Tag Archives: Westport Zoning Board of Appeals

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.

Unsung Hero #89

Just over a year ago, as winds howled, a large tree branch fell on Victoria Gouletas. She broke her back, and fractured bones in her neck, scapula and sternum.

Victoria Gouletas

Victoria — a real estate attorney, member of Westport’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and mother of 3 young children — was told she would never walk again.

Victoria is incredibly strong and tenacious. Buoyed by wonderful support from her husband Troy Burk and her kids — and a fantastic outpouring of energy, resources and funds from friends and strangers all across town — she made extraordinary progress.

In a little over 3 months, Victoria was back at her seat on the ZBA. She was an inspiration to all.

However, the cold weather is difficult. The family is moving to North Carolina. It’s a huge loss to our town.

Last night, the ZBA surprised her. Congressman Jim Himes and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill sent letters of commendation, and First Selectman Jim Marpe was on hand to honor her for her service and courage.

Victoria Gouletas and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at last night’s ZBA meeting. (Photo/Josh Newman)

Jim Ezzes called her “one of the most qualified and valued members I have had the opportunity to work with, during my over 20 years as chair of the ZBA.”

Democratic Town Committee chair Ellen Lautenberg added, “Her dedication and professional approach to the position has been exemplary. In addition, Victoria is a wonderful role model for how she has dealt with personal challenges in terms of her positive attitude, incredible fortitude and perseverance.”

Westport has many unsung volunteers — including members of town boards and commissions. But it’s hard to find anyone — in government, or anywhere else — who better epitomizes dedication to the town, and the power of the human spirit, than Victoria Gouletas.

Click below for Rob Simmelkjaer’s tribute video:

Kane Names Simmelkjaer As Running Mate

Democratic First Selectman candidate Melissa Kane has completed her ticket.

This morning she announced that Rob Simmelkjaer will join her, in the 2nd selectman slot.

A member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Democratic Town Committee, Simmelkjaer jumped into local politics soon after moving here in 2013.

Rob Simmelkjaer

His face may have been known to Westporters even before he arrived. He’s been an on-air contributor for NBC Sports, where he is also vice president of NBC Sports Ventures. He previously worked at ESPN and ABC News, where as anchor and correspondent he covered such events as the Virginia Tech shootings and President Ford’s funeral.

At Dartmouth College, Simmelkjaer majored in government and philosophy. He also holds a law degree from Harvard University.

He is a volunteer coach with the Westport Soccer Assocation, and a vice moderator at Norfield Congregational Church. He and his wife Kathryn — a physician at Bridgeport Hospital — are the parents of 2 young daughters.

When NBC Sports moved from 30 Rock to Stamford, the Simmelkjaers looked to move out of Manhattan. They had friends here. The town’s friendly vibe, opportunities for children and excellent schools made it a no-brainer.

“This is the place I wish I grew up in,” says Simmelkjaer, a New Jersey native.

Always politically engaged, he volunteered with the Barack Obama campaigns in 2008 and ’12, and Hillary Clinton last year.

When Kane asked him to be her running mate, he was quick to say yes. “She’s a terrific leader, is passionate about the town, and knows we have to invest in our assets,” he says.

He is eager to face the budget issues “coming down from Hartford.”

Rob Simmelkjaer with his wife Kathryn, and daughters Julia and Annika.

He also is running because, he says, “with the big picture in today’s country, more people need to stand up and answer the call to serve.”

Believing in the adage “all politics is local,” Simmelkjaer says, “if we want to solve problems at the state and national level, we need to show we can do it here, in a civil way.”

If elected, he hopes to leverage his day job — working with entrepreneurs and tech people — to focus on “better uses of technology as a town, and with partners, to solve problems like traffic, parking and communications.”

Simmelkjaer also says that — though they’re not the Board of Education or Finance — the 3 selectmen have a role to play in “maintaining our top-quality schools. Whether you have kids or not, that’s important for us all.”

Quite A Treehouse

Alert “06880” reader and avid Legal Notices connoisseur John McCarthy sent this along, from the Zoning Board of Appeals:

469 Main Street:  ZBA Appl. #6933 by Alexey Syomichev for property owned by Alexey & Irene Syomichev for a variance to Sec. 6-2.1.7 (non-conforming building), Sec. 6-3 (non-conforming lot) and Sec. 13-4 (setback) to legalize exciting tree-house in setback in Res A zone, PID #D13017000.

I don’t normally attend ZBA hearings.  But I might go to this one.

I want to see for myself how exciting this treehouse really is.

Now HERE'S an exciting treehouse!

Please Mr. Postman

For nearly 2 decades, dermatologist Robin Oshman had an office near Fortuna’s.

When Crate & Barrel displaced her, she set up a home office in the handsome Long Lots Road house she’d owned for 20 years.

She put a discreet sign in front.  She got approval from the selectmen and the Architectural Review Board.  “I met all the requirements,” she says.

But that was not good enough for the Zoning Board of Appeals.  They ordered her to remove her little sign.

She did.

And then — because she remembered hearing somewhere that the town has no jurisdiction over mailboxes — she called the post office.

Are there any size requirements for a mailbox? she asked.

No, they said.  It can be as big as you want.

Can you put information like your name, address, profession and phone number on it? she wondered.

Sure! the post office said.

What about shape?

It just has to be the right height for the mail carrier to reach, they replied.

Oh, and be sure to put a little orange flag on the side.

Dr. Oshman designed what looks like a little sentry house.  Carpenter Al Williams built it out of wood.

It’s got black and white lettering — and a little orange flag.  Here — take a look:

Dr. Oshman’s mailbox went up in January.  Her patients — 250 of whom signed a petition to allow the old sign — love it.

So do her neighbors.  Now her patients no longer pull into their driveways, wondering where her office is.

Public Works didn’t like it, though.  Someone called, saying they had to remove her structure.

It’s a mailbox, she said.  Not a “structure.”

Well, a mailbox has to be on a post, they told her.

It is, she said.  There’s a post inside, holding it up.

She offered to saw off the bottom, to show them.  They said that wasn’t necessary.

Then they said a mailbox had to be 8 inches back from the road.

Hah! Hers is 14.

Well, it’s on town property, they said.  It can’t be there.

Dr. Oshman said they’d better remove every mailbox in town, because every one is on town property.

No one ever called back.

Funny, isn’t it:  Everyone driving by now notices the mailbox of Dr. Robin Oshman, M.D. (101 Long Lots Road; Dermatology; 454-0743).

No one ever noticed the discreet little sign the ZBA made her take down.