Baron’s South Fate Could Hinge On RTM

The Planning and Zoning Commission has spoken. By a 4-1 vote (1 abstention) last week, they approved an amendment to rezone all of the 22-acre Baron’s South property as open space.

Now there’s at least 1 petition circulating — probably more — asking the RTM to overturn that decision. Petitioners want to reopen the decades-long discussion of using the town-owned property for senior housing.

The official P&Z notice of the decision will be published Friday. Petitions must be submitted within 7 days of that notice.

RTMThe RTM would then have 30 days to act. The decision can be overturned by a 2/3 affirmative vote. That means 24 of the 36 members — no matter how many attend, it’s still 24.

This is one of the biggest RTM decisions in years. A vote to uphold the P&Z decision means that 22 acres of land — hilly and heavily forested — just steps from downtown will remain open forever (perhaps enhanced by an arboretum).

A vote to overturn the P&Z keeps the door open for other uses. The most recent 165-unit senior housing proposal involved 3.3 acres.

If you’d like your voice heard in this debate, contact your RTM members. Click here to find their emails. (Don’t know your district? Click here!)


19 responses to “Baron’s South Fate Could Hinge On RTM

  1. Hallie Stevens

    The beauty of open space and people having an urban park is reason enough for the town to keep the property as it is, and having it possibly enhanced be an arboretum is a very nice idea. The other issue is climate change and the more flood attenuation that be achieved by having open space (even though right now it seems high on a hill), will be important in the long run. Those tress are also great for carbon sequestration. Overall, as much as I understand wanting long-term housing for seniors so they can stay in town, ultimately the town can not afford to let what little open space that is left to be developed.

  2. Matthew Mandell

    To those who plan to appeal the decision. Please submit the appeal on March 30th of after, but before April 3. DO NOT submit on March 27th, the first day of possible submission.

    The RTM P&Z Committee will be fielding this and will need time to digest, hold meetings, two possibly, and render a report to the full RTM. Then the full RTM will have a meeting and decide. All within 30 days.

    Due to the school vacation week in the middle of April it makes the time that much tighter. Possible dates for RTM PZ meetings are 4/6 and 4/20, full RTM could be 4/21 or 4/28. (an appeal submission on 3/27 would nix the 4/28 date)

    Thank you.

    Matthew Mandell
    Chair RTM P&Z Committee

  3. To those who plan to appeal the decision: engage in a little civic vandalism if it makes you feel better. But know this: you’re not taking another stick out of Barons South. Period.

    • Grayson Braun

      To those who plan to vote on the appeal…use this oppprtunity to preserve open space in Westport…vote in opposition to any attempt to overturn the open space designation for Baron’s South.

  4. Arline P.Gertzoff

    Leave 18 acres for open space and use four acres for senior housing only.

  5. Stacy Prince

    Some voting districts have changed.

  6. Jo Ann Davidson

    Thank you for the list of RTM members and map of districts. I hope every voter will call or email his/her 4 members. Baron’s South was bought for Municipal Use in 1999, and it should remain Municipal Use, which could include Senior Housing AND open space.

    • Jo Ann, the Indians were also asked to “share”. I think we can agree that didn’t produce a good outcome – for them. To those of us who care about the environment, the term open space is commonly understood to mean something other than a crummy developer set-aside. I have no interest in some politically defined nature reservation, there’s quite enough phoniness around here already.

  7. John McCarthy

    This should be interesting.

  8. Bart Shuldman

    How would anyone feel if we built the senior housing and found out some of the units did not go to Westport residents? With the affordable housing act that will clearly happen. No way for anyone to guarantee only Westporters. There is just no way to guarantee 100% of the units ONLY going to Westport residents.

    There is both and income and asset test. Not one or the other but both can be used. If a senior citizen moved their home to their children it will still count. The asset test is very difficult due to anyone who has owned a home in Westport. Of course you also have an income test that could immediately disqualify a Westport resident.

    Then of course the housing has to be marketing not just to Westport. By law we will be forced to market the opportunity to other towns. The affordable housing act is not just to help out the town’s residents but to help everyone nearby.

    We are looking at giving up probably the best asset this town has right now for the potential to have others get the benefit. We should hold onto Barons South for its open space and if ever this town gets into a financial mess, we have the asset. But the open space is so good for all of us.

    We need housing our seniors can afford. Not doubt. But once we decide to go into state sanction affordable housing we LOSE CONTROL.

    Do your homework. Once we begin we lost. We have lost this open space forever.

  9. Bart Shuldman

    Does anyone know if this project is relying on any money from the State-helping to pay for some part of the memory facility as an example.

    Right now Govrernor Malloy has proposed reducing the state spending on such things as Medicaid for seniors. I suggest you do your research.

    If we are ‘hoping’ for money from the State to make this work, and I am only asking, then this project could run into funding issues. The State is looking not to spend as much on seniors and also to try and keep them home and not help pay for senior living.

    Don’t shoot the messenger, but CT is facing a huge budget issue and items such as tolls on highways and now a COUNTY TAX, a new tax on all of us is in motion in Hartford.

    I would strongly suggest not moving forward especially given the budget issue we face.

  10. Barbara Stephens

    Please keep Barons South open space Lets not go back to the development plans of the 60s Do not give away what little space we have left (and I AM a senior and in Westport for 55 years of my time ! )

  11. Bart Shuldman

    What continues to be missing from the discussion is whether the affordable homes can 100% be given to Westporters. As I have read, they want to use this property towards the 10% affordable home criteria the state has set. If true, then this project, at least some of it, must be earmarked for state sanctioned affordable homes.

    That will eliminate any chance those units can be guaranteed to Westporters. In fact, if we try and skirt the rules we could find ourselves dealing with a potential lawsuit. Someone could cry foul.

    In addition there are income tests and just as important, asset tests. Remember this is called affordable homes. If a senior citizen moved their property into their children’s name they still cannot avoid the asset test. Not sure how many in Westport will qualify.

    Then the question-who gets the affordable home? Someone living in Westport 5 years? 10 years? What is the benchmark?

    We should protect the last piece of true open land in Westport. There are many other ways to have homes that our seniors can afford built. But we better be 100% certain that if this project goes forward that Westporters truly benefit-100%. If not, we gave away a piece of the last parcel of open space this town has.