Sunday, March 15, 2015
To the Editor:
The Coalition for Westport fears that the senior housing project on Baron’s South is on life support and may not survive if the P&Z Commission has its way.
At last Thursday’s commission meeting, the P&Z scheduled a hearing on its text amendment 687 to rezone Baron’s South as dedicated Open Space and Recreation District. Should this be approved, the property will no longer be available for development of any kind and the eight-year project to establish senior housing on the site will be over.
This is happening even though a revised application for the senior housing project was submitted by the developers just last month and has not yet had a public hearing.
The Coalition questions the decision on the timing of the open space proposal even as a pre-application review for senior housing on that space has been submitted and is pending. Why is the P&Z rushing ahead with its open space initiative? What’s the hurry?
First Selectman Jim Marpe and Second Selectman Avi Kaner have asked P&Z to defer any action on the Amendment for at least six months. They were supported by many residents, including some who support open space, and by members of the town clergy.
The CFW also supports the First Selectman and urges P&Z to delay any action on the text amendment until they and other town boards have had an opportunity to consider the new proposal.
The new plan provides more open space than did the original application, (utilizing 3.3 instead of 8 acres for the complex of the 22-acre property), includes 75 units for independent living, 50 of which are affordable and 90 units for assisted living/memory care. The P&Z got substantially everything it said it wanted, so why the rush to pull the rug out from under the proposal?
In explaining the text amendment, P&Z Director Larry Bradley, noted that if it passed, not only would senior housing not be allowed, but existing buildings on site would be out of compliance, including the Westport Center for Senior Activities.
The P&Z seems to be going out of its way to create difficulties for Westport seniors and the town’s leadership and administration. Locating senior housing close to the senior center is wanted by seniors and makes perfect sense, except to the P&Z.
The Coalition echoes the questions being asked at, and since, last week’s meeting. Are commission members opposed to senior housing on Baron’s South and have they prejudged the reworked plan?
RTM member Jack Klinge who was on the legislative body when the town purchased Baron’s South in 1999, noted that it was not purchased to remain as open space, “it was purchased for municipal use for the benefit of Westport.” If that is correct, P&Z members should take note.
Klinge also suggested holding a referendum on the matter, which the Coalition supports if all else fails. [Editor’s note: Under the Town Charter, referendums are limited to ordinances and appropriations of $500,000 or more, or issuance of bonds.]
The Coalition for Westport urges the P&Z to agree to the First Selectman’s request to delay its text amendment and give due consideration, with an open mind, to the revised pre-application for senior housing on Baron’s South.
Denise Torve, Chairman
Glenn Payne, Vice Chairman
Coalition for Westport
Posted 03/15/15 at 11:32 PM Permalink