One week after the Planning & Zoning Commission agreed to a settlement with Summit Saugatuck — allowing a scaled-down 157-unit housing development to be built on Hiawatha Lane (off Saugatuck Avenue adjacent to I-95 Exit 17). seemingly ending 18 years of proposals and litigation — there is a new twist.
Earlier this afternoon — one day ahead of the filing deadline — a petition signed by over 60 electors was delivered to the town clerk. Lead petitioner Gloria Gouveia and Save Old Saugatuck leader Carolanne Curry presented the signatures.
If Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton ascertains that there are at least 20 valid signatures, the petition will be forwarded to the Representative Town Meeting, as provided by the Town Charter. A public hearing would follow.
The RTM has 30 days from today to hear and decide the petition.
Gloria Gouveia is a longtime Westporter. Since 1984 she has worked as a land use consultant, specializing in planning and zoning permit and subdivision applications, Zoning Board of Appeals applications, neighborhood opposition advocacy and Historic District compliance.
In the wake of Wednesday’s 5-0 Planning & Zoning Commission vote to accept a settlement with Summit Partners — allowing a 157-unit project to proceed on Hiawatha Lane, with modifications from the original plan — she writes:
Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Although he was referring to a baseball game, the same can be said for the proposed 157-unit Summit development approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission Wednesday night.
Although a neighbor’s recourse in circumstances like these is usually limited to an expensive court appeal, the Summit matter is different. Along with approvals for construction and site development, the P&Z also approved a change of a zoning boundary.
Thanks to our early lawmakers, organizations like Save Old Saugatuck and Save Westport Now, as well as the many residents who opposed Summit’s plans, may have another opportunity to challenge the developer in a public forum: the RTM.
According to the Town of Westport Charter: “The Representative Town Meeting shall have the power to review any action by the Planning and Zoning Commission adopting, amending or repealing any zoning regulation or fixing or changing the boundary of any zoning district…”
To start the process, a petition endorsed by 2 RTM members or 20 electors of our town must be submitted to the town clerk. When transmitted to the RTM it will be scheduled for hearing, where all may be heard.
So to all of the disenfranchised residents of the Hiawatha Lane neighborhood, and all of those good citizens of Westport who oppose this Brobdingnagian development: Let us join together and rally once more to ask the RTM to reverse the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision, and save old Saugatuck.
I reached out to town attorney Ira Bloom. He responded this afternoon:
“That is correct. A petition must be filed within 7 days following the public notice of a P&Z decision.” That notice was filed yesterday (Thursday, May 13).
Bloom added, “I will certainly look carefully at any petition that is submitted.”
I spoke with Planning & Zoning director Mary Young too. She noted that the full text of the Town Charter (quoted above) says: “Any action by the Planning and Zoning Commission adopting, amending or repealing any zoning regulation or fixing or changing the boundary of any zoning district, or a negative 8-24 report by the Commission [italics mine] shall be subject to review by the Representative Town Meeting.”
Young said that the P&Z decision Wednesday night was a positive report — not a negative one.
The zoning plan for Hiawatha Lane.
A few minutes ago, Gouveia added this information:
“Summit’s project will have to be reviewed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“According to my reading of their permitting requirements, Summit is classified as a major traffic generator. Any project with 200 or more parking spaces meets that definition. Although housing projects with 100 cars or less are exempt, that is not the case with Summit. I can’t believe DOT is happy with any development likely to result in more backups on the exit ramps and onto I-95.”
“Also, the Planning Director may contact DOT about Summit’s approval. The DOT will immediately start the review process.”
Artist’s rendering of one of the buildings at the Hiawatha Lane development.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)