Westport Loses Its Character

Westport is losing its character.

Well, at least the Planning & Zoning Commission is removing it from its regulations.

A public hearing tomorrow (Monday, February 27, 7 p.m.) will address the question of replacing or removing the word “character” through Westport’s Zoning and Subdivision Regulations.

The hearing results from the state’s Public Act 21-29. Effective October 1, 2021, it says that municipal zoning regulations must no longer be drafted with consideration as to the “character” of a district, but instead with consideration as to its “physical site characteristics.”

The act also prohibits denial of any land use application or zoning approval “on the basis of a district’s character, unless such character is expressly articulated in such regulations by clear and explicit physical standards for site work and structures.”

The Planning & Zoning Commission will no longer look at the “character” of a neighborhood like Saugatuck. Instead it will consider “physical site characteristics.”

The P&Z’s Text Amendment #813 would replace or remove “Character” throughout town where it is not accompanied by clear and explicit physical standards, while staying as close to the original meaning and intent of the Regulations as possible. Click here to see the text amendment.

Monday’s public hearing will be held virtually via Zoom, will be livestreamed on  www.westportct.gov, and accessible on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Comments can be sent prior to the meeting (PandZ@westportct.gov). To access the meeting links, view the meeting agenda here.

33 responses to “Westport Loses Its Character

  1. As a Democrat, let me point out that it is exactly this type of “woke” crap that gives us a bad name and will, in ’24, lose us the Presidential election.
    Make no mistake, the forced removal of such words as “character” referring to a neighborhood is a euphemism for “white”, for “rich” and for “exclusive”; when, in fact, the word simply means architectural style and historic integrity when used in zoning regulations.

    • Stephanie Frankel

      Let Eric decide what woke means! Let Ronnie decide. Seems to me that they love diversity down there. A shining light of what the rest of the country should look like! Lol! So welcoming. I think I hear woke more out of Fox, Ronnie and Eric more than any single Democrat.
      I am going to bet Republicans in town want a certain look more than Democrats. Just a little hunch.

  2. No problem
    Physical site CHARACTERistics.

  3. So now we have a choice—some would say dilemma—which P&Z meeting to attend at 7 PM on February 27… this one or the one at the library?

    Tech Tip: use the calendar app on your smart phone to avoid being in two places at once.

    (Snow is predicted for 7 on 2/27, too.)

  4. Oh yes, the latest state mandated installment of “How to Boil a Toad”. We all know what this is actually about, but I’ll bite anyway. Why not simply draft a set of “clear and explict physical standards”? The Westport Historic District Commission did just that over 40 years ago.

  5. This is long overdue. The p-n-z needs to clarify much of their language. I often dont understand what they are getting at. Linguistics is a great tool for any planning committee. The word character is not specific. It should be banned. The context usually goes back to the revolution. Also, the word can be used in two ways, which makes it unique and troublesome. For instance, .. he is a funny “character.” Or like this, gentrification has destroyed the character of the small farming village. It makes it easy to be confused. How about this,…until Westport is open to income diversity, its characteristic shabby chic style is at risk to being overtaken by wealthy characters.

  6. Westport lost its character a long time ago. All the lovely unique houses torn down, McMansions now abound. Main street is a mall. The open space and fields are gone, replaced by houses.
    It was sad to see.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Jalna, I remember you (and your talent) from Staples, choir, etc.
      We were there when it was good and so were we.
      But trying to get most of the current crop of useless idiots to understand is like pulling Superman’s cape, peeing in the wind or messing around with Jim (Croce…).

      Now, it’s the Uber rich singing at the top of their lungs in the shower at the Planet Fitness Gold’s Gym by the (de)Merritt Parkway formerly known as Good Ol Camp Mahackeno:
      “What will the simple folks do????”

      Don’t let it be forgot
      that once there was a spot
      for one brief shining moment that was known
      (at least to us) as:

  7. Here we go again. Over thinking an issue. Sad to say but our lives and actions today are defined and operated by Lawyers and Legislators who support this new generation of university hatched super liberal socialists who push the wills of the few on the majority of public.
    They prosper and grow their power and control with the written word of these laws that they manipulate with definitions that they deem worthy.
    Simple solution, change the word.
    The new description of what Westport and many communities aspire to with careful development – “architectual significant & historical elements.” Lose “Character” a word this few deem an enemy!

  8. Don’t forget the word “density”…another word under scrutiny of “the woke word police.” I can’t keep up with the changes so I choose to follow the first amendment and continue to apply words that are adequately descriptive and have no “racially” motivated meanings such as character and density. The only division we have are dense people who foolishly assign new divisive meanings to descriptive words.

  9. I was on a meeting where one P&Z Director asked how does Form Based Code deal with density. A P&Z Directory from another town said you are using that word as a euphemism for a certain type of people. My jaw dropped. The former’s question was about numbers, not who, as they work for a well integrated city. The later went on to explain in detail how the word density is used to prevent diversity. Hard to have a conversation about planning when you can’t use certain words, especially when actually trying to create affordable housing.

  10. Have the Regulations printed in different versions so to satisfy the varying sensitivities of readers, just like Roald Dahl’s children’s books!

  11. William Strittmatter

    Part of the issue, of course, is that the history of zoning is rife with overt government racial exclusions (e.g. racial zoning, housing policy) being replaced by overt private exclusions (e.g. deed restrictions) in turn being replaced by various non-overt nominally non-racial zoning restrictions (e.g. single family, large lot zoning) that, as a practical matter, had the same racially restrictive results. Whatever people today think “character” means, historically it was one of the nominally non-racial but same effect “code words”.

    The problem today is that most of the objections raised to “affordable housing” similarly have the same restrictive effect. For example, when property/land values are expensive as they are in Westport, there are only 3 ways to achieve affordability: 1) increase density, 2) massively subsidize housing or 3) Bridgeport and Norwalk. I say #3 facetiously, but as a practical matter, that is the route that has been taken – let the less well off live elsewhere – free market, baby. I tend to agree that 8-30g is a poor solution, but no one seemingly has the appetite to really address the issue.

    For those that are interested, there is a good book on the history of how we got here.

    The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

    Well worth the read to understand even if you don’t share the author’s political leaning or policy solutions. The FAQ at the end of the book are also interesting.

  12. Also….I recommend George Orwell’s 1984.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Excellent recommendation. Funny you say that, I am reading Churchill and Orwell by Thomas E. Ricks. They were very different individuals, obviously but later in life developed a deep regard for each other’s worldviews and outlook on totalitarianism. I was first exposed to 1984 at Staples. I sincerely doubt that the controlling tripartite on Avery Place, Jesup Green and North Ave would tolerate that today.

  13. No one has mentioned what are the proposed text amendment wording changes. In some cases, just a one-word substitution: “quality” instead of “character.” In others, just delete the word (and the sentence reads fine without it).

  14. Kesselman Pamela

    I like character. I hope Westport can maintain it.

  15. Carl Addison Swanson, SHS, 66

    Westport sold its soul in 1973 when Nyala Farms was sold to Stauffer Chemical. Herb Baldwin, Founding Father, commented: “I never want this town to be for the very rich” Sorry, Herb, the pig gets fat, the hog gets slaughtered. This town is now only about money. .

  16. Good, it’s about time Westport and other affluent areas receive the treatment everywhere else is getting. Maybe some affordable housing & bussed “Diversity” from cities like Bridgeport and Stamford will really create a vibrant and inclusive town.

  17. My wife and I have been resident for 40 years and 25 years respectively. During the course of that time, resulting from a total lack of oversight by the P&Z department, the building department and management, the “ character” of Westport has been destroyed. More importantly, resulting from the amount of building, and the influx from New York and Boston, the infrastructure of the city is at breaking point. Particularly, vehicular usage. It is time for the town management to intensely review the purpose it is serving for the community.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      You sound rational. Extremely rational. And concerned. Extremely concerned. Certainly 45 years of residency qualifies you as more than the typical “5-10 years of making big bucks, double-parking and drinking Starbucks then I’m outta here” kind of guy. To carry your thought further, perhaps it is time for the community to review the town management instead of the other way around. It’s not getting the job done for the community. It is getting a lot else done (for themselves). Keep expressing your thoughts.

    • ‘….influx from Boston…’? Wha????? Nobody is leaving the Boston area to move to 06880, never mind anywhere in CT.

      Why would someone from Boston want to downgrade their life?

  18. Stephanie Frankel

    Tell me what makes Westchester, Ohio so great. Is it all of the fast food chains in a line on one street? Is it all of the chain stores? Is it the white diversity? I need to hear what you consider to be the greatest place to live in Murica!

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Stephanie, I’ve responded privately via text. Happy to discuss. You have my number or let me know and I’ll call you.
      Be well or get well, as always, it’s your choice.

  19. While I should take my own advice and ignore Ms. Frankel’s comment above, it is exactly her attitude that upsets those of us who spent our formative years in Westport, and who remember the respect neighbors extended to each other.

    We understand that the town could never look the same as it did in the ‘60’s or’70’s — no town does — but, always hoped the sense of calm, comradery, and natural beauty could stand still in time. Maudlin, maybe, but true.

    Stop fighting.

    • Stephanie Frankel

      I am sorry l, but, where did I show disrespect?
      Eric has done nothing but bash Weatport every single day since I have checked Dan Woog’s site! If you hate Westport, do not even live here, why even write about it at all? Just be happy you don’t live here I guess and move on! Eric lives in Cincinnati and loves it. That is great, but why bash Westport every single damn day?
      Also, he said Wesrport aint what it used to be! The. He told me Wesrport used to be racist and anti- semitic. Then he bashes being woke and doing something about racism and anti- semitism.
      Krista, I LOVE Wesrport and the people who live here! I will gladly have a conversation with you about how much Eric hates Wesrport and shows so much disdain and disrespect for it.
      I do not tolerate gaslighting at all.

  20. Krista Powers

    Dear Stephanie,
    It has been a week since you tore apart Eric Buchroeder.
    Isn’t it time for a formal apology? I believe that you mentioned that you are a teacher, so teach please.
    Anyway, I miss Eric’s banter, unique humor, and reminiscing.
    Here’s a deal: If you can apologize I will go away.

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