Tuesday, August 25, 2015
To the Editor:
The Coalition for Westport (CFW) congratulates WestportNow for its outstanding series of articles on the lack of adequate senior housing in Westport. (Click here for series)
The series presented the history of the senior housing issue and the manner in which the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to change the zoning of the entire Baron’s South property to recreation/open space.
Our town, which is such a leader in creating and providing first class community amenities, has failed abysmally in looking after its seniors, a shocking indictment of the shortsightedness of those charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Westport welcomes and values residents of all ages.
The personal consequences of this lack of planning was highlighted by telling the stories of long-term residents who have been forced to leave Westport and find housing facilities in other towns. Many of our neighboring towns boast one or more such facilities.
The Coalition was the lead petitioner seeking to have the RTM overturn the Baron’s South decision. We expressed concern about the impact of the decision on the integrity of the zoning process, and the reputation of the town as a reliable negotiating partner.
CFW is concerned that this episode will discourage developers from partnering with the town on projects such as senior housing, thereby limiting its future even further. The decision also makes the overcrowded Senior Center non-conforming and unable to meet the needs of its many users.
The Coalition was and remains in favor of open space; in this case the amount of space suggested for senior housing was small – 3.3 acres – while 15 acres would have remained as open space. The developer also agreed to help maintain Baron’s South which remains overgrown and unwelcome.
We urge voters to remember that the four members of the P&Z who voted against the Baron’s South proposal will be up for re-election in the fall.
Chairperson, Coalition for Westport
Posted 08/25/15 at 03:20 PM Permalink
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I join with Denise Torve, Chairperson of the Coalition for Westport in thanking James Lomuscio for his thorough and provoking series of articles on Westport Senior Housing. Read it and weep. How did we let the current P&Z lead us down the primrose path of promising housing for seniors on a mere 3 1/2 acres of 22 acres of town-owned land, only to change its mind at the last minute and decide to declare all 22 acres open space.
This decision, which cuts seniors off from ready access to the senior center, should not stand and it will not stand if enough Westporters refuse to accept it, if enough Westporters are able to imagine themselves as seniors and think about where they’d like to live when they are. And most important, if enough Westporters vote for new P&Z members who have the common sense and compassion to provide our seniors with the kind of housing they deserve.
Stories like the ones that Mr. Lomuscio has been highlighting will keep coming in for as long as the Town puts off senior housing expansions. Maybe the Baron’ s South property wasn ‘t the right fit, who knows, but we (as a collective group of residents and governing officials) should already be on top of looking for other space for housing or expanding/improving the housing that we currently have in place. The politics got in the way, sure, but let’ s not dwell on that in spite of who voted on what and focus on the actual issue at hand. What if you were told you could only live here until you retire and won ‘t be able to afford it anymore? We’ ve geared the town to a more “cosmopolitan” outlook,but we forgot about our small-town,historic roots - the New England factor. We can ‘t have a strong, ever-growing tree without the roots that have always been there to build what we are today.
“What if you were told you could only live here until you retire and won’t be able to afford it anymore?”
Hmmm ... I’ve known I won’t be able to retire here since the early 2000s, when the economy began to tank, salaries stagnated, and taxes and insurance starting going up exponentially. Yep, the writing’s on the wall, and I don’t foresee any small-town roots coming to my rescue. Especially not when we have a superintendent to pay and a multi-million-dollar beach renovation to worry about.
I can well picture myself as a senior, but no amount of imagination has me living here. Not only won’t there be enough room for everyone in whatever senior housing eventually gets built on town land—I still won’t be able to afford it. Having tried valiantly to save, I won’t qualify for help. And (even if I somehow beat out the Westonites and Wiltonites who want in), I won’t be able to afford the taxes.
The idea that the P&Z somehow “forced” anyone to move is ludicrous. There are plenty of folks to blame at the federal level (we can even blame bad-actor banks if we feel like pointing fingers), but castigating local officials who are trying to balance the needs of an entire town doesn’t make any sense.
As a taxpayer favoring open space, I might have felt differently about the developer’s plans had he offered to buy the land outright for the millions of dollars it’s actually worth, especially if that money would have led to an easing of everyone’s tax burdens. It’s the “giveaway” part of the deal that had me grinding my teeth.