P&Z Dives Into Pool Coverage Text Amendment

One of the unintended consequences of COVID is a rise in the number of new swimming pools. All over town, construction is underway.

All over town — except in areas of town with lots that, according to zoning regulations, are undersized or non-conforming. Many of those properties are in areas like Saugatuck Shores and Compo Beach.

For years, architects and land use experts — including Pete Romano, the principal at LANDTECH, the Westport-based engineering and planning firm — have gone to the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting variances. This Thursday (May 6, Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission will consider a text amendment to address that issue.

Text amendment 793 would modify the swimming pool definition to exclude swimming pools of a certain size from total coverage calculations, in all zoning districts.

It would also exclude “sports courts” (private basketball and pickleball courts, etc.) of a certain size from total coverage calculations.

There would be size limits: 850 square feet for pools, and up to 40′ x 40′ for sports courts. Non-conforming lots would still be required to adhere to building and conservation setbacks, and fulfill all drainage requirements.

A Westport summer scene.

Romano has represented many homeowners who have sought variances. He says the text amendment would reduce the number of land-use approvals required to construct a pool.

He notes a current regulatory quirk: A homeowner right now can construct a patio 35 inches high, right up to all building setbacks, and fill the entire lot, setback to setback. It would not count toward total coverage calculations; that only applies to patios at least 36 inches above the ground.

However, Romano says, “once you punch a hole in the patio and pour water in it, it counts towards total coverage.”

Many town officials seem to be in favor of the text amendments. So are most realtors.

Thursday’s meeting will be livestreamed at www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Public comments can be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov by noon Thursday. To comment in real time during the meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov by noon on Thursday; include your name, address and “agenda item 5.” Click here and scroll down for the full text amendment.

5 responses to “P&Z Dives Into Pool Coverage Text Amendment

  1. Chip Stephens SHS 73

    Well, first we add accessory dwellings, now we won’t count pool coverage and what comes next then next. Soon there will no need for coverage or set back regulations as yards become impervious. What happened to stop cutting trees and “more green is good” for oxygen and clean air?
    By the way there are still setbacks, albeit shrinking, and excavation and fill regulation which will be the next targets of elimination. These regulations protect neighbors from water runoff and encourage gentler sight lines all around.
    Speak up today or don’t complain later about over development, noise and the privacy. JMHO

  2. Donald Bergmann

    To be blunt, this is a terrible proposal. It should be rejected by the P&Z. There should be no effort by the P&Z to make modifications to make the proposal at all more palatable. The water issues, run off, drainage, underground water flows and even water tables are overwhelming for the small lots near L.I. Sound. The Conservation Commission has yet to submit its comments because of time constraints. I expect those comments to be very critical and, hopefully, recommend rejection.

    The idea that fewer applications will be submitted to the ZBA for variances is specious. The ZBA should not be hearing applications for swimming pools based upon “hardship”. To eliminate an important Total Coverage limitation for pools and, e.g. basketball courts based upon the “hardship” experienced because a homeowner purchased a particular size lot is very wrong. Also read the comment from Save Westport Now in the P&Z online file. It is compelling in its objections. T

    his effort is primarily, if not totally, about distorting our zoning regulations to allow construction that will, at least in the minds of some, increase a property value. The effort will surely increase the business of Land Tech. Most realtors I know are very sensitive to what is best for Westport. More pools and basketball courts on small lots is not what is best for Westport. At some point, probably already here for some, increasing pressures and financial interests to expand the use of home sites will reduce the value of properties, not increase them.

    Letters of objection to the P&Z Commission will be especially effective now because of the recent departure of the three Republican members of the Commission. The new members will look for guidance in making their decisions. I ask all to provide that guidance. It will be appreciated.

    Don Bergmann

  3. Barbara Jay

    Thank you Chip and Don for expressing my outrage. I wonder why town officials would be in favor of this proposal. I hope not the ones on the P&Z.

  4. Ian Warburg

    While sympathetic to desire of those wishing to expand the as-of-right uses of their properties, and even as one who might benefit from this proposed text amendment economically, I echo the sentiments of the three who have posted comments before me and oppose its passage.

    As current homeowners along the section of Compo Road South between Bradley and Soundview for more than 40 years, we have seen flooding and drainage issues worsen dramatically, with the issues accelerating in speed and severity in the past decade. Between new construction, the adding of fill, apparent changes to the water table, climate change, and more, this tightly stacked community of mostly non-conforming lots cannot absorb what is being proposed, let alone what is already present.

    Please send your letters of objection to the P&Z.

    Ian E. Warburg

  5. As one who has lived in the same house in the Compo Beach area for more than 24 years, I can state unequivocally that Text Amendment #793 is a terrible idea which, if adopted, would have ruinous repercussions for the quality of life at the beach and, as such, should be rejected by the Board.

    During our time as residents here, our yard – and more than a few times, our home – have been flooded with as much as 12-18 inches of ground water that often persists for days. I am not referring to Superstorm Sandy or a couple nor’easter’s where water from the Sound breached the breakwall and filled the Compo basin with several feet of salt water. Rather, I am referring “only” to periods of heavy rain, coupled with our woefully inadequate storm drain system, which leave many of us underwater for extended periods of time.

    The situation has grown progressively worse over the years largely because of over-building and illegal filling of yards throughout the beach community. As trees have been cut down, open lots developed, and massive homes with huge patios constructed, the rain water and attendant runoff simply have nowhere to go. We regularly see what appear to be small rivers flowing down to us from Bluewater Hill because of the over-development and lack of sufficient drainage – notwithstanding what town officials say.

    The idea we would now allow a significant amount of the remaining open area to be taken up by swimming pools, which displace a phenomenal amount of water, and sports courts, which will further add to the runoff, is simply lunacy. In addition — as anyone who truly understands what has been happening in the beach area for years knows — those contemplating constructing a new pool or sports court will, invariably, fill their yards with as much as 18-24 inches of soil before construction, such that any potential problem with runoff will, literally, flow down to their neighbors.

    Compo is a very special place. We have a world-class beach. The facilities at Longshore are amazing. Let’s respect and protect what we have rather than cover every square inch of remaining open space with more playthings.

    Respectfully,

    Jim Hood
    33 Soundview Drive

    PS. As someone with an open backyard of nearly 1/2 acre, I would be a huge beneficiary of this text amendment – if it only made sense.