Bart Shuldman: Baron’s South Text Amendment Must Pass

Alert “06880” reader Bart Shuldman has followed the Baron’s South senior housing issue closely. He writes:

Dear Friends and Neighbors in Westport:

I want to make you aware of a very important issue regarding the proposed new senior living facility in Westport that needs your immediate attention.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is debating a new text amendment that must get passed. If it does not, there is little chance the facility gets built. If somehow it does get built, there is a very real possibility that no Westport senior citizens will have the opportunity to live in the facility. The current text amendment leaves almost every senior citizen in town ineligible to live in the facility, as it requires 60% affordable housing.  The asset test will cause most, if not all, Westport residents to be ineligible.

Many in town know I argued this point a few years back. Now it is here, and Westport senior citizens will lose. Westport residents will have too much money, or should I say assets, to be eligible. The units will go to people who have not lived in Westport, and Westport will have wasted Baron’s South.

Proposed housing at Baron's South.

Proposed housing at Baron’s South.

This is not a judgment. It is the truth. Even 1st Selectman Jim Marpe wrote about this in Friday’s Westport News. If the text amendment is not changed it truly “screws” Westport.  We give away valuable land with no benefit to Westport. Very few Westport senior citizens will live in this facility, which will be built as a Class B type building. This is not anything we would be proud to have in Westport.

To add insult to injury, there is no tax revenue for Westport. It is a disaster.

The new text amendment that needs to be passed by P&Z addresses these issues. If the new text amendment gets passed, the town will have the opportunity to get a quality senior living center that will house Westport residents. It will be a Class A building and add to our town.

Since the developer will make money, once completed the facility is projected to be the 3rd largest taxpayer in Westport.  Our schools will benefit. Our residents will benefit. But, more importantly our senior citizens will benefit. It is a win-win solution.

The current circumstances have created a terrible situation for town-owned land. Every selectman is in favor of approving the new text amendment — so should the P&Z. Every resident needs to support this. If not addressed now, Westport could give away Baron’s South and get nothing for it.

The entrance to the Baron's South property.

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

Many residents and town leaders have worked hard on this project. We must thank them for their efforts. The mistake that P & Z needs to correct is the amount of affordable housing. It is a mistake I and others tried to highlight a few years back.

The existing text amendment that was passed locked the town into an asset test that will now truly eliminate the people they wanted to help: Westport senior citizens. Those who disagreed with me back then, now understand the issue.  Westport has an opportunity to change the situation and make this facility a real benefit to the town and our senior citizens.  Our selectmen took the time to analyze the project, and they all understand what is needed. Westport’s board of selectmen unanimously voted on this subject.

Westport needs the text amendment changed. I hope you will help. Westport could face the loss of Baron’s South forever for the correct intent, but the wrong reasons. However, Westport now has the opportunity to build a Class A facility that will allow Westport senior citizens a place to retire, while also giving something to Westport.

40 responses to “Bart Shuldman: Baron’s South Text Amendment Must Pass

  1. Russell Beitman

    I am in favor of this 1st class senior facility for the town of Westport. It is a win/win. Without the text amendment change it most likely will die on the vine. Not only our seniors will benefit but every tax paying resident will as well!!

  2. Listen to Bart … He does his homework.

  3. Barbara Stemmer

    Senior housing with multiple affordability criteria is a necessity in Westport.
    This is the best use of town owned land. Please let these plans move forward.

  4. Three comments:
    — where are the numbers to support these claims? Surely by now someone could have produced an analysis of Westport’s seniors to see how many current residents fit the three categories: market, middle, low. We shouldn’t have to guess as to how many people would be eligible under any of these proposals.
    — why would the current text amendment result in a “B” class building? Are you saying that the Selectmen would approve a builder who intended to build a second class building designed to house people from some other town? This seems like pure hyperbole.
    — I appreciate all the hard work that’s gone into this project, and I am sympathetic with the view that we want to get this done. I support a senior living complex on this site. But to me a “disaster” would be to give away town land for 90+ years without a really good deal, and I remain unconvinced that this deal is the best we can get.

    That’s strictly my opinion, and I readily admit that I haven’t been deeply involved. But that’s where I am based on what I’ve heard, and if I had to vote on it my vote would probably be “no”.

    • John. I will help to answer some but will hope others in the know will add to the conversation.

      With the EXISTING text amendment a facility can and could be built on barons south. It is a done deal of a developer wants to build it, the P&Z has approved the ability.

      With the structure today being 60% affordable, there is no money to be made. Therefore we will not see what u would call a Class A building or anything else. There is just not enough money. And of course our town gets very little in return.

      If we approve the new text amendment then Westport is in control. While 20% is affordable, 20% is medium 60% is up to Wrstport. A developer can make money, build a great facility to tie into our senior center that already exists and a Class A facility is built.

      However, if we do nothing, the existing Text Amemdment will prove to be horrible and at best we can all hope nothing gets built. And maybe that is what you want.

      • So, the primary concern is that the developer make money. Got it. I think you have been misled. How do we know that with the 60% affordable provision “there is no money to be made”? Who has vetted the analysis?

        Those supporting the amendment seem to be confused with respect to the objective of the project. Is it to provide affordable housing for seniors or to make money for the developer and the town? Which is it?

        • I see this as a win win which should include a developer making money, so he can pay the taxes. If a developer does not make money then there are no taxes to collect. I am surprised we seem to smash the developer side of this.

          A while back I did the analysis of the test for the government affordable housing number and it should not surprise any that most in Westport will not qualify. In addition we will have to market the property to other areas and it will be difficult to set criteria for who gets in. This was presented years ago and unfortunately it was minimized by those in charge at the time. Dear I say who.

          This can be a win win as the new amendment lets the town control the project and can set who gets in. The affordability can be something set by the town to help more senior citizens and a wonderful building erected that will
          Include enhancing the senior center.

          It is good to see the dialogue and the many opinions. This should have been vetted more when it first came out but now it has to. If people like our Selectman are right, this project could turn out to be a disaster for the town-despite what some have written.

          Good luck to Westport. My goal was to get people talking about this.

          Being the person who petitioned against the Text Amendment years ago, I am glad to see many get into this. It is truly a huge decision.

  5. I couldn’t disagree more with this position. There are assumptions being made and stated as facts that are just that assumptions. There is no proof about who will want to live at this facility or whether enough people who currently want to live there will be able to afford it or be current Westport residents. The issue of traffic has not been correctly assessed. Many facilities like the one being proposed have been successful but many have not. What happens if this is unsuccessful. Just because something has been in process for years is not grounds for approving it. There are fatal flaws to every endeavor but those get sweep under the rug, especially on this project. One of the biggest questions no one wants to address is why should Westport, or any town, be in the housing business. My vote would be to not approve this project.

  6. Leonard D'Anna

    Leonard D’Anna
    I support the project, the cost to individuals
    might be a little too expensive and the waiting list could be even longer,
    in years

  7. Mildred Bunche

    If the new text amendment is passed it is certainly more favorable to more Westport residents than the previous one….

  8. For those of you who may have missed it, here is Jim Marpe’s op-ed explaining the project. This will address some of the misinformation presented by those opposing above.

    Time For Senior Housing to Become A Reality

    After more than six years of study, debate and difficult negotiations, the proposal to build senior housing on the Baron’s South property has reached a crucial point. The Planning and Zoning Commission must approve an important “text amendment” in the coming weeks in order for the project to proceed.

    The purpose of this op-ed is to update Westport taxpayers on the project’s background, the current status of the proposal and the important need to move it forward.

    Since last year’s election, my administration has continued to negotiate with the selected developer on behalf of the town’s seniors and taxpayers to implement the best possible senior-housing solution for all Westporters.

    Specifically, the plan would primarily serve Westport seniors, provide a host of valuable amenities, maintain quality open space and provide a favorable financial return to the taxpayers.

    The P&Z received public comment at several recent hearings. We made modifications to the text amendment based on the concerns and questions posed by the P&Z at those meetings. The P&Z will now begin to discuss the proposed text amendment in its work sessions beginning Thursday, Sept. 18, and may vote that night or at a future session. Without passage of this text amendment as written, this well-thought-out and exciting proposal will not proceed. Senior housing and the other planned senior amenities would not be built on Baron’s South in the foreseeable future.

    Westport’s Board of Selectmen on June 9 voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with the developer. This agreement was the result of many years of study, deliberation and diligent work by the bipartisan Baron’s South Committee, two different Boards of Selectmen, and the Board of Finance. I believe the plan as proposed achieves the optimal arrangement for the town that is a win for residents of the property, a win for all Westport seniors, and a win for the taxpayers

    Key characteristics of the current proposed project are:

    1) Twenty percent of the units are classified as affordable, 20 percent moderate-income, and 60 percent market rate. These ratios correspond more closely to Westport’s demographics than a predominantly low-income project. With these ratios, the developer will not need uncertain government funding, which would be required with higher “affordable” ratios. Private funding will ensure that Westporters can receive first priority as residents of the new senior housing.

    2) The units would be 100 percent rental, with no expensive buy-in requirement. Services such as dining and housekeeping would be available a-la-carte instead of bundled. Affordable and moderate units would be available in both one- and two-bedroom variations.

    3) Approximately eight to 10 acres of the 22-acre Baron’s South property would be utilized for the senior housing. The remainder of the property would be maintained by the developer for the benefit of all Westporters as open space in an accessible, park-like setting.

    4) An amenity center would be constructed next to the town’s senior center, providing services such as a therapeutic pool, salon, exercise facilities and a cafe for the use of all Westport seniors. It would also negate the need to spend $4 million of taxpayer funds to expand the senior center.

    5) Every Westport taxpayer would benefit in this public-private partnership. While the town would retain full ownership of the land, the developer would commit to investing $60 million in our town and pay fully transparent property taxes estimated to approach $1 million a year, making the facility one of Westport’s largest property taxpayers.

    In addition to benefitting our seniors, the project would reflect well on all of Westport. This is an innovative approach to creating a senior-retirement community. It would establish housing and open-space assets of which we can be proud. The Baron’s South project would ultimately improve our property values by making Westport an even more desirable place to live by providing housing options for current and future Westport seniors.

    Senior housing on Baron’s South is a unique opportunity for Westport that will pay dividends for many generations. The future of senior housing in Westport now rests in the hands of the Planning and Zoning Commission. It is my hope that the text amendment is passed as submitted, and that the thoughtfully considered plan for this senior facility can become a reality with the Baron’s South project becoming yet another of Westport’s “crown jewels.”

    Jim Marpe is the Westport First Selectman.

  9. The approval of this text amendment will meet the needs of so many older Westport residents who are trying to stay in a town they all love and cherish, not to mention how much they have all contributed to the community over the years. The opportunity to live independently, with the option to purchase services as the need arises (if ever) is so comforting to those interested in this project. The amenities building will enhance the Westport Center for Senior Activities’ programs and offer a wide array of new opportunities for all Westport residents. I look forward to a positive vote on Text Amendment #677.

  10. Estelle Kesselman

    I think this is necessary for Westport to have senior housing and I strongly urge the Planning & Zoning Commission to make this a reality.

  11. Dick Lowenstein

    It would appear that one reason the developer is creating a 20-20-60 ratio is because the property is being overly taxed (From the 1st Selectman’s op-ed: “… estimated to approach $1 million a year, making the facility one of Westport’s largest property taxpayers”) If the taxes were lower, perhaps the ratio could be tilted more to the affordable and moderate level.

    Instead of making this a P&Z matter, it should be a financial discussion with the Town getting less and the builder giving more. By the way, the fact that the project is alleged to become the third largest taxpayer is not something to boast about. It’s a bit of an embarrassment, considering that it is a form of public housing.

    • Dick. What’s embarrassing about a plan that helps senior citizens. All senior citizens of which most of not will be from Westport and also provides a good source of tax revenue for the town? While we all ‘own’ the land, the project will benefit the senior citizens which is wonderful, while also benefitting everyone in town by providing a source of revenue.

      • The project will not benefit everyone in town. It will benefit a vocal special interest group.

        • Michael. With all due respect the project will benefit me and I believe everyone in town. A tax paying entity can only benefit Westporters given the land is not producing any income. In fact it is costing us all. And it also benefits me knowing it will help others.

          Sorry-we have agreed on many issues. But we have a property in town that unless we are willing to allow more homes or office buildings to be built there, can now add to what Westport offers and adds to the revenues we need.

          • Bart. Let’s extend your argument. If using the land for a commercial activity benefits the taxpayers, then why not choose a commercial activity that maximizes the taxes paid? Additionally, following your rationale, how much money in forgone taxes does the Winslow dog toilet cost? Why not put a tax paying commercial entity on that property, or for that matter any other town owned property that is not generating tax dollars.

            After the facility is built certain inconvenient facts will diminish the benefits the facility seemingly provides. The first fact is that the cost of living in Westport is high. The second fact is taxes in Connecticut are high and inheritance taxes are particularly high. Anyone who rents one of these apartments would be wise to establish residence in a tax friendly state like Florida to avoid taxes. In fact, a rental unit would facilitate tax avoidance. Finally, the people who live in these units will require services so the tax receipts you hope for are gross and not net.

      • Dick Lowenstein

        What’s embarassing is the false pride is saying they will be the third largest taxpayer in Westport. Maybe if they were the 6th or 7th largest, we could have more affordable and moderate and fewer high-income units. Those who can afford the market-rate apartments, and in some cases it will be their children paying the rent, have many more options.

  12. I still think they need to incorporate a gondola from the base area on Compo Road South! Maybe a large golf cart for the older people who may require this level of assistance.

  13. I would prefer we keep any town land as open space. There just is not enough of it. Once sold it is lost forever. But I appreciate this well thought out plan that gets value for the land we give up and the fact that westport seniors will be able to benefit. I am tired of hearing/reading how many of our seniors leave us for the Carolina’s/south. It is not the weather, it is the affordability of housing. This amendment will give so many of us the ability to remain in the town we love.

    • Alan….how much town land/open space do you want, or how much does the town need? Barron’s North is so underused for anything the town does anyway, so why add to it? You planning on putting in a windmill farm on town land some day? Better off selling the open land and subsidize the towns seniors so they can stay in town.

  14. I look forward to an affirming vote on #677. I’ve lived in this town for 40 years, raised my children here, and been active in the community, watching it change every year. I believe we have long needed to have senior housing in our own community. It’s time! I urge the Planning & Zoning Commission to make this plan a reality.

  15. When a senior can no longer live alone in their home, they need full-time live in help, must move to housing with some level of services, or they must depend on friends or family to care for them. Falls and isolation are life changing. The inability of seniors to transport themselves for necessities or to simply buy a birthday card for their child becomes impossible. Seniors cannot figure out how to solve these problems without options! Anyone 50 and older is soon to experience this first time as our parents age and we need to remember that we all become seniors needing options.

    The key is to have options and a plan in place as we age. Westport is trying to provide options for seniors. Our senior community created this town that we all enjoy. When we need a different living situation, we are going to want this housing option to exist!

    I support Senior Housing in Westport. I encourage P&Z to pass the change to the text amendment. I have attended meetings and have seen and heard the statistics that support the income percentages. They mimic the economic make-up of our senior population- AS THEY SHOULD. The need for housing is income blind.

  16. Nathalie Fonteyne Gavrilovic

    I have been a resident of Westport for 10 years and I love the town. I am involved in two civic organizations with the town, the Westport Young Woman’s League (WYWL) and the Westport Garden Club. As the current president of the WYWL, I would like to share with you that since I joined the league, there is not been a year that I have not observed some of our members struggling with the logistics of helping one or both aging parents. It is a well-documented fact that because our parents are living longer, my generation of 30 and 40, even 50 year old women are sandwiched, pressed and stressed, taking care for their children, while taking care of their aging parents. There is not been a year when one of our members is not logging many miles driving outside of Westport to care for their aging parents, some driving as far as Long Island, then rushing back to meet the school bus, putting a strain on their family life and adding a significant financial burden to their budget. As a member of the Garden club, I also have observed every year that there are (older) members of the club who move away from Westport. Clearly there is a need, and that need will not be met if we do nothing. Regrettably both my parents have passed, so the first comment no longer applies to me but I hope I can look forward to staying in the town I have come to call home for as a long as practical. This Senior housing facility would allow for that. I am in favor of this amendment.

  17. jackie gillett

    I am in favor of affordable housing in westport.

  18. anita caggiano

    I am in support of the Baron’s senior housing project. P and Z please approve the text amendment on your agenda.

  19. Westport is the only town in the area that does not have a senior housing complex.

    Why is it O. K. to spend all that money (seniors’ money too) on the Levitt, the library, Compo Beach, the schools – everything else but not to help the seniors stay in the town that they have paid taxes to all these years which made Westport the town that you are now all enjoying? How self-serving is the question “how much can we get out of this?”

    Are the people who are voting against this planning to just be here for the short term and not ever need senior housing?

  20. Dana K. Johnson

    I am in favor of Westport affordable housing, as it is long overdue.

  21. Peter Alan Holland

    I am in favor of affordable senior housing for westport residents.

  22. Not only do I believe in affordable housing, it is my job to support the development of it in Westport, and I would love for the Town to allow 60% of a new housing site to be fully affordable. I recognize, however, that there are other needs in the Town that must be met, so that all our residents can share in the use of the scarce resources that we have.
    For that reason, I think the Baron’s South plan, as it has been molded, through compromise, by so many Town constituencies over the last several years, is one that offers the most return to the most residents – and should be supported. The proposal as fashioned is, indeed, probably the “best use” for that property, which has been largely unused since it was purchased. It seems clear that if this proposal is not adopted, it will remain unused for another many years, benefitting perhaps only a small number of people who actually walk through the property.
    Yes, 60% would be good, but with the proposed 27 fully affordable units in the current plan for Baron’s South, P&Z has the opportunity to expand the affordable housing stock in Westport by 10% with one decision.
    27 affordable units, with an ongoing financial return to the Town, is better than zero.

  23. You can see a petition signed by many Westport residents, most of whom participate at the Westport Center for Senior Activities (WCSA), urging the Planning & Zoning Commission to approve Text Amendment #677. The petition was hand-delivered to the commission at their public hearing on September 4, 2014 by Susan Pfister, Director of the WCSA. See

  24. After 46 years of living in Westport (if you count 5 summers in Saugatuck Shores), we have downsized from our family home to a condominium on the Westport-Norwalk town line, where we have the 06880 zipcode. Comfortable, yes, but we would have loved affordable housing closer to town and living with the amenities proposed in the current plan. Building, as proposed, still would be welcomed by us and many of our contemporaries…Tina and Russ Gangi

  25. There is a need for senior housing in the Westport area and this fullfills the need. Many seniors have economic problems and others are not aware of it.

  26. Stephanie Bass

    Not sure if the20-20-60 mix is good, will have to get better versed, but here are some of my thoughts:

    1. Real estate abatements are available to all seniors who have an income less than $75,000 for a single person and I forget what for a couple. Taxes are at 4% simple interest and due at the sale of the house or from the estate. (Love that I live in a town where under $75,000 is poverty! MY depression era parents are rolling over..)

    2. Any senior who has lived in Westport for a long, long time has either paid off their mortgage or built up temendous equity. They may be cash poor and have an inadequate monthly cash flow, but sellng up and getting a nice apartment with amenities and care options might be a good deal.

    3. What I don’t know are the parameters of qualifying for any of the 3 levels mentioned. Income? Limit on $$$$ in the stock market? from the recent sale of your Westport house? Have these numbers been established?

  27. I can only assume that those here who complain about this facility are intolerant Scrooges. Where do you plan to live in your later years?
    (You’ve probably socked away all that money just for yourselves, and damn the rest).