Don't let P&Z take away your rights
Published 1:03 am, Friday, October 23, 2009
There are no greater purposes of the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) than to protect Westporters' quality of life, home values and single family neighborhoods. The current P&Z is failing you. They are selectively choosing to not enforce our zoning regulations and their vision for Westport includes promoting the building of a significant number of condominiums and apartments -- some being built in single-family residential zones. More housing means an increased population, more traffic, crowded schools, jam-packed beaches and higher taxes.
In contrast, I believe our zoning regulations must be enforced and updated where appropriate, but not ignored. I am committed to maintaining Westport's small town character, control growth, minimizing increases in traffic and protecting the integrity of our single family neighborhoods while providing for a vibrant downtown and the necessary public and private community facilities.
My opponents are currently trying to amend our regulations (effectively a massive rezoning) to allow the development of a significant number of condominiums and apartments along the Post Road, Riverside Avenue and in Saugatuck Center. Let's not turn Westport into something that looks more like Stamford or New Rochelle.
Most disturbing about this amendment is how it's intentionally designed to make the process easier for developers, while taking away your rights under the Connecticut General Statutes and the Westport Town Charter to protest and appeal new zoning regulations in your neighborhood. The amendment will allow for the building of condos and apartments on the single family zoned portion of slit zoned lots by special permit and without the proper process of rezoning.
Ron Corwin stated in last week's debate that if someone has a problem with the developments let them sue. Your only recourse will be to hire an attorney to sue the town you live in and pay taxes to. Westport residents are entitled to due process. We cannot let the P&Z take away your rights.
Don't be fooled by this amendment being needed to address the state's requirement that 10 percent of all housing units be affordable (maximum income of $68k for family of four). This regulation was heavily influence by those who will directly profit from it. At the end of 2008, the state showed Westport with 10,065 housing units of which 2.18 percent were affordable. The amendment would require 20 percent of all newly built units to be affordable. Westport would need 8,000 apartments built in order to meet the state's requirement. We need to slow down. Let's draft a regulation that promotes a limited number of affordable units specifically designed for Westport's senior population yet maintains Westport's character.
There are several false rumors circulating about my positions, and I would like to clarify:
First, I'm an advocate for a vibrant downtown including more outdoor dining and the removal of the restrictions against businesses serving alcohol within 1,500 feet of each other.
Second, I'm a huge football fan. I support the commission's decision to consider lighted athletic fields. It's not a perfect amendment but it allows for the consideration of an application and addresses ways to balance the needs of the community while protecting the rights of neighbors. I'm committed to volunteering my time to serve the residents of Westport, protecting your quality of life, finding ways to improve the P&Z process by making it more transparent, and defending individual property rights. By electing me to the P&Z you will help swing the commission towards a better future for Westport. I look forward to working for all the residents in Westport and I ask for your support in this election.
Desiree Soli is the Republican candidate for Westport's Planning and Zoning Commission.