A Westport woman who owned a Long Island inn for more than a decade hopes to open her next establishment in Westport, but she must first book Planning and Zoning Commission approval for zoning revisions to permit the project.
The P&Z will begin its review in early January of a proposed set of changes to the town's zoning regulations, which would allow historic residential structures within a quarter-mile of I- 95, the Merritt Parkway or the Post Road to be used as guest houses or tourist homes. If approved, the text amendment submitted by the applicant, Coke Anne Wilcox, would pave the way for her and her husband, Jarvis Wilcox, to open a bed-and-breakfast establishment in a home that they own at 25 Turkey Hill Road South in the Greens Farms section of town.
P&Z members originally planned to begin their public evaluation of Wilcox's proposal on Thursday, but that hearing has been postponed to January because Wilcox needs to present to the Historic District Commission and will not be able to meet with that board until Dec. 11, P&Z Director Larry Bradley said in a statement Tuesday.
A principal owner of a home in a residential zone can lease rooms for up to four boarders, but town zoning regulations explicitly prohibit guest houses or tourist homes for "transient use." Hotels were allowed in residential areas from 1930 to 1962, according to a memo produced by P&Z planner Michelle Perillie.
Coke Anne Wilcox's proposed zoning changes, also known as Text Amendment 652, would allow a bed-and-breakfast in a historic residential structure to have a maximum of three rooms for up to 12 occupants, including the establishment's caretaker or owner. It would also stipulate that the owner live on the property or hire a caretaker and live within one mile of the establishment. The Wilcoxes live on Clapboard Hill Road, about a mile from 25 Turkey Hill Road South.
No more than six lodging establishments in residential historic structures, situated at least a mile from each other, could operate in Westport, according to another proposed regulation in Text Amendment 652.
But opposition to the amendment has already emerged.
About 70 town residents, including many from the Greens Farms area, have signed a petition opposing Coke Anne Wilcox's proposal. The petition argues that bed-and-breakfast establishments should operate in commercial areas of town like the Post Road, Riverside Avenue and "suitable fringe areas," like Myrtle Avenue in the town center.
"Placing a B&B in a prime residential area is not only inconsistent with the character of our Greens Farms community, but also will potentially affect all the residential communities in Westport," the petition states.
"Having people, unfamiliar with Westport and the traffic flow, on an already-dangerous street with kids walking dogs and waiting for buses, is a recipe for disaster," the petition adds.
"Westport is well-known as an affluent town. To bring unknown, transient people into the center of well-established prime residential areas seems to be asking for trouble and changes the nature of our close-knit community."
The Wilcoxes have owned their antique home on Turkey Hill Road South since 1986 and maintained it as a rental property. But a "dismal" real estate market contributed to their decision to seek to convert the approximately 3,000-square-foot house into a bed-and-breakfast, Coke Anne Wilcox told the P&Z in December 2011, when she presented a preliminary application for the project.
From 1992 to 2008, the Wilcoxes owned the Maidstone Arms in East Hampton, N.Y. The Greek Revival-style inn was renamed c/o The Maidstone following its acquisition by Swedish hotelier Jenny Ljungberg.
A bed-and-breakfast at 25 Turkey Hill Road South would join a small number of lodging establishments in Westport. The 117-room Westport Inn on Post Road East is the town's largest hotel. Westport's other hotel, the 12-room Inn at Longshore, stands at Longshore Club Park. A third establishment, the boutique Inn at National Hall, operated on the west bank of the Saugatuck River in downtown Westport from 1993 until closing in March 2010. The property is now being redeveloped into an office center that will serve as the corporate headquarters of a Norwalk-based commercial real estate firm.
If the P&Z were to approve the text amendment, Coke Anne Wilcox would also have to secure the board's approval for a site plan and special permit for a bed-and-breakfast at 25 Turkey Hill Road South.
The P&Z's review of Text Amendment 652 is now scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 3 in the Town Hall auditorium.
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