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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Coalition for Westport on RTM P&Z Committee Meeting

To the Editor:

The first of two meetings of the Representative Town Meeting’s Planning & Zoning Committee was held on April 6 to determine if the committee should recommend that the RTM overturn the P&Z decision to rezone Baron’s South property as open space. Amid considerable misinformation the need for correction and clarification is necessary.

Chip Stephens, P&Z chairman, made numerous unsubstantiated statements claiming, for example that it was “certain” that if Baron’s South was not designated open space, the senior housing project would continue to be debated for another 10 years. Sheer speculation or a veiled threat to withhold action on the senior housing proposal?

Without even having heard or seen the revised housing plan he characterized it as “half baked.” Neither the Baron’s South Committee nor the developer was given the opportunity to make a presentation of the plan.

Although Stephens argued that senior housing would remove “all open space” from Baron’s South, every petitioner made the point that a compromise was available, namely 3.3 acres for housing and 16+/- acres for open space on the 22-acre site. 

Even though Stephens insisted that there was no rush to judgment, he failed to explain why P&Z could not first have heard the developer’s revised application, denied it, and then rezoned the property.

Nor did Stephens address the concern of many that after having invited development proposals and encouraged multiple revisions resulting in a plan that meets the commission’s criteria, it inexplicably and shamefully killed the project.

It is commendable that the current P&Z is preservation minded. But it is unfortunate that it is not interested in analyzing the situation thoroughly. Stephens described the developer’s proposal as “complicated” with the implication that that alone is reason for rejecting it.

In the end, Stephens and the commissioners who voted for open space, were unable to justify an ill-timed decision to deny the town an opportunity to have both much-needed affordable senior housing while preserving substantial open space, and generating considerable revenue through funds paid by the developer for rent of the site.

The commission’s decision cannot be justified. Stephens and the other commissioners failed to address the issues the Coalition for Westport and other petitioners presented to the committee. The Coalition for Westport stands by its objections.

Note: In his opening statement, Stephens described the Coalition for Westport, a nonpartisan minor political party as partisan In fact, the Coalition for Westport was formed with and includes Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated. We support a town administration and a P&Z that are receptive to new ideas, while retaining the character and reputation of the town.

Denise Torve
Chairperson, Coalition for Westport

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Posted 04/09/15 at 12:31 PM  Permalink



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