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Thursday, May 11, 2017

P&Z Pores Over Draft of New Town Plan

By James Lomuscio

Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) tonight sharpened their pencils, poring over an initial draft of the 2017 town Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

The P&Z scrutinized the draft presented by Glenn Chalder of the Simsbury-based consultant Planimetrics, Inc., focusing on everything from the need for affordable housing to traffic, the schools, the Grand List, historic preservation and teardowns—even rude drivers, later agreed to be termed discourteous drivers, due to traffic congestion and parking problems.

The reason for all the scrutiny for the plan which is updated every 10 years? It remains the benchmark, the rule for all applicants who come before the P&Z.

Chalder says he plans to have the revisions suggested tonight put into a new version for the P&Z to examine next week. He said that a public informational meeting would be set for June 8, plus other meetings in July and September. The plan is expected to be finalized Oct. 25.

P&Z member Alan Hodge initially focused on the plan’s reference to affordable housing. Hodge said the plan should state what affordable housing is as defined by state statute.

At the same time, he said the plan should point out all of the town’s affordable housing efforts that do not meet the state’s criteria.

“We do care about affordable housing, and I think the POCD should illuminate that point,” Hodge said.

He said the goal would be “to maintain the preponderance of single-family homes, but to make reference to affordable housing.”

“The goal is to increase diversity as to size and to promote housing affordability,” Hodge said.

P&Z Chairwoman Catherine Walsh, agreed that the town has a number of affordable properties that fall outside the state’s definition. She pointed to the number of pre-1959 accessory, apartments in homes.

“There are hundreds of them,” said Walsh.

“I think we should explore that,” said P&Z member Chip Stephens.

On other matters, Paul Lebowitz focused on a reference to “rude drivers” on page 21 of the draft.

“Do we say rude drivers?” he asked.

“Yes,” Stephens shot back.

“You can’t zone out rude,” said Lebowitz.

“Yes, but you can zone out traffic problems,” Stephens answered.

Traffic congestion and parking problems were all part of the equation, Chalder agreed.

Lebowitz concurred, stating that the plan should incorporate the idea that “traffic congestion devalues the quality of life.”

Other items covered were historic preservation in the wake of teardowns of historic properties. P&Z member Danielle Dobin suggested economic incentives for preservation.

Stephens said that the town plan should state “that we encourage preservation.”

Chalder said he would have a revised draft for the P&Z to examine next week.

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Posted 05/11/17 at 11:03 PM  Permalink



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