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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Opposed to Linxweiler Property Plan

To the Editor:

My name is Marc Fischer.  My wife Lori and I are 11 year residents of Westport. We live at 9 Sue Terrace. I’m a 48 year-old father of two elementary school age girls and the COO of a financial services firm. We love our town and our neighborhood, but until recently we’ve not been overtly active in town politics.  That has changed.

The proposal, initiated by IHA, for the development of the Linxweiler property has garnered a lot of press lately…and rightly so. My family and I stand in opposition to the plan. I understand the proposal has been withdrawn, but will likely be submitted again soon, and I’d like to list my points clearly, so they’re unambiguously on the record. The proposal in any form should be rejected because:

The project defies the Linxweiler will.  The will states that Ms. Linxweiler desired the property be left as green space. Defying a will is a reprehensible thing to do, and effectively puts an end to any future bequests to the town.  The town would never be able to un-ring that bell.

A 75-year lease is excessive.  Entering into a 75 year lease is fiscally dangerous and irresponsible.

Ceding control of the property is wrong.  I don’t think the board has the right to dispose of the property in question, and the town’s attorney, Mr. Bloom alluded to that notion last week.

Local infrastructure can’t support development on that scale.  This part of town floods regularly. It causes property damage and misery.  I’m not just referring to storm water runoff, but the overwhelming of the sanitary sewer system, which backs up into people’s homes. Homes like mine and my neighbors’. Photos, letters and other testimonies are available as a matter of public record.  This project will add sewage to an already dangerously overextended and underperforming system.

There are personal safety issues.  Since the proposed development would be IHA’s largest and most ambitious, I don’t think the applicant has any idea how difficult and dangerous the security situation might become. The greater Crescent Road community, including Sue Terrace, Ivy Terrace, Heather Hill, Deletta Lane, Crescent Park, Whitney St., Sugarmaple Ln., Webb Rd, Allen Ln., Marc Ln., Spicer, Rayfield, Beechnut and other roads , is rich with families and children. This project poses a real threat. There is no certainty when children’s safety is at question.

Approving the 8-24 text amendment contradicts zoning rules.  With the zoning text amended, projects like IHA’s will be allowable without public scrutiny, review or debate. Every Westport resident will rightfully be outraged.

The project will be a blight on the community. The project will introduce undesirables into a closely-knit, family-rich community, increase pressure on infrastructure and support organizations like police and other first-responders, increase litter, increase traffic, and reduce resident’s hard-earned equity.

The project is an unfair tax burden.  Increased pressure on infrastructure and support services means the town will have to increase taxes.  The town cannot afford another obligation.

These are the salient points as I see them.  There are others. I know there has been debate on the proposal.  This is my stand.  I hope I’ve been clear and direct.

There’s one more issue, however, that bears addressing.  You see, I am the resident whom the chair of the P&Z board singled out for holding the “no” sign.  To be clear, these are 8 ½ x 11 in. yellow paper signs with the word NO written in black letters.  Many of my neighbors brought these to the meeting, and prior meetings. 

At last week’s meeting, I was sitting silently, listening to testimony with the paper sign at chest-level, and 90 minutes into the session, P&Z chairman, Ron Corwin stopped the testimony, pointed at me, and told me to put down the sign.  There was a fifteen minute debate followed by a vote, whereby the signs were ordered removed.  My neighbors and I put our signs down in protest, and the meeting resumed.

Here are my thoughts.  First, I’d like to thank everyone, (including the other P&Z board members) who took a stand in defense of the right to self expression.  I know the chairman was wrong.  Moreover, I believe he knows he was wrong.  In fact, I’d say that even if Mr. Corwin thought he was in the right, the town’s attorney, Mr. Bloom, probably had a discussion with him, and provided clarification on local, state and federal law.

Politicians and public officials make gaffes.  It happens all the time.  The problem is that this one was particularly shabby.  It looks as though an important public official, who represents the people of this town, is at best inexperienced and mistake-prone…and at worst, a partisan bully with an over inflated ego.  Neither of these paint the board or the town in a good light.  I believe that confidence in the board is very low, and they need to do something quickly to restore the public’s trust.  An apology would be nice, but certainly not expected. 

A public statement is a “must” in my opinion.  The town needs to clarify its position on this issue.  It needs to explain why customized t-shirts, expressing support or opposition of an initiative are allowed at P&Z meetings in some cases, and discrete signs, likewise expressing support or opposition of an initiative, are not.  The town must restore confidence in this body, or it risks an integrity crisis, and probably, if not certainly, legal problems of vastly greater size and scope in the future.

This is my first letter to an editor.  I know it is long, but it is also a fairly sizeable issue.  I’m not happy about this fight.  I enjoyed spending Thursday nights with my family.  I suppose now, they’ll have to share me with the P&Z board on Thursday nights.  Two good things have come from the ordeal:  My children and I are learning about the democratic process, and I’ve met some simply extraordinary people.  Neighbors I never knew, are so genuine and inspiring, I know I’ll be friends with them for life.  Those are great gifts.

Marc Fischer
Westport

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Posted 03/11/10 at 05:21 PM  Permalink



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