Tag Archives: affordable housing

Roundup: Vaccines, Zoning, Schlaet’s Point, Ospreys …

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Not every “06880” reader lives in Westport. Sarathi Roy notes: “New York or New Jersey residents can book COVID vaccine appointments in their home state or in Connecticut.”

Here is New York state information:

A few days ago, “06880” posted a comprehensive list of Connecticut vaccine options, thanks to Sarathi’s HR department. Click here for information on CVS, Walgreens, Yale New Haven Health, Stamford Health and VAMS sign-ups.

In addition to that list, Sarathi adds:

  • Check your town’s website for information and clinics available only to residents. You may be able to register in advance or receive a call for available appointments or excess doses.
  • Connecticut’s  Vaccine Assist Line (877-918-2224) operates 7 days a week, from 8am-8pm. Agents can schedule appointments at state-run clinics. If you call early and are given the chance to leave a message, you should. They accept a certain number of messages each day, then call those people back throughout the day to assist in booking appointments. Once the maximum number of calls for the day has been reached the message option is turned off.
  • You can now search additional locations, including supermarkets and local pharmacies. A great tool to see who is administering the vaccine in your area is Vaccinefinder.org. Search a zip code, make note of the providers nearby, then search for booking websites.
  • Here are a few of the more common ones:
    Rite Aid

ShopRite

Big Y

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Did you miss last night’s webinar on the many housing bills making their way through the state’s General Assembly, and their possible impact on Westport?

Planning and Zoning chair Danielle Dobin gave a comprehensive overview. Our 4 local legislators — Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang, and Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas — tackled the pros and cons. Viewers asked questions. It was a wide-ranging, engaging 80 minutes. (And I would say that even if I had not served as moderator.)

It’s now available to watch — or re-watch — at your leisure. Click here for the link.

Everything you wanted to know about zoning — including sewers — and more.

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One of the few positive parts of the pandemic: Many more Westporters have had time to walk.

Because we practice social distancing, we’re not always on the sidewalk. And — as Tammy Barry’s photo of Hillspoint Road at Schlaet’s Point shows — the result is some barren patches where grass once grew.

I’m sure saltwater flooding had something to do with t too.

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

Here’s hoping the town can find some resources to bring this beautiful stretch of waterfront back to what it once was.

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CNN anchor (and Westport resident) Alisyn Camerota’s last day on “New Day” is today. The show was filled with many nice tributes. Yesterday, co-host John Berman started things off (click here to see).

Alisyn is not going very far — just a few hours later. She’ll anchor CNN’s weekday coverage with Victor Blackwell.

Congratulations, Alisyn, on your new gig — and the chance to sleep in a little longer. (Hat tip: Seth Schachter)

Alisyn Camerota

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Today’s osprey report comes courtesy of Chris Swan.

He wants Westporters to know that there are 3 platforms near Sherwood Island State Park.

One is in the saltmarsh behind the Nature Center, midway to the last house off Beachside Common.

The second is in the saltmarsh on the eastern shore of Sherwood Mill Pond, several hundred feet above the Compo Cove homes. It’s visible from the path on Sherwood Island’s western edge, above the fire gate to Compo Cove.

Both platforms are occupied by returning osprey pairs.

A 3rd location can be seen from the saltmarsh shore of the northeastern corner of the Mill Pond, looking west. This was erected last fall. No osprey pair has yet staked their claim.

A 4th platform is at the entrance to Burying Hill Beach, in the marsh across New Creek. Chris has watched it for 10 years, but has never seen it occupied.

He thinks it’s too low. He believes old utility poles make the best platforms — citing the ones at Fresh Market, Longshore’s E,R. Strait Marina, and Gray’s Creek.

Chris should know: He spent his professional career with Eversource.

The newest osprey platform in Sherwood Island Mill Pond. A house on Grove Point is visible behind it. (Photo/Chris Swan)

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Congressman Jim Himes holds a Facebook Live session today (Wednesday, April 7) at 3 p.m. He’ll discuss how constituents can benefit from the American Rescue Plan. Click here to watch live. To watch later, click here.

Congressman Jim Himes

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And finally … on this day in 1940, Booker T. Washington became the first African-American depicted on a US postage stamp.

In November 1944, Booker T. Jones Jr. was born in Memphis. He was named after his father, Booker T. Jones Sr., a high school science teacher — who himself was named in honor of Booker T. Washington, the educator.

 

Roundup: Sandwiches, Easter Service, Voter Protection …

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And now — after more than 1,000 votes, for 21 competitors in 9 categories — the winners of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s Great Sandwich Contest have been announced. The are:

  • Best Chicken Sandwich: Stiles Market
  • Best Steak Sandwich: JR’s Deli & Grille
  • Best Vegetarian Sandwich: Manna Toast
  • Best Combo Sandwich: Stiles Market
  • Best Club Sandwich: Joe’s Pizza
  • Best Wrap: Layla’s Falafel
  • Best Breakfast Sandwich: JR’s Deli & Grille
  • Best Pressed Sandwich: Mystic Market
  • Best Fish/Seafood Sandwich: Rizzuto’s

Honorable mention (coming within 5 votes of the winners): A&S Fine Foods, Calise’s Market and Fortuna’s

Winners receive plaques. Each winner will also offer a free winning sandwich to 9 lucky voters, who won the lottery in the category they voted in. For photos of the winners, click here.

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Saugatuck Church’s 1st-ever Easter drive-in worship service was — well, if not a miracle, then still pretty cool.

The back parking lot was filled with 45 cars (that’s around 13o people). The FM radio broadcast worked flawlessly, thanks to Mark Mathias. The service was punctuated with plenty of cheerful horn honks.

Dozens more watched the livestream on Facebook and YouTube. But that photo isn’t as interesting as the one below:

(Drone photo/Alexey Syomichev)

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You’ve probably heard there are zoning bills working their way through the General Assembly. You’ve heard that they may affect Westport.

But how?

Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 6, 6:30 p.m. Zoom), Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin hosts an in-depth discussion, The focus is on what they mean for our town.

She will be joined by Westport’s 4 legislators: State Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang, and Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas.

I’ll be the moderator. Click here to register.

One bill being considered would affect housing plans for the area around any town’s primary train station.

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Westport Book Shop Artist of the Month is Katherine Ross. Her watercolors will be on display throughout April at the Drew Friedman Art Place, in Westport’s popular used book store on Jesup Road.

Ross is a well-known artist and art teacher. She conceived the children’s mosaic wall at the Longshore pool, with work from over 1,000 middle schoolers. She has served on the Arts Advisory Committee and Westport Cultural Arts Committee, and co-chaired the Westport public schools’ Art Smarts program.  

The exhibit is open during the Book Shop’s business hours: Tuesdays through Fridays (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Saturdays (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sundays (noon to 5 p.m.

Katherine Ross, with her springtime watercolors.

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Tonight (Monday, April 5, 7:30 p.m., Zoom), the Democratic Women of Westport and Staples Young Democrats host a virtual session called “The Anti-Racist Policy Agenda: Connecticut Voter Protection.”

State Representative Stephanie Thomas — who represents part of Westport, and serves as vice chair of the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee — will discuss the 2020 election in the state, possible expansion of access for voting, and building support for voter protection laws.

To get the link for the talk, or more information, email dww06880@gmail.com.

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And finally … speaking of “protection”: On this day in 1922, the American Birth Control League — predecessor of Planned Parenthood — was incorporated.

P&Z Considers New Apartment Regulations

Right now, Westport’s rules for “accessory apartments” (units in a principal dwelling) and “accessory dwelling units” (those in detached structures) are strict.

An owner of an accessory apartment must either be at least 62 years old, or the apartment must be deed restricted as “affordable” (which can limit the owner’s ability to easily resell or refinance).

The apartment can be no larger than 800 square feet or 25% of the floor areas (whichever is smaller), and there is an annual certification process.

This top-floor apartment is one of a limited number of legal ones n town.

Accessory structures of up to 300 square feet are permitted. However, they can have only 2 of these 3 three plumbing fixtures: sink, toilet or shower. Kitchens are not allowed. They cannot be rented out, and — importantly — they cannot be used as a dwelling unit.

These are not really “apartments.” They’re more like pool houses.

If the accessory structure is a barn, they cannot have bathrooms, kitchens or central heating. They must be used for livestock or storage of farm products, equipment and/or feed.

“Accessory Dwelling Units” — where people can actually live — have been permitted. But only with special approval, with evidence that the structure is “historic.”

But if the Planning & Zoning Commission’s Affordable Housing Subcommittee has its way — and they’ve approved the proposal unanimously — a text amendment would permit Accessory Dwelling Units throughout town.

It would open up our housing stock. It would add affordable housing. It would provide added income for residents who are going through life changes — the loss of a job, say, or divorce, or those whose children have moved away and who want to move into a smaller place on their own property, while renting out their larger home.

An apartment like this (which is not in Westport) is tightly regulated now.

The text amendment — on the P&Z agenda for this Thursday (April 8, 6 p.m., Zoom) would permit Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on lots that do not have an Accessory Apartment, anywhere in town.

Lots of 1 1/2 acres or less could have a footprint of up to 650 square feet. Lots of more than 1 1/2 acres could have up to 1,000 square feet. The height of the structure would be capped, to guard against “monolithic tower-like ADUs.”

In addition, the owner of the property must live in either the principal or accessory dwelling. Any lease must be for a minimum of 6 months.

The P&Z will also consider modifications to its Accessory Apartment regulations. The age requirement would be removed, and the maximum size would increase from 800 square feet t0 1,500. However, the apartment could still not exceed 25% of the floor area of the entire house.

Gabled roof ADU, on Cape Cod.

The proposals are in keeping with the Affordable Housing Subcommittee’s mission of encouraging the development and preservation of affordable housing choices in Westport.

(Click here and scroll down for the full text amendment. The April 8 meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020 until 7:30 p.m. Public comments may be sent before noon on April 8 to PandZ@westportct.gov.)

Zoning Reform Bills: Forum On Zoning Set For Tuesday

NOTE: A technical glitch prevented some readers from receiving today’s first “06880” post. Here it is. Apologies if you already got this.

One of Connecticut’s hottest topics is zoning reform. Action in Hartford will have a direct impact on Westport.

It’s not easy making sense of the fast-moving legislative action. A number of bills are moving toward votes.

“06880” is here to help.

This Tuesday (April 6, 6:30 p.m. Zoom), Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin hosts an in-depth discussion of the bills that have advanced to the full legislature. The focus will be on what they mean for our town.

Danielle will be joined by Westport’s 4 legislators: State Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang, and Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas.

And I’ll be the moderator. Click here to register.

Meanwhile, Danielle Dobin sends this report, on the status of several bills:

Senate Bill 1024: As-of-Right Multifamily With No Parking

The original proposed language of this bill rezoned all towns (with a population of over 7,500) in Connecticut to permit as-of-right market rate fourplexes within .5 miles of that town’s primary train station, and triplexes around Main Street corridors. Density of 15 units per acre would be permitted.

“As-of-right” means there would be no public hearings or comment around these new developments. Towns would be explicitly prohibited from requiring any off-street parking for the new units. The P&Z would have been required to conserve sewer capacity for the new as-of-right development instead of utilizing it for larger mixed use, mixed income projects (like Belden Place and Saugatuck Center) with affordable units included.

The Belden Place apartments by the Saugatuck River, off Main Street near Parker Harding Plaza.

Examples of streets that would have been impacted with new as-of-right multifamily – up to 15 units per acre with no parking for the new residents — include St. John’s Place, Evergreen and Myrtle near Main Street, and Stony Point, Davenport, Eno Lane and Burritt’s Landing near Saugatuck.

The original bill also included a litigation-enabling statute that invited constant lawsuits from anyone, regardless of whether they have filed an application for development, against towns regarding inadequacies in a town’s zoning code.

This bill was advanced out of committee without the very harmful provisions that would have limited future opportunity for the development of mixed income multifamily and supportive housing in Westport. The mandate to permit as-of-right multifamily without parking in single family neighborhoods has been removed.

Danielle Dobin, Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair.

There is language requiring some changes to Westport’s zoning code, and language permitting freely rentable Accessory Dwelling Units) by administrative approval.

Westport is revising its own ADU regulations with a proposal for a text amendment scheduled for April 8 that has already unanimously approved by the P&Z Affordable Subcommittee.

Also included is language exempting ADUs from the overall unit count for 8-30g calculations. This means permitting ADUs will not set back Westport’s compliance with 8-30g.

There is also language setting out a working group to design an optional model zoning code for the state. Right now, the proposed working group has no representatives from suburban towns.

NOTE: Yesterday Sara Bronin, the main proponent behind SB 1024, said that she and her team are working to have the as-of-right multifamily without parking inserted back into the bill before it is voted on by the full legislature.

House Bill 6107: Zoning Enabling Act Changes 

This bill, part of the Partnership for Strong Communities legislative agenda, prohibits consideration of the word “character” in zoning decisions. The Westport P&Z does not utilize “character of the community” in their decision-making. Westport’s special permit standards look at height, massing, etc., and the as-built aesthetics of streets.

This bill creates a working group to examine affordable housing statewide. A modernization of 8-30g (now 30 years old) could come out of this.

This bill has some of the same language as SB1024 requiring changes to Westport’s zoning code, but never included a litigation enabling provision.

NOTE: It’s critical to ensure the as-of-right multifamily without parking isn’t tacked onto this bill before it is voted on by the full legislature.

House Bill 6611: The Fair Share Plan

Unlike SB 1024, this focused on creating more affordable housing across Connecticut. It proposes a completely different process than 8-30(g) (though as drafted now it does not replace 8-30g) to determine the amount of affordable housing each municipality should create, and leaves it to each town to create a 10-year plan for achieving this “Fair Share” goal.

I have a call scheduled with staff from the Open Community Alliance, who proposed this bill, to better understand the requirements and impact to share at Tuesday’s session. SB 1024 garnered so much attention, it’s important that this bill – proposed by longtime advocates for affordability in Connecticut – finally receives a fair hearing.

Among Westport’s affordable housing options: Sasco Creek Village.

Senate Bill 6570: Transportation

The Transportation Committee, under Senator Will Haskell’s leadership, has advanced a bill that requires towns to look at state-owned land near transit stations in their 8-30j affordability plans, and empowers the Department of Transportation to utilize 5 lots from across the state to plan for mixed income housing, while retaining all existing parking spaces.

This bill initially contained the similar as-of-right multifamily language as SB 1024, but it was removed. This language is designed to help fully built-out towns (like Westport) leverage state-owned property for housing, including cottage clusters and townhomes (much like the Westport Housing Authority is working to create on the DOT land off Post Road East and West Parish. Westport’s innovative approach has created a template for towns across the state.

A number of other bills advanced as well. They will be reviewed during  Tuesday’s discussion. But these are the big ones to watch.

Zoning Reform Bills: Forum On Westport Set For Tuesday

One of Connecticut’s hottest topics is zoning reform. Action in Hartford will have a direct impact on Westport.

It’s not easy making sense of the fast-moving legislative action. A number of bills are moving toward votes.

“06880” is here to help.

This Tuesday (April 6, 6:30 p.m. Zoom), Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin hosts an in-depth discussion of the bills that have advanced to the full legislature. The focus will be on what they mean for our town.

Danielle will be joined by Westport’s 4 legislators: State Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang, and Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas.

And I’ll be the moderator. Click here to register.

Meanwhile, Danielle Dobin sends this report, on the status of several bills:

Senate Bill 1024: As-of-Right Multifamily With No Parking

The original proposed language of this bill rezoned all towns (with a population of over 7,500) in Connecticut to permit as-of-right market rate fourplexes within .5 miles of that town’s primary train station, and triplexes around Main Street corridors. Density of 15 units per acre would be permitted.

“As-of-right” means there would be no public hearings or comment around these new developments. Towns would be explicitly prohibited from requiring any off-street parking for the new units. The P&Z would have been required to conserve sewer capacity for the new as-of-right development instead of utilizing it for larger mixed use, mixed income projects (like Belden Place and Saugatuck Center) with affordable units included.

The Belden Place apartments by the Saugatuck River, off Main Street near Parker Harding Plaza.

Examples of streets that would have been impacted with new as-of-right multifamily – up to 15 units per acre with no parking for the new residents — include St. John’s Place, Evergreen and Myrtle near Main Street, and Stony Point, Davenport, Eno Lane and Burritt’s Landing near Saugatuck.

The original bill also included a litigation-enabling statute that invited constant lawsuits from anyone, regardless of whether they have filed an application for development, against towns regarding inadequacies in a town’s zoning code.

This bill was advanced out of committee without the very harmful provisions that would have limited future opportunity for the development of mixed income multifamily and supportive housing in Westport. The mandate to permit as-of-right multifamily without parking in single family neighborhoods has been removed.

Danielle Dobin, Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair.

There is language requiring some changes to Westport’s zoning code, and language permitting freely rentable Accessory Dwelling Units) by administrative approval.

Westport is revising its own ADU regulations with a proposal for a text amendment scheduled for April 8 that has already unanimously approved by the P&Z Affordable Subcommittee.

Also included is language exempting ADUs from the overall unit count for 8-30g calculations. This means permitting ADUs will not set back Westport’s compliance with 8-30g.

There is also language setting out a working group to design an optional model zoning code for the state. Right now, the proposed working group has no representatives from suburban towns.

NOTE: Yesterday Sara Bronin, the main proponent behind SB 1024, said that she and her team are working to have the as-of-right multifamily without parking inserted back into the bill before it is voted on by the full legislature.

House Bill 6107: Zoning Enabling Act Changes 

This bill, part of the Partnership for Strong Communities legislative agenda, prohibits consideration of the word “character” in zoning decisions. The Westport P&Z does not utilize “character of the community” in their decision-making. Westport’s special permit standards look at height, massing, etc., and the as-built aesthetics of streets.

This bill creates a working group to examine affordable housing statewide. A modernization of 8-30g (now 30 years old) could come out of this.

This bill has some of the same language as SB1024 requiring changes to Westport’s zoning code, but never included a litigation enabling provision.

NOTE: It’s critical to ensure the as-of-right multifamily without parking isn’t tacked onto this bill before it is voted on by the full legislature.

House Bill 6611: The Fair Share Plan

Unlike SB 1024, this focused on creating more affordable housing across Connecticut. It proposes a completely different process than 8-30(g) (though as drafted now it does not replace 8-30g) to determine the amount of affordable housing each municipality should create, and leaves it to each town to create a 10-year plan for achieving this “Fair Share” goal.

I have a call scheduled with staff from the Open Community Alliance, who proposed this bill, to better understand the requirements and impact to share at Tuesday’s session. SB 1024 garnered so much attention, it’s important that this bill – proposed by longtime advocates for affordability in Connecticut – finally receives a fair hearing.

Among Westport’s affordable housing options: Sasco Creek Village.

Senate Bill 6570: Transportation

The Transportation Committee, under Senator Will Haskell’s leadership, has advanced a bill that requires towns to look at state-owned land near transit stations in their 8-30j affordability plans, and empowers the Department of Transportation to utilize 5 lots from across the state to plan for mixed income housing, while retaining all existing parking spaces.

This bill initially contained the similar as-of-right multifamily language as SB 1024, but it was removed. This language is designed to help fully built-out towns (like Westport) leverage state-owned property for housing, including cottage clusters and townhomes (much like the Westport Housing Authority is working to create on the DOT land off Post Road East and West Parish. Westport’s innovative approach has created a template for towns across the state.

A number of other bills advanced as well. They will be reviewed during  Tuesday’s discussion. But these are the big ones to watch.

[OPINIONS] Cons, Pros Of State “Multi-Housing” Bill

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director and RTM member Matthew Mandell sends regular emails to a large list. He addresses a variety of local topics.

The other day he weighed in on State Senate Bill 1024, concerning multi-family housing. He wrote:

More than one bill being proposed in Hartford would usurp local zoning laws and single family zoning, and allow as of right multi-family housing.

One would mandate this change 1/2 mile around any train station, as well as 1/4 mile from a commercial zone.

Another would allow duplexes (2-family homes) in any single family zone.

The former, which I will focus on, would include both Saugatuck and Greens Farms areas, the swaths along Riverside Avenue and all along the Post Road. We are talking hundreds if not thousands of properties.

The Westport train station has long been the center of multi-use developments.

The term “as of right” means free to do it essentially without Planning & Zoning  approval. Any developer could come in and build 4 condo units on any property they wanted, regardless of our rules, and the concerns or living choices of the neighbors.

There is a need for affordable housing, no argument, and social inequities exist in our state. The cause of much of this is being laid, by the proponents of these measures, at the door step of our towns and more than often those towns in Fairfield County. Past zoning rules, now outlawed, fostered exclusionary practices and this, they say, still needs to be rectified. More importantly, they also say current zoning decisions still do this.

So in order to set things straight, all towns across the state would have to accept this responsibility and must allow this unfettered development.

Many legislators, senators and representatives, want to be doing the right thing. So do most of us. Being on the right side of history, by creating more affordable housing and correcting social injustices, is for the most part a no-brainer. It’s right.

But many of them yearning to help have and are being persuaded that this specific legislation is the right way to do it. It is not. It’s like many things that start with the best of intentions, if not vetted thoroughly, and yes challenged, have significant and unintended consequences

The proponents believe that legislating by fiat and across the board densification will solve the problem. Yet there is no proof offered that any of this housing would be affordable or that a great diversity of individuals would be benefited. It is a theory, it seems, without verified merit and a myopic view of how planning works.

For years, Canal Park has offered affordable housing for seniors, near downtown.

What is most bothersome to me is that this would be done without regard to how this would affect those that currently live in these towns and specific areas. At risk are the areas where economics presently support naturally affordable housing and the strivers who have worked hard to have a home with a front and backyard for their kids to play.

In the case of Westport, this legislation would actually thwart our efforts to create housing diversity. We currently mandate 20% affordability for all multi-family housing and have advanced proposals to create more. We actually have done such a good job that not only did the state award us with an 8-30g moratorium that other towns are looking at what we have done to emulate it.

If this legislation came to be, developers would snap up the choicest of properties first, most likely along the river and build million dollar condos all along its banks. This would then cascade to more and more lots, especially the naturally occurring affordable, creating more unaffordable housing, stressing water, sewer, police, fire, school and road infrastructure.

The negative environmental affects would be dramatic as the walkable community envisioned would not exist as basic household needs and jobs would still be a drive away instead of within this newly over dense community. Saugatuck would grind to a halt and Greens Farms would be a shadow of itself.

Bottom line: All transit hubs and TOD’s are not the same and top down. One-size-fits-all legislation simply does not work. The only people who this would actually benefit are developers.

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Lawrence Weisman disagrees. Because he has no mechanism like Mandell’s to respond, he asked “06880” to post his response.

Dear Matt:

It is my observation that when a debater tries to persuade an audience of the rightness of his position by offering a parade of horribles, he is almost always on the wrong side of the issue and, for want of substance, is reduced to hyperbole.
Your description of the substance of this bill and its consequences is a prime example of that tactic.

You are wrong about both the substance and the probable consequences of the bill, and your reference to those “who have worked hard to have a home with a front and backyard for their kids to play” is a classic dog whistle in favor of exclusionary policies.

Connecticut has a systemic bureaucratic problem in addition to its systemic racial problem. Government in our state is fractured. We have counties but no county or regional government with authority to address what are clearly regional problems, among which are transportation, the environment, and housing.

So rather than trying to deal with regional issues in an uncoordinated town by town basis, we are obliged to rely on statewide action to produce uniform results. That’s what this bill is intended to do and why it is needed.

Westport is not the villain in this piece. Our P&Z has done and continues to do its part to address housing inequity and the need for affordable housing, and it is even considering “as of right” accessory dwelling units.

1177 Post Road East includes 30% affordable units, according to state standards.

You say that “as of right” means without P&Z approval, thereby suggesting that it means unregulated, but what you don’t say is that these accessory units do not require P&Z approval precisely because they are limited by regulation as to size, height, building coverage, number of parking spaces, and the amount of unused permissible coverage on the lot in question.

You do yourself, your constituents and the town as a whole a grave disservice by urging a point of view which is ungenerous, ill-considered, and provincial, and by playing to the fears and ultimately the prejudices of those who are resistant to change.

We desperately need new ideas for solutions to problems which, because they have existed for so many years, are assumed to be immune to correction. This bill is a judicious and creative step in the right direction which deserves your support.

Sincerely,
Larry

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Last night, State Senator Tony Hwang held a Facebook Live meeting on proposed zoning legislation. Among the bills is the one referenced above.

There is a public hearing in Hartford this Monday (March 15). Click here for information on that hearing, as well as a video of Hwang’s discussion. (Hat tip: Cornelia Fortier)

 

P&Z Explores Elimination Of Multi-Family Cap

Changes may be ahead, on Westport’s multi-family and affordable housing front.

This Thursday (October 8, 6:30 p.m., online), the Planning & Zoning Commission reviews a text amendment. If adopted, it would delete the “Maximum Multi-Family Dwelling. Called the “Multi-Family Cap,” this limits the number of multi-family dwellings in Westport to 10% of the number of single-family dwellings.

Without deleting that language, the only non-single family home development permitted in the future would be affordable units and market-rate unit units permitted in very limited regulations. All other types of development — including townhomes, apartments and condominiums — would no longer be allowed.

Belden Place is the site of new apartments.

Planning & Zoning director Mary Young says: 

The elimination of the multifamily cap will permit the Planning & Zoning Commission to continue its work diversifying housing in Westport, while retaining the predominantly single family zoning that characterizes Westport.

This text amendment does not allow multifamily development in any single family zones. Rather, it authorizes the elected Planning & Zoning Commissioners to continue to evaluate multifamily and townhome proposals in those zones where they are already permitted.

Thursday’s meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Comments in advance of the meeting should be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov.

Comments can also be sent during the meeting when the item is under review by the Commission before public comment session ends. Comments emailed during must be sent to PandZcomments@westportct.gov. Include your full name and address, and identify the agenda item to which your comment relates.

If you would like to comments in real time during the meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov (before 12 noon, October 8). Include your name, address and the agenda item to which your comments will relate. Meeting participation details will be emailed to you. Click here for the full agenda.

Pre-Applications Available For Affordable Westport Housing

Earlier today, the town sent out a terse email. Headlined “Local Housing Authorities Are Now Accepting Pre-Applications for Affordable Housing,” it read:

Preliminary applications will be accepted beginning on 06/03/2019 AND END with a postmark date of 06/28/2019. Pre-applications received after the end date as postmarked will be automatically rejected.

Please click on the following link for income-eligibility requirements and a download of the pre-applications: https://millennium-realty.com

It sounded a bit cryptic. Pre-applications for what affordable housing, exactly?

And who is Millennium Realty?

I clicked the link.

The Millennium Group — headquartered in New Britain — has a handsome website. At the top are photos of 4 beautiful residences. Two are homes that would not look out of place in Westport; 2 are gleaming new apartment buildings.

Turns out Millennium Realty (aka The Millennium Group) manages a wide array of properties — including 4 affordable housing facilities in Westport. They are:

  • Canal Park (50 units; elderly; studio and 1-bedroom)
  • Hales Court (78 units; 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom)
  • Hidden Brook (39 units; 1, 2 and 3-bedroom)
  • Sasco Creek (33 units; 2 and 3-bedroom).

That’s 200 units of affordable housing.

Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown.

But why “pre-applications”?

Turns out they occasionally open up wait lists, to fill when vacancies occur. “Pre-applications” are used to screen for initial program eligibility.

So for anyone interested in being screened for a possible eventual spot on a wait list for affordable Westport housing: Click on the link above. You can also pick up a copy at the Westport Housing Authority (5 Canal Street), or call 203-227-4672.

Hales Court also offers affordable housing in Westport.

Embrace Baron’s South

5o years ago, Westport bought Longshore.

The entire process — from conception to approval — took 18 days.

It was the right thing to do.

Half a century later the town has the chance to build senior housing at Baron’s South — land we already own.

It will take considerably longer than 18 days — no doubt more than 18 months.

Once again, it’s the right thing to do.

The proposal — presented last week by 1st and 2nd Selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelley Kassen  at meetings of the P&Z, RTM Long Range Planning Committee and the Senior Services Committee — would involve 66 units of 1- and 2-bedroom rentals.  More than half would be available to people earning approximately $50,000.

The proposed Baron's South project. The senior housing and skilled care facilities are in blue, just east of the current Senior Center.

A “mansion” on the property — currently a deteriorating structures used to store library books — would become an 84-bed skilled nursing facility.

Also available:  assisted living services, such as meals, housekeeping and hospice care.  Shuttle service would be available between the senior housing and the current Senior Center.

The town would find a non-profit partner to assist in the project.

For too long we’ve farmed out our senior citizens — and affordable housing — to other towns and cities.  It’s past time to do our share.

Baron’s South is not Winslow Park, on the other side of Compo Road across US1.  The Baron’s terrain is tough — you can’t walk dogs there, or cross country ski.  Though the public has had access for years, it’s virtually unused.

Each event celebrating Longshore has had a common theme:  Imagine what this town would be like today if our politicians lacked the foresight — and will — to buy the property.

We already own Baron’s South.  Now let’s have the foresight — and will — to do something smart, and good, with it.