Thursday, April 18, 2024


Coalition Files Amendment to Bring Back Movie Theaters

The Coalition for Westport (CFW), a political party focused on responsible land use, has filed a text amendment to create a movie theater overlay zone (TOZ) downtown, CFW officials announced. Image
The Fine Arts Theatres closed in 1999, leaving downtown Westport without a movie theater. WestportNow photo, copyright WestportNow 2018.

CFW Chairwoman Denise Torv said the purpose of the TOZ amendment filed with the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is to allow the creation of no more than two small, multi-use movie theaters “for community, cultural and educational uses and other performance and exhibition venues.”

The P&Z is scheduled to hear the proposed amendment at its Thursday, March 15 meeting. 

Torv said amendment would also allow for food to be served and would allow no more than two theaters on lots in non-residential zoning districts, the exception being historic district lots.

In 2011, the P&Z filed its own proposed amendment 637, which would have permitted multi-use theaters in downtown business zones.  It was later withdrawn due to opposition of height limit, which in some circumstances could have been as high as 60 feet.

“Believing that a revitalized downtown is desirable, the coalition has extensively reworked the 2011 theater proposal,” Torv said. 

She said the TOZ remains a floating zone that can only be applied to properties in the business district defined as downtown in the 2017 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

“It gives the P&Z flexibility to increase FAR (floor area ratio), building size and coverage by modest increments in those cases where a proposed theater would also accommodate community cultural and educational activities,” Torv said.

She added the TOZ aims to encourage entertainment, cultural and education al uses by allowing a limited increase in building height, increased FAR and reduced on-site parking requirements should any of those modifications be necessary. 

“Discussion of the economic future of our community has long focused on the revitalization of Westport’s downtown,” G. Kenneth Bernhard, CFW deputy chairman.

“There is a general agreement that a theater would be a welcome addition providing entertainment for young and old alike, creating a vibrant atmosphere after the stores have closed and being an incentive to dine at the area’s restaurants,” he added.

The Westport Cinema Initiative has been working for seven years on bringing back movie theaters to downtown Westport.

The Fine Arts Theatres closed in 1999 and the main former theater at 76 Post Road East is now Restoration Hardware.

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