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B&B proponents put properties on market, but not checking out just yet

Published 12:04 pm, Tuesday, September 3, 2013
  • Jarvis and Coke Anne Wilcox and their dog Cocoa in front of the historic house at 25 Turkey Hill Road South earlier this year. They had proposed converting the house into a bed and breakfast, but the property is now on the market. Photo: File Photo / Westport News
    Jarvis and Coke Anne Wilcox and their dog Cocoa in front of the historic house at 25 Turkey Hill Road South earlier this year. They had proposed converting the house into a bed and breakfast, but the property is now on the market. Photo: File Photo

 

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The status of a proposal to convert a historic house on Turkey Hill South into a bed and breakfast is "on hold," according to the owners, Coke Anne and Jarvis Wilcox.

The couple owns two houses in the Greens Farms section of town, their primary residence on Clapboard Hill Road, and the one at 25 Turkey Hill South, where they raised their family and which they now rent. Both houses are on the real estate market and, if one or both sell, the Wilcoxes are prepared to move to another Fairfield County community that might have more relaxed views about commercial ventures in a residential community.

The Wilcoxes spent more than a year seeking a text amendment to Westport zoning regulations that would allow guest house/tourist home use in a historic residential structure. The earliest part of the Turkey Hill house, known as the Arthur C. Taylor house, dates back to 1813, and its pre-fabricated pattern house addition is circa 1865.

The text amendment was opposed by the Historic District Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as many neighbors who are concerned about "creeping commercialization" and safety.

Art Schoeller, president of the Greens Farms Association, said the stance of the association on the subject of the proposed B&B will not change. "To us, a bed and breakfast in a residential area is simply no, no. There's always this constant pressure of incursions from the Post Road," he said.

"Here we are taking the side against one of our neighbors in Greens Farms," he said, adding it's not personal. "We're constantly trying to assess what's in the best interest overall of the Greens Farms area ... The greater good of preservation of the residential nature of the area is our goal and we will not compromise on that," he said.

Coke Anne Wilcox said she and her husband are not actively pursuing their original plans to open a bed and breakfast right now "as much because of small-town politics as the fallacy of democracy," adding that "the noisy minority triumphs over the silent majority."

There are proponents of the bed and breakfast concept in the Turkey Hill house even among some neighbors in Greens Farms, one of whom said last January that it would be a charming, low-impact addition to the neighborhood that once supported Martha Stewart and her many projects.

Coke Anne Wilcox said she has spent a great deal of time and energy on the proposal and is not completely walking away from the idea. If the Wilcoxes do not sell one or both of their Greens Farms houses they may stay in Westport and encourage B&B supporters to come forward. "I will willingly change my mind and pick up where I left off if there are others around that want to pitch in and help with the petition and convince the naysayers that it's not going to be a dangerous situation.

"It won't be undesirable. It will be luxurious," she said.