By James Lomuscio
Phase II of the Gault family’s development of Westport’s Saugatuck Center scored a major victory tonight at the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z.)
The P&Z voted unanimously for a special permit and coastal site plan for shared parking to construct two buildings totaling 17 multifamily dwellings at 20 Ketchum St. The approval allows for the modification of existing parking lots at 518 Riverside Ave., as well as 20 Ketchum St.
The application for the property owned by Marsh Development and the estate of Howard Gault was put forth by attorney William Fitzpatrick. He said the property would be accessed via Franklin Street and was in one of two Gault development properties, the only ones listed as general business districts n Saugatuck, GBDS zones.
In addition to the construction of the two buildings, the application also calls for the removal of a small office building and a U.S. Post Office, with a larger office building to remain in the area.
While town regulations would require more than 180 parking spaces to accommodate the large office building and the development, the applicant’s traffic engineer Michael Gallante stressed that shared parking due to office hours and when residents would return home would require close to 140 spaces, which the plan has.
P&Z commissioner Danielle Dobin took issue with the applicant claiming the housing units would be 20% affordable when in fact only 3.4 of the 17 units, rounded to three units, would be affordable.
Dobin said the amount was closer to 12%, “not in keeping with the spirit” of the town’s affordable housing regulations, despite the fact “the project is beautiful; the buildings are lovely.”
Commissioner Greg Rutstein agreed, “I’d like you to seriously consider what Danielle is saying.”
P&Z member Chip Stephens said the applicant could surmount that hurdle by seeking off-site affordable housing.
“We would certainly be willing to look at off-site housing,” said developer Sam Gault.
The application was closed before the commission stipulated that more affordable housing be included; however, prior to the approval, it was agreed that the applicant would consider “in good faith” more off-site affordable housing.