Greens Farms Resident Laments Housing Vote

Last night — in a 4-2 straw vote — Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission signaled approval of a new 4-story, 94-unit rental property at 1177 Post Road East. The building would replace an office complex across from Crate & Barrel.

Plans call for 30 of the units to be “affordable,” under state 8-30g guidelines. That would make Westport more compliant with the controversial regulation — and earn the town an 8-year moratorium on further affordable housing construction.

A 15-year resident of Greens Farms is concerned about traffic density and safety, particularly around the nearby elementary school. She also fears that the proposal has not garnered much public attention. She writes:

While other developments are getting attention and being fought back, this proposed development is just slipping by.

Artist's rendering of the 4-story, 94-unit rental housing complex proposed for 1177 Post Road East.

Artist’s rendering of the 4-story, 94-unit rental housing complex proposed for 1177 Post Road East.

Traffic and density has already made driving on the Post Road similar to being on I-95. Now this development, close to new construction where Geiger’s used to be, is making our neighborhood look and feel like we are becoming Stamford or White Plains.

There may be little the P&Z can do. But my neighbors and I want to figure out how best to respond and fight for our quality of life.  Awareness of this issue needs to be raised. It’s getting lost with every other developers proposal on the P&Z table.

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20 responses to “Greens Farms Resident Laments Housing Vote

  1. Don Bergmann

    There were several public hearings on this proposal and several differing view points. I believe this was approved because the P&Z saw the alternatives as worse. Good people can disagree. All this and other multi-unit growth issues, e.g. traffic, density, school population, aesthetics and environmental concerns, derive from CT Law, 8-30g. Westport needs to get to the 8-30g moratorium. In my judgement the aggressive leadership to get to the moratorium has only recently begun to coalesce. If one has concerns or proposals, get engaged.
    Don Bergmann

  2. Matt Bannon

    That might be one if the worst looking buildings I have ever seen. This will be a permanent blemish on the post road we will not be able fix this, not to mention the traffic problems this will cause… To agree to this for the reason something else might be worse is a cop out

  3. Dick Lowenstein

    Straw vote = testing which way the winds will blow? And who is the 15-year resident?

  4. I was shocked to read the news of this vote. This looks even worse than the Westport Inn proposal, which was defeated. I do not understand what the P&Z was thinking.

  5. Consistent with Matt Mandell’s comment on WestportNow

    we do not support this straw vote. We would like to encourage the P&Z to push for the three story plan that ALSO gives us the moratorium points by restoring the right number of affordable units.

    Art Schoeller
    Greens Farms Association

  6. Matthew Mandell

    Dick is right. This is a STRAW VOTE. This is not the final vote.

    This is a complicated situation and since the P&Z is in the middle of the decision process they are not going to comment. If you don’ t understand what 8-30g is and what it does, I am not going explain it, other than to say since we don’t have the State mandated 10% affordable housing, developers can bust our zones and build what they want. The P&Z is saying here it thinks that if we have to eat one of these, this is the one to eat.

    That said, I offered an alternative way to approve this in the hearings, The P&Z asked the developer to offer instead of the ugly 4 story building they make it 3 and could take the top floor and add it to the 2 story one next to it. So instead of a 4 and 2, it would be 3 and 3 floors. The developer came back and said sure, but we’ll cut the affordable from 30% to 25% and remove the lowest level affordable. So instead of us getting 67 points of affordable we’d only get 37.

    So just to stay consistent, here is what I wrote on WestportNow in the story that started this thread here.

    Yes, There is an alternative. Approve the 3 story option with full 8-30g compatibility. Force the hand of the developer. There is nothing to lose if P&Z is willing to accept the 4 story option anyway. Better looking and more importantly better from a public safety stand point. (Fire protection)

    When the P&Z asked the developer to do the 3 story option, he reduced the affordability. The P&Z is right not to accept that. But if the 94 units are to be accepted why not hold the developer to the law that gives them that density? We become the ones asking for more affordable and the developer looks suspect.

    Does anyone really think the developer will sue over it? Spend the money and risk a loss? Does anyone really think a judge would overturn a P&Z approval of a full 8-30g compliant plan?

    I believe we have the opportunity to use 8-30g in our favor. I understand why some might just have us take our tough medicine here, but why not try to make it better and safer. If the P&Z does end up accepting the 4 story version, let’s hope they insist on a better facing of the building. It would be one ugly building otherwise.

    Just to let you know the Town attorney does not believe in my theory. He believes we’d lose, so the P&Z can take the 4 story with full affordable, or the 3 story with less. I believe no judge in the world would toss an APPROVAL just because we want it 3 and 3 instead of a 4 and 2. This condition is not onerous and is offset financially by the P&Z approval. The developer saves money by not suing. Up to them.

    Anyway its a tough situation and the P&Z is doing a good job dealing with this.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Matt. Just be honest. You don’t want any of this. But at the same time you will not do anything to stop this. There is a law. And we have to deal with it. Or work to change it.


      • Matt makes some very good points. Seems like the developer wants all the coercive benefits of an 8-30g application while bringing an application that falls short of the 8-30g 30%. Let’s hold them to the 30%

  7. Bart Shuldman

    If you truly want to fight this-then you must vote the ‘party’ in charge in Hartford-OUT!! You can write and argue all you want but nothing will happen. We have one political party controlling everything that is going on in CT and until that changes there is nothing that will happen to change this horrible law. Steinberg can argue all he wants but his party is in charge and they don’t care that this is happening in Westport.

    You want change-make change.

    You will have nobody to blame but yourself.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Bart, no amount of voting by those of us in the wealthier towns will help this get overturned. The sheer number of voters in one big city, (the ones that bear the burden of services,) defeat anything we can do. Our reps (both sides of the aisle,) have said this several times – Hartford is not concerned with the problems 803g poses for towns like ours, when they are attempting to balance the burden of support.
      The change needs to be negotiated to something more balanced and fair, because it is desirable towns like Westport that bear the brunt of these requests. Developers want to be *here* and maximize their profit. One fix I can quickly identify is specifically the need to remove the exemption of affordable stock that was before a specific date. If there are other fixes, then identify those.
      Also, you can help the rubber meet the road, and run for office too.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Elizabeth that is just not true. If the ‘one party’ rule changes in Hartford the. Our interests will be heard. I know as I am involved in Hartford.

        Again-vote to change the party in control. If we can change the House and/or Senate in Hartford then they have to talk. The democrats in control don’t care about us. But if the party changes they will.

        You cannot blame anyone but yourself if you vote for Steinberg. It will allow the party in charge to stay in charge.

  8. Daniel Horowitz

    I am an advocate for diversified and affordable housing options for all Westport residents and workers because I think diversity at all levels makes the community stronger. However, as an architect, I am concerned with this particular proposal because it seems very out of scale and out of character with the charm and beauty of our small New England Town that is still Westport afterall. I have to believe that there are creative ways to allow development without destroying the character of our Town.

  9. Alan Rhodes

    As a Westport homeowner, I support the P&Z for moving forward with this proposal. As was noted in other posts, we need to increase affordable housing to get that moratorium. All these developers are determined and these proposals won’t stop. Post Rd with its commercial development and access to public transportation makes it one of the most logical places to construct one of these developments.

    I also agree with those who suggest that 8-30g should be reformed, but I don’t understand the argument for packing Hartford with Republicans as the solution, given the evolution of the Republican party. (I’m registered as unenrolled). The Republican party is over, yet some people still think it’s the same party from the 80’s. I used to be a Republican, but the party left me… As we saw with last week’s convention, it’s now comprised of the bitter, angry, anti Wall St working class. The notion that Republicans represent the middle or upper class is outdated.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Alan. I easily understand how you can make the mistake that the national Republican Party is the same as CT’s. It is not. I truly understand how you can be upset about the national republican party-I am too. They clearly do not represent my ideals.

      But the issue we face in CT is the divide between Fairfield County and the rest of CT. Right now we are led and governed by ONE party-and making matters worse-just a few people in the Democratic Party. And they do not care about Westport issues or Fairfield County.

      The ONLY way to break the affordable housing regulation that allows developers to blackmail towns is to make a change in either the senate or house in CT from democrats to republicans. Then and only then will the issues that we face here in Westport get the attention we need. It will force leaders of both parties to get in a room and talk. And negotiate. And work together.

      Right now just a few in Hartfors control everything that is going on. Their names are Looney and Sharkey. Look it up. They control the dialogue. They control the discussion.

      We will have nobody else to blame but ourselves if we keep this going. If we allow ONE PARTY rule to continue in CT.

      Our seniors will continue to be driven out of Westport and out of CT. Add that many housing units to our town, add many more students and our education costs will rise. Taxes will be increased. Seniors will feel it the most.

      We will have nobody else to blame but ourselves. We can take control of we want.

  10. What we need to know to set the record straight on 8-30g – Is a couple of simple questioned asked- When did this “hold towns hostage law” pass? Who in the legislature, and PARTY AFFILIATION at the time voted for it? Forget the National Political Reality Cult show of both parties- look at our state- Connecticut has not done well- towns and cities are going bankrupt with pension obligations that are “unsustainable”- the “tax business, income, and death” to meet these obligations have failed. Laws like 8-30g have put local Planning and Zoning Boards at the mercer of state laws and lawyers abusing this “loop hole.” The philosophy of the majority party in Connecticut over the past 14 plus years, as well as the results speak for themselves.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Jimmy you are so right. We have ‘one party’ rule in CT and it is destroying this state. Many people are deciding to leave as taxes and the death tax drive them away. Businesses are doing the same-GE THE BIGGEST.

      The budget deficit even after some state layoffs and expense cuts will probably approach $1 BILLION. The Governor and the one-party leadership are using debt-issuing debt to pay for daily expenses. The Governor and the one party leadership are offering state bonds at higher interest rates to get a ‘premium’. This extra amount is being used to pay for daily expenses. So we are borrowing more at higher interest rates. This year the state will borrows BILLIONS!!

      Get ready for another income tax hike. If we elect to keep the one party in place then after Novemeber taxes will be increased. Please remember this post.

      I know some of you want to vote to keep Steinberg. He cannot help us. He has not helped Westport. He voted for 2 major tax increases. And now, even if he wants to say he will not do it again, it will not matter. His party is in control and they will vote in the next tax increase. We must elect Cathy Walsh and break the democrats hold on the state.

      Just think about it-Steinberg and his friends in Hartford say they want to help those in need. But the current budget cuts removed lots of
      Money from family and hospital programs. They are hurting those in need. And hurting seniors as taxes go up.

      We will have nobody to blame but ourselves if we allow this to continue.

  11. Dick Lowenstein

    Just in terms of height, how does this project compare to National Hall and the Wright Street building (not that the latter is an attractive looking building)?