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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.

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.

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.

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