Tuesday, March 05, 2024


Waldman: Proposed Space Limit Threatens Free Market

By James Lomuscio

A Westport Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) text amendment that would limit tenant space to 10,000 square feet downtown has local developer David Waldman seeing red.

WestportNow.com Image
Developer David Waldman (pictured at an earlier meeting): “an infringement on individuals’ property rights.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“I lost my cool toward the end of the discussion,” Waldman said about Thursday night’s public hearing on Amendment 672. “But my opinion hasn’t changed.

“I can’t not believe our town is trying to limit the size of a retail stores downtown, which in my mind is an infringement on individuals’ property rights and a free marketplace,” he added.

Waldman, a principal of Bedford Square Associates, which is redeveloping the Westport-Weston Family Y property on Church Lane into a combination retail, restaurant and residential center, said such an amendment, if approved, would hinder his ability to get tenants.

The amendment states that it aims “to maintain the scale and character of the downtown and prohibit undesirable large scale development.” To do so it would prohibit the consolidation of adjoining lots in all business center districts (BCD) and business center districts/historic (BCD/H).

According to Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley, another reason for the P&Z’s proposed tenant space limitation is to encourage more small businesses to set up shop downtown.

Connie Greenfield, representing the preservation group Save Westport Now (SWN), spoke in favor of the amendment.

Waldman said that those who support the amendment often use false flag fears of big box stores coming to town, and he added that the claim the restriction will attract small businesses is flawed since smaller businesses pay higher rent per square foot.

“This reeks of a completely reactionary event to the approvals of Bedford Square because the biggest project to be affected if this goes into effect is Bedford Square,” Waldman said.

He acknowledged that there is already a regulation limiting the size of buildings to 10,000 square feet, “and that’s fine, but at the end of the day this (proposed) regulation wants to piggyback on that.”

Waldman pointed out that if passed, the regulation would prevent him from leasing the 30,000-square-foot , three-story, historic Bedford Building to one high-end tenant.

He also said there are numerous examples of retailers that exceed the 10,000-square-foot limit downtown, including the Gap, Restoration Hardware, and Talbot’s.

Part of the old Talbot’s complex came from property sold to the landlord by Sidney Kramer, owner of former Remarkable Bookshop building. Kramer is also the founder of SWN, which supports the 10,000-square-foot tenant space restriction.

“Even Mr. Kramer who runs Save Westport Now and who ran a mom and pop sold out to big business,” said Waldman. “He sold it allowing his store to be combined to 13,000 square feet.”

Waldman says he does not criticize Kramer for doing that.

“It’s a free market,” he said. “That’s America.”

7 thoughts on “Waldman: Proposed Space Limit Threatens Free Market

  1. Waldman seems to be a nice guy but, holy moly, is he out in left field with his “infingement of individuals’(sic) property rights and a free market place” crap.

    Land use regulators such as out zoning commissioners are in place because individuals, left unfettered to excercise their avaricious nature, would trample the rights of others to be free from the burdens that others’abuse of property rights would impose.
    Waldman’s push to impose on downtown Westport, the equivalent   of a “big box store” (albeit an attractive one) is exactly the abuse of land use rights from which the public must be protected.

  2. Westport is LONG PAST what it used to be.  Why limit things now?  We lost the small town feeling about 20 years ago.  Main Street is no longer quaint or hometown, as it was when I moved here in the early 60’s, and remained so through the 70’s and very early 80’s.  All of a sudden our town wants

  3. This could have very bad consequences for Westport and the idea that somehow we can legislate so called small businesses to Westport is ludicrous.  If the effect would be to lower the value of these buildings, then who will pick up the lost tax revenue?  Commercial space kicks in about 20% of our taxes.  We better think this thru.

    These people bought their properties knowing the rules.  Changing the rules after the fact is just wrong. 

    And before all the naysayers step in, if you bought your house, and P&Z changed the rules that would prohibit you from putting on an extension, which is why you bought the house, how would you feel?  And worse, what if that lowered the value of the property you just bought?  This is horrible and unfair and we better think about this.

    In addition, what if a so called small business (whoever they are) becomes successful and needs to expand?  Do we then say find space somewhere else?  Westport is not a town that likes you to be successful?

    Walmart is not moving to Main Street.  We need to stop this nonsense and think about the long term consequences of a very bad Text Amendment.

  4. So, that means J Crew, Talbot’s and The GAP are to be grandfathered in?  That’s crazy.  To restrict space is to restrict free enterprise, and that is Un-American.

    As Bart said, I don’t see Wal Mart coming into that space.

    When I moved into the area, in the early 80’s, Main St. was a Mom & Pop St. It’s not that, anymore, and sad to say, I don’t think it will return due to the cost.  However, the Bedford space could afford small and large to co-exist and make it.  But, don’t place restrictions on them if they happen to succeed?

  5. So what do these small so called shops look like?  Record store—sorry—iTunes.  Book stores—sorry Amazon.  Lucy’s—sorry—they could not make it.  Who are we trying to attract?  Name them please?  And by the way—where do our children shop? 

    And if we talk small business—is that Mitchells?  Sorry—they need more than 10,000 feet to make a living. 

    Bedford as we have been told will be a mix of small and larger stores.  If Ralph Lauren moves in—it will be wonderful for Westport.  Shoppers coming into town and eating in our restaurants.  Shopping in our town.  Driving much needed tax revenue.

    And lets remember the town decided when giving money to Levitt to rebuild not to charge non-Westporters.  Why—we wanted people to come into Westport and shop and eat.

    None of this makes any sense and none of us would appreciate having P&Z change the rules after we bought a house. 

    In fact, a lot of us including Save Westport Now worked to stop Text Amendment 624 for this exact reason.  People with .25 acre homes were going to see a horrible change to zoning laws that would have hurt their valuable property.  Save Westport Now stepped in and we worked together.  Why is this any different?

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