Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted unanimously tonight to issue a positive report on the Westport Library’s application to use town-owned Jesup Green for its planned 20,500-foot expansion project.
But commission members made clear they had concerns about the application, formally known as an 8-24 and submitted on behalf of the library by First Selectman Jim Marpe.
The commission said it was troubled by a planned 35-foot expansion into Jesup Green and included a finding in its approval saying that it expected the library to make enhancements to the remaining part of the Green “in a way that will be of greatest benefit to the town of Westport.”
“I think taking away any more green space from downtown is going to be a detriment, and it’s going to be totally contrary to what we’re trying to achieve,” said member Catherine Walsh.
“We’re trying to bring more people into town and you need to have an attraction to bring them in. I think monumental enhancement of Jesup Green that goes along with anything else is imperative to the overall aesthetics of the town.”
Both Walsh and member Alan Hodge indicated they were not happy with a rendering of the library’s planned expansion submitted as part of the application.
Hodge drafted a finding that said “the commission’s decision to issue a positive report should not be taken to imply that the commission approves of the appearance of the redeveloped building that would house the library as set forth in the promotional material supplied by the applicant.”
Before the vote, Chairman Chip Stephens summed up the discussion this way: “I see a positive reading coming out of this, but I also hope everybody realizes that the message that I think that everybody has said one way or the other here—we value our open space and you better be ready to explain to us why we should give it up.”
Member Jack Whittle put everyone on notice he is not in favor of any other projects impacting Jesup Green –- an area also talked about as a possible new home of the Westport Arts Center.
“This is sort of it,” he said. “No more encroachments or utilization of Jesup Green for other purposes are likely to meet with my support.”