There are six candidates for the Planning and Zoning Commission, and three will be elected Nov. 5. The three Democratic candidates have been cross-endorsed by the third party, Save Westport Now.
They are opposed by three candidates representing the Coalition for Westport, a newly organized third party.
No Republicans are on the P&Z ballot this year because the GOP already has four sitting commissioners, the maximum allowed by the Town Charter for any board consisting of seven members, according to Town Clerk Patty Strauss.
Here are the candidates, listed in alphabetical order, and what each identified as key issues:
Democrat/Save Westport Now
Family: Married to Diana, one daughter
Education: Attended the University of Stirling in Scotland and the University of the West of England. I qualified to practice law in 1989. I became a certified mediator in 1998. In 2006, I became licensed to practice English Law in the state of New York. I am an attorney admitted to the state bar of California.
Occupation: I started my own law practice in England in 1994. I represented private and commercial clients. I represented clients in residential and commercial property matters and contentious land issues. As a mediator, I developed sophisticated listening and communication skills. Since 2006 I have been employed as corporate counsel in the highly specialized arena of life and viatical settlements and I am currently a consultant in that industry.
1. Preserve historic structures in order to retain Westport history over time: This should have been an overriding principle that guided the commission on the question of the Kemper Gunn House. The developer wanted to move the house to Elm Street. It was difficult to comprehend the logic of refusing that request. The proposal would provide the town with an historical landmark available to all, an elegant point of reference that would encourage sympathetic development of the remainder of the street, and an environment where new businesses could provide further services to residents and tourists alike. The full RTM should adopt the Planning and Zoning Committee's recommendation to overturn the Commission's decision.
2. Minimize traffic congestion: There is no simple or quick solution to this perennial problem. Westport has a unique character and topography that limits the available solutions. The study of downtown traffic, recommended by the Downtown 2020 Committee, will, I hope, generate solutions to mitigate traffic congestion without significantly compromising other principles set out in the Town Plan. In parts of Europe, narrow roads and difficult topography have produced creative solutions to this problem. We should examine the best solutions from around the world to see if they could help us mitigate congestion in key areas of town.
3. Preserve and Enhance Open Space: Most of the land within the town line has been developed. The Town Plan recognized the importance of preservation and enhancement. That does not mean preventing it from being enjoyed by the townsfolk but it does mean that any proposal that encroaches on open spaces needs very careful consideration. Once a parcel of open space is gone, it is gone forever. There has been a suggestion that the Arts Center could be brought into the downtown by building a new structure on Jesup Green. This is an example of a clash between the principle of preservation and enhancement of open space and providing for community facilities. Most people would like the Arts Center to be placed in the downtown, but would be opposed to the development of Jesup Green. The right solution would be to encourage the adaptive re-use of an existing structure within the downtown to house a relocated Arts Center.
Democrat/Save Westport Now
Family: Wife, Stacy, four children
Education: Harvard College, A.B. in Economics; Harvard Law School, J.D.
Occupation: Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Field Management, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
Each year the decisions we face as a town are different. This year it was the Gunn House, Baron's South and funding for Downtown 2020. Next year it may be an entirely new set of issues. What is critical for the Planning and Zoning Commission is how we approach these issues. As a P&Z commissioner, I would take community input and seek the answers to the following questions on every issue we consider:
1. What's the problem/opportunity this proposed change is designed to address?
2. Who benefits from this proposed change?
3. Does the benefit from this change outweigh the risk?
So often in life, the best decisions are not what we choose to do, but what we choose not to do. Applying these principles to every decision will set Westport up for a positive future and preserve what Westporters love about our town.
Coalition for Westport
Family: Married, two children
Education: B. Comm (Melbourne), MBA (Michigan), Chartered Accountant
Occupation: CEO of Switch Energy
1. The transition of baby boomers to Gen X and the associated changes in expectations of what Westport is to the next generation (hint: it will be a different expectation). With different views of careers and different opportunities will Westport become less of a bedroom suburb and see more entrepreneurs starting small businesses? How do we cater for their different demands?
2. The demand for Westport land and the houses newer residents demand vs. the tension that the existing buildings represent the link to the old Westport. A tension that has existed ever since large ranch homes replaced farms but is magnified by the expectations of bigger is better. How do we balance the reality of today with the concern of too much house on small lots while preserving the value of land for all?
3. The critical need for a plan to address the potential for making downtown better vs simply responding to applications and allowing haphazard rather than integrated growth. Many smart developers see value in capturing the destination that is downtown. How do we ensure that there is thought rather than reaction to the changes, the changes will happen (owners will always seek maximum value) and retain that small town feel?
Coalition for Westport
Family: Married to Martha, 3 adult children
Occupation: Municipal bond portfolio manager. Previously served on the Planning & Zoning Commission, 2003 to 2011
1. Preparing a workable plan for downtown with the town, private property owners, and merchants participating.
2. Seeing to the needs for empty nesters and senior citizens so they can "age in place" and remain in a vital Westport.
3. Make the river and town-owned open space more accessible.
Coalition for Westport
Family: Single, three children
Occupation: Director, Community Outreach, Stand for the Troops; partner, Connections PR & Special Events
1. The future of downtown: There are currently a number of different projects in the general downtown area in various stages of development -- the Library, Levitt Pavilion, Bedford Square, the historic Kemper-Gunn house, Westport Cinema Initiative, Westport Arts Center, to name a few. There is also the Downtown 2020 plan that seeks to make the area greener, more pedestrian friendly and provide better access to the Saugatuck River. Given the physical, financial and community importance of the downtown area to the entire town, planning and managing the potential of these significant parts of the downtown puzzle is an issue of paramount importance.
2. Access to open and community spaces: Quality of space is about the quality of life and thus, easier and greater use of the town's open and community spaces is an important issue. This concerns improved accessibility to open space such as Winslow Park and Newman-Poses Preserve, improved town facilities such as Longshore Park, Compo Beach and Burying Hill Beach, and more widespread enjoyment of the Saugatuck River. More parking and additional physical improvements to these areas, where needed, will be important issues as part of an overall plan that enhances accessibility and enjoyment by residents.
3. Traffic and parking: The traffic study, that was recently approved and financed, will result in proposals requiring careful examination to ensure they meet the needs of residents, property owners and the businesses that serve them. The intense need for greater parking facilities has dramatically increased in recent years. The issue of where to create these facilities, and their size and capacity, will be a most important issue as it will impact the community's accessibility to, and enjoyment of, the various areas of the town. To continue providing and improving services, the town needs to be assured that a thriving, vital community will want to conduct its commercial business within the town.
Democrat/Save Westport Now
Family: Husband, Larry Hoy, two children
Education: Educated in Westport School System -- kindergarten through 12th grade. Graduated Cornell University with a BA in English.
Occupation: Commercial Real Estate Broker in Stamford CT. Also produced playwright.
1. The creation and implementation of a cohesive master plan to revitalize our downtown that is thoroughly thought-out, innovative, respectful of Westport's small town character and supported by our residents.
2. The development of the Baron's South property to its highest and best use.
3. The creation and implementation of a master "Transportation Plan" that "keeps Westport moving," i.e., create a plan that improves motor vehicle traffic flow, helps solve parking issues and provides additional and safer pedestrian walkways and bike paths.
There are three candidates for the Zoning Board of Appeals, and two will be elected Nov 5. Here are the candidates, listed in alphabetical order, and what they identified as important issues.
BERNARD T. DEVERIN JR.
Family: Married, wife Midge, four children
Occupation: Founder & owner of Westport Builder Group. LLC; 20 years on Wall Street as an energy derivatives trader; member of Westport Chamber of Commerce; member of Westport Free Masons.
Members of the ZBA can't really have opinions. As far as issues we face; it's important that we remain fair and impartial to any person or party that comes before us. We must adhere to the laws and bylaws of the state. As well, make sound decisions, which are not just with the interest of just one individual, but also the town as a whole.
Family: Married to Paul A. Gordon, three children
Education: Graduate, Cornell University, B.A. 1993 with a dual major in economics and government, magna cum laude and with honors in all subjects. I am also a graduate of NYU School of Law, J.D., 1996.
Occupation: Clerked for a United States District Court judge in the District of New Jersey and then worked for Debevoise & Plimpton in New York for seven years practicing intellectual property law. I am currently an active volunteer with the Long Lots PTA, Westport PAL and the Westport Soccer Association.
I have been an appointed alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals for five years and have participated in more than 100 cases.
I believe it is important that the Westport Zoning Board of Appeals be comprised of fair, impartial, and most importantly wise individuals who bring real experience in dealing with the very important zoning issues that are likely to be brought before the board in the years to come.
WALTER J. SUTHERLAND
Family: Wife, Patricia; four daughters and 14 grandchildren
Education: NYU, BS economics and marketing
Occupation: Retired from financial industry.
1. Making sure homeowners rights are respected.
2. Working to protect Westport's small town character.
3. Working with business owners to help them grow and innovate in ways respectful to our community's standards.