We recently overheard a Realtor say that, given the lack of enforcement and small fines in Westport, developers can do whatever they need to do to maximize their profit — they can violate setback, grading, coverage and any other regulations that don’t suit their needs.

We recently saw proof of this concept when Equity One decided to expand its parking lot behind Trader Joe’s. After obtaining a variance to convert a residential area to commercial use — something that in and of itself should not have been permitted — the developer went beyond that authority, cutting down trees, carving out a hillside and constructing an illegal wall. It was only when Save Westport Now and neighbors begged P&Z for help that someone from the town stepped in and ordered a “cease and desist.” But the damage was done. The green belt that protected that neighborhood was already destroyed. It will take decades to cultivate replacement screening.

A similar thing is now happening at Grassy Plains, the development that abuts the Partrick Wetlands reserve. By erecting walls, adding fill to areas protected by a conservation easement and by building oversized decks, the developer violated an adjudicated stipulated agreement as well as town conservation and zoning regulations — and the town has done virtually nothing to stop it.

Even if the town steps in, the fines will be so small in relationship to potential profits that the developer can probably afford to pay the fines out of petty cash.

It is time for the town to stop this kind of abuse and to put teeth into its regulations. Save Westport Now requests that the town immediately issue a cease-and-desist order and deny any attempts to legalize the violations, including the illegally constructed wall and decks. Additionally, SWN asks that First Selectman Marpe form a task force to address these issues and develop the tools and penalties needed to end this type of egregious behavior.

Valerie Seiling Jacobs

Jeffrey L. Block

co-chairmen

Save Westport Now