Coalition fields P&Z candidates; Save Westport Now backs GOP slate
Updated 4:39 pm, Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Torve and Payne were CFW candidates for the commission in the November 2013 election.
Save Westport Now, another local political organization, has decided not to field its own candidates. Instead it has opted to cross-endorse the four incumbent Republicans on the zoning commission seeking re-election — Chip Stephens, chairman; Jack Whittle, vice chairman; Cathy Walsh and Al Gratrix, said Jeff Block, co-chairman of SWN. In the 2013 election, Save Westport Now cross-endorsed the three Democratic candidates.
Torve said the coalition’s platform will focus on issues it considers to be of most importance for the town.
She said the CFW leaders are concerned about the lack of housing available to seniors. “We shared the shock and dismay of so many residents over the Baron's South decision to re-zone it as open space and not allow any of the land to be used for senior housing,” she said. “We support open space and, as so little available land exists, we believe there has to be compromises so that all our residents are accommodated,” she added.
“The situation is indicative of an absence of planning when residents of many decades cannot find adequate housing as they reach their old age.”
She said the primary reason — “an inadequate P&Z Commission that pays little attention to planning” — that led to formation of the coalition in 2013 remains the same
She said planning should be an integral part of the P&Z’s work. “We believe that a newly constituted and creative P&Z can play a pivotal role in planning for the future,” Torve added. “That said, we will argue for a more transparent and open P&Z that will listen to the views of all Westporters to find creative solutions that benefit all residents, newcomers and long-time residents alike,” she said. “Major decisions taken by the P&Z since the 2013 election have only heightened our concerns as to its decision-making process.”
CFW, she added, favors improving Westport “while maintaining the town's unique character and charm.”
She said: “We believe these goals are mutually achievable and compatible. The creation of new and improved facilities should not be characterized as a threat but rather, with careful management, can benefit the community. A great town can be even greater with constructive input from a creative and energized P&Z. “
Torve said CFW believes “that a town, a community, is constantly growing and evolving.”
“It is an organic not a static entity,” she added. “We recognize that change is inevitable and the best way to manage it, is to manage it, by careful and deliberate planning. Change should not be rejected simply because it is change. ‘No’ is not a solution.”
Block said the decision by SWN not to run candidates and, instead, endorse the incumbents, came after careful consideration.
“We believe that all four incumbents have demonstrated that they are good stewards of the public trust and are closely aligned with our organization’s goals of protecting residential neighborhoods, open space and Westport’s small-town character,” Block said. “Moreover, we believe that these candidates can help ensure intelligent and environmentally sound commercial growth as the town enters the next phase of its development.”
In reaching their decision, Block noted, SWN members considered the Republican incumbents’ record and planning initiatives, including “consistently working to increase affordable housing, including passing text amendments to allow rebuilding of Sasco Creek and Hales Court” and also “working with developers to create new projects that will preserve the town’s heritage yet allow the town to evolve commercially.”
The incumbents, Block added, created legislation to preserve river views and public access to the Saugatuck River on both commercial and town-owned properties; turned away multiple incursions on residential area parking on Post Road, including deck parking; preserved Barons South as open space, while supporting the expansion of the Senior Center; worked to actively identify senior housing alternatives; and spearheading a base-line traffic study and supporting the acquisition of new software to measure the traffic effects of proposed developments.”
In the November 2013 election, six candidates ran for the Planning and Zoning Commission. Three Democratic candidates, Alan Hodge, David Lessing and Andra Vebell, were cross-endorsed by Save Westport Now.
Those candidates were opposed by three candidates from the Coalition for Westport: Torve, Payne and David Press.
There were no Republicans on the P&Z ballot that year because the GOP already had four sitting commissioners, the maximum allowed by the town charter for a single political party on a board consisting of seven members.
The three Democrats were elected.