If you’re one of the 99 percent (the Westporters who left town for the schools’ winter break last week — haha, the weather was gorgeous!), or simply haven’t read the local papers in a month or so, there are a couple of stories you may have missed.
Both involve Westport’s most contentious subject:
dogs bad drivers zoning.
The first is in the planning stages. Jarvis and Coke Anne Wilcox own an 1813 home on 25 Turkey Hill South that they hope to convert to a 3-room B&B. They’ve owned it since 1986, and rent it out — they live in another home not far away — but in a “dismal” real estate market, the couple believe a small B&B makes more sense.
The Wilcoxes owned a Hamptons inn (as opposed to a Hampton Inn) from 1992 to 2008.
A text amendment is needed to permit a B&B in a residential zone. The last such establishment like it here was the Cotswold Inn, at 76 Myrtle Avenue. Surrounded by residences, as well as medical and law offices in converted homes — not far from Town Hall and the Westport Historical Society — the Cotswold Inn was such a low key presence, many Westporters had no idea it was here.
On the other hand, it was so quiet many others don’t realize it closed years ago.
The Wilcoxes hope their B&B will be similar to the Cotswold Inn: a low-key, low-impact spot that will nevertheless provide work for a few folks, and bring tourist dollars to town.
Meanwhile, across the river, another zoning battle looms. Beit Chaverim Synagogue hopes to move from its rented quarters on 85 Post Road West — in a small house just down from Lincoln Street — across the street and up the hill, to property it owns at 24 Ludlow Road. They would raze the structure — built in 1868 — and build a new synagogue.
The issue here is not zoning. All places of worship are located in residential zones, says attorney Lawrence Weisman. (I thought I had him on the Saugatuck Congregational Church, but he pointed out that the back part of the property extends into a residential area.)
The issue here is parking. Beit Chaverim has a “positive traffic study,” Weisman says, and offered to request that “No Parking” signs be posted on the street. They’ll also request a “Left Turn Only” sign at the exit, forcing traffic to the Post Road and not north to King’s Highway, and will arrange for off-site parking during peak holiday and event times.
Neighbors are skeptical. They worry about overflow parking on the narrow street. A related issue involves current parking regulations for houses of worship, new ones proposed by Weisman, and what power the fire marshal should have in determining parking standards for churches and synagogues.
As with all things zoning, both the B&B and Beit Chaverim are a long way from opening the doors to their new homes. Chances are good, though, that you’ll read much more about both issues in the months ahead.