Baron’s South Open Space Proposal Heads To RTM

The clock is ticking on Baron’s South.

The RTM has received 4 petitions to review last month’s Planning & Zoning Commission decision that would rezone 22 acres of that prime downtown property as open space.

It has received a 5th petition too, from a completely opposite view. This one asks the RTM to uphold the P&Z’s open space vote.

The RTM has 30 days to render a decision.

This Monday (April 6, Town Hall auditorium, 7 p.m.), the RTM’s P&Z Committee will meet. Westporters are invited to speak publicly on the open space designation.

On April 20, the RTM P&Z Committee will vote on a recommendation to the full RTM. That body will make a final decision on April 28.

This is a crucial step on determining the fate of 22 acres of wooded land, just a few steps from downtown Westport. If you don’t make your voice heard — in person, or by email (click here to find their contact info; click here for your district) — you can’t say you weren’t warned.

The entrance to the Baron's South property.

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

28 responses to “Baron’s South Open Space Proposal Heads To RTM

  1. It’s a shame nobody has a vision of it becoming a wonderful park with picnic tables and gardens and woodland bridges. A place Westporters would be proud to go.

  2. Ilene Mirkine

    We all need to send emails to our RTM officials and speak up about our views….in particular if you would like to see it remain open space! Dan has made it so easy by providing links above…
    A wonderful park? usable open space? Sounds perfect! Now its up to us to speak up and get things going in that direction.

  3. Susan Hopkins

    A voice from Colorado: OPEN SPACE

  4. Matthew Mandell

    To clarify. The RTM P&Z committee will be meeting on both April 6 and 20. We won’t just be voting on the 20th, but continuing the open meeting for further comment by the public. So if you can’t make the 6th, please come on the 20th. Time will be tighter on the 20th as we must vote, but the floor will be open for a good amount of time.

    So if you believe it should be open space, affordable senior housing, a mix of the two, or none of above, please come and tell us what you think. The RTM is your body.

    I have created a web page for information about the appeal w/ links to documents and the video taped stream of the P&Z hearings. This page will expanding as we move through the process.
    http://www.westportd1.com/barons.html

    Matthew Mandell
    Chair RTM P&Z Committee

    • John F. Suggs

      Matt, Thank you for all your hard work gathering all of the pertinent material on one website for everyone to review. It is much appreciated and is a big help to me personally as I do my due diligence in preparation for the upcoming RTM vote on this matter. One question though: This blog by Dan Woog reports that there were 5 petitions filed. Your website only lists 4. So which is correct – your official Barons South P & Z website or Dan Woogs blog? Thanks.

      John F. Suggs
      RTM District 5

  5. Morley Boyd

    To those RTM members from District 9 who are wondering how some of their constituents feel about overturning the open space designation – and exposing this fragile forest to renewed threats from regional senior housing, bus parking and fuel storage – I would suggest taking a look at the signatories on the just submitted petition to uphold said designation.

  6. Bart Shuldman

    There is a big potential issue that seems to be avoided by those supporting the senior housing–and that:

    1) can they 100% guarantee ALL the homes go to Weatport residents? I would imagine this would be very disappointing if the project goes forward and Westporters do not get all the homes

    2) what is the income test to be approved to get an affordable home? What is the asset test? How will these tests effect anyone from Westport getting a home.

    3). Who gets qualified as a Westporter? Is it 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? What will be the criteria?

    All Westporters should know these answers and others before we give away the last of the remaining open space we have. This town could easily find other solutions and not use this open space.

    But there remains the big 3 questions above. And I will continue to hope we get real answers. Not guesses.

    Bart

  7. I am and have been a teacher in the Westport schools and a resident and taxpayer of Westport since 1968. I do not believe that housing on Baron’s South will benefit employees of the town or senior citizens of Westport. I have followed and studied the various proposals, and I am unconvinced of the néed, efficacy, or intentions. No one has ever contacted me or retired town employees like me, to solicit input to my knowledge. I think only developers will profit and taxpayers will subsidize those profits, and no good purpose will be served from the senior housing plans I have seen. Pending further information or efforts, I think the Planning and Zoning amendment declaring the parcel open space is the best way to go.

  8. Carol Buffinton

    Dear Bart,
    Fair Housing trumps all.. there is no guarantee for any of the units as far as I can ascertain. All seniors and interested parties should Google and read the act and additional provisos added by CT which strengthen it.
    Regards,
    Carol Buffinton

    • Bart Shuldman

      Carol. I believe you are agreeing with me-Westporters CANNOT be 100% guaranteed all the affordable senior homes. Seems like you have done some research as I have done.

  9. Jamie Walsh

    This is a disasterious proposal that will benefit few, if any, Westport seniors.. With a little TLC and a proper readaptive use, Barons South could be another polished gem…saved. 200 +- of tree growth we will never see for some senior housing styled buildings on a 99 year land lease with long term ramifications no one understands. This is a shifting theme. Originally, for Westporter’s…first come first served….oops cannot do that… If you take money from the Government.
    Let’s call it what it is… a lousy proposal with many complex unanswered questions that keep getting deferred to the next ” committee” that somehow, as always, will remain unanswered. Expand the senior center and add whatever amenities are required…and have been promised. Nothing better for seniors than getting out there and hiking the trails and breathing the clean forest air! I know a few who run great hikes and can out hike 18 year old kids. Regarding Golden Shadows….make it a cool bookstore….whatever….local and affordable…maybe a coffee shop or cafe…frequented by both young and old… Do not take away what many can provide anymore…open space. Look at our neighboring towns and then look at us…they all have much more. Save our open space!

  10. Morley Boyd

    I absolutely love the talking point that the Barons South forest is all icky and dangerous – and that Rose the Pious is going make it right. Hilarious. First of all, anybody who falls for this is either from the city – or has never set foot on the subject property. Or both. Secondly, Rose has made no commitment to the proper management of this urban forest. And even if they did, they wouldn’t have the slightest idea what that actually meant. The truth is that we already have on staff our very own tree whisperer: Bruce Lindsay, you know the, um, Tree Warden? Unlike the above mentioned developer, whose idea of maintenance does not extend beyond three guys with backpack blowers, Bruce established an arboretum of his own elsewhere in the state, and knows how to incrementally make interventions over a period of years. Further, a lot of people (including kids at Staples) are really jazzed about volunteering in this forest. Sure, there’s work to be done: rewarding work with the opportunity to learn and physically connect with our environment. Nothing to be nervous or fretful about, just shoot your TV and go take a hike in the Town Forest. For once.

  11. Kathy Belzer

    Dan, do you know if anyone has started a Change.org petition to uphold P&Z open space decision?

  12. Alison M Luisi

    Has there been any studies done on what the traffic implications will be with the proposed new Senior Housing facility? Can the intersection at South Compo/ Post Road handle it. The traffic is already ridiculous at that intersection and Soul Cycle and Chipotle have not even opened their doors yet in the Compo Acres Shopping Center. I am not sure if people understand the draw to Soul Cycle Spin Classes. There will be at least 8 classes a day that can accommodate at least 40 people a class. Believe me these classes will be full! It is the talk of Fairfield county that Soul Cycle is coming to Westport. So when there are back to back classes that would mean there are 80 cars at the same time trying to enter and exit the Compo Acres Shopping Center most likely from South Compo Road at the most heavily traveled times of day.

  13. Sharon Horowitz

    I agree with Alison. I am concerned about the increase in traffic particularly at this intersection– as well as along the post road east in general. There is so much new development happening in town,which is great– But I feel we must not lose sight of the value of open space, and preserve what little we have left– and how this will contribute to the quality of life for generations to come. Other than the P & Z explanations-Are there resources/website we can go to that lay out the argument to preserve the open space?

    • Bart Shuldman

      Sharon. I suggest also focusing in the fact that the town, if we proceed, CANNOT guarantee the affordable homes to Westporters. If we want these residences to count towards the state requirement for affordable homes, we CANNOT set them aside just for senior Westporters. We will lose the open space and be very disappointed when others get to live there.

      Before this town gives up the last open space we have, I can only hope others understand this fact and the disappointment it will bring us.

  14. Michael Petrino

    The Land should remain open space. The RTM should not overturn the P&Z decisions. Those who seek to grab pieces of the land for a small special interest group, are not furthering the best interests of the community.

    Giving away public assets to private profit making entities is bad public policy. Such actions throw off a whiff of crony capitalism.

    • Sharon Horowitz

      Thanks for your response. As Im learning more–I agree with you Mike. This is private interest– not Westport’s interest. P & Z clearly are thinking about the needs of ALL of Westport’s residents, and future residents. Im sympathetic to the needs for senior housing– but according to the input from last night’s hearing , there are other privately owned options available.

  15. I learned last night that open space is very expensive to maintain – so what we need to do is overwhelm the forest at Barons South with new buildings and related infrastructure (which we all know maintain themselves for free). Who comes up with this stuff? It’s a forest. While it’s pretty clear now to anyone paying close attention that the administration has walked away from housing at Barons South, to those of you who refuse to believe you’ve been left at the alter: If you guys want to build housing for people who don’t live here on forest land that we own, quit the plastic banana routine and just say it proudly. We’re not stupid.

  16. James Erlich

    Best use for the land for now is open space. It can always be changed later when other needs come up. Westport has seen a lot of changes over the year and while I am not naively nostalgic about the past and think Westport will remain the same forever, we do have enough development going on right now (i.e. Bedford Square). If property owner’s want to renovated their existing properties or have modest expansions that’s ok by me. But I agree with Bart that there is no way to effectively manage the process of who gets the housing unless the Town officials want to hire staff to oversee the process themselves which is not something they should take on the burden of.

    • Bart Shuldman

      James. Not only do we not know how much it will cost to manage the process-but worse-it’s against the State of Connecticut to allow ONLY Westport residents to get the part of this project earmarked under the affordable care act. WE CAN NOT DICTATE ONLY WESTPORT RESIDENTS if we want to count some of the housing under the affordable care act.

      • Bart; If what you say is true, then we need to ask about the true motivation for the project.

        Who will be the real beneficiaries? Whose economic interests are being served?

        Giving public assets to a private profit making entity is not good public policy.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Mike. This is from public Comment made by our town officials. As you will see, some units are being earmarked under affordable care. By statue, westport will be restricted from only allowing our residents. It is against the policy. We will have to market the opportunity in a 50 mile radius to our town and will also be restricted to asset test and/or income test. We cannot get away from this. From my calculation, 20% will potentially go to non Westport residents. Here is what was said:

          40% of the 135 units (excluding memory care) will be priced below market rate. Half of those units will beallocated as affordable housing and the other half will be allocated for moderate income seniors

        • Bart Shuldman

          Mike. The following was also said publicly which should be very concerning. Any income dirived from this project is expected to COVER the costs for the ongoing expenses the town will incur. As we know, most of these type projects end up exceeding any costs that are projected to help convince the residents to approve. Who knows what calculation or projections they made but it will only potentially cover the costs. This is what was said:

          In summary, this project will help Westport seniors remain in Westport while taxpayers will receive significantproperty taxes to offset annual town expenses.

        • This is beginning to appear as nothing more than a crass land grab. As the proposed senior housing project cannot, by law, exclusively benefit Westporters, one does wonder what exactly is going on. The question that so many are naturally asking is: who are the investors?

          • Bart Shuldman

            Morley. I truly appreciate that some are now focusing on the details of this project. I spent a considerable amount of time researching state sanctioned affordable housing. Below are just some of the facts–there are so many more. The Feds have cracked down hard on residency. This might help everyone understand-and while our own so called town lawyer might continue to mislead-this is right from the regulations:

          • Bart Shuldman

            Morley. I truly appreciate that some are now focusing on the details of this project. I spent a considerable amount of time researching state sanctioned affordable housing. Below are just some of the facts–there are so many more. The Feds have cracked down hard on residency. This might help everyone understand-and while our own so called town lawyer might continue to mislead-this is right from the regulations:

            Residency preferences. A residency preference provides applicants who live in a specific geographic area at the time of application a priority over nonresidents.

            1. Owners must never adopt a residency requirement (meaning the owner will not lease to any applicant who does not live in the defined jurisdiction or municipality).

            2. A residency preference may not be used for the purpose or effect of delaying or otherwise denying admission to a project or unit based on the race, color, ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability, or age of any member of an applicant family.

            3. HUD must approve residency preferences prior to use by the owner. HUD will approve residency preferences only if the preference does not result in discrimination or violate equal opportunity requirements.

            4. When an owner adopts residency preferences, HUD requires that the owner consider the following as residents:

            1. (1) Applicants who work in the jurisdiction;

            2. (2) Applicants who have been hired to work in the jurisdiction; or

            3. (3) Applicants who are expected to live in the jurisdiction as a result of planned employment.

            NOTE: “Planned employment” means bona fide offer to work in a municipality.

            5. The owner may treat graduates of, or active participants in, education and training programs located in a residency preference area as residents of the area if the education or training program is designed to prepare individuals for the job market.

            6. For Section 8 properties, an owner’s residency preference must be approved by HUD through a modification to the Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan, in accordance with 24 CFR 108.25.

            7. Owners may not base a residency preference on the length of time an applicant has lived or worked in the area.

            8. If there are no eligible residents on the waiting list, owners cannot hold units open because of a residency preference. In this situation, owners must admit the next household on the waiting list.