operated Linxweiler House as a home for men recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse.
Arguing against the zoning text change for the residential business district, neighbors cited everything from community safety to flooding to overflowing sanitary sewers to traffic dangers to disregarding the wishes of the late Joanna Linxweiler who had bequeathed the property and her historic home to the town in 1981.
“Mr. Redniss calls supportive housing a moral imperative,” said Dan Katz. “We in Westport don’t need to be lectured on moral imperatives from a Stamford resident. If there is a moral imperative, it is to listen to the wishes of Mrs. Linxweiler.”
And that, said Katz and others, was to maintain some green open space along the Post Road.
“I’m opposed to this and would like to leave it as green space,” said Mark Fischer, a resident of Sue Terrace. “And with the proposed development you’re going to be adding more sewage to an overwhelmed, under performing system.”
Redniss offered two conditional site plans, one which would have the two-and-half-story buildings clustered closer together to preserve green space.
He acknowledged that the entire plan depended on the zone change for residential business districts to allow supportive housing. Even if that plan did come about, he would still have to go through a full approval process to begin construction and for Homes for Hope to secure a 75-year lease from the town.
Jeff Block cautioned that the zoning text change could set the stage for “a supportive housing explosion, a danger to property values.”
“It could open up more and more supportive housing here and have an effect on our tax base,” he said.
Catherine Walsh, P&Z commissioner, expressed concern that changing the zoning regulations to allow this supportive housing project would have broad implications for other town properties in similar districts.
“You’re expecting us to throw everything out so you can get this?” Walsh asked.
The commission continued the hearing until next week.
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