A Greens Farms woman plans to submit a new, modified version of her controversial proposal to allow bed-and-breakfast establishments in residential neighborhoods.
But the proposed changes have failed to mollify many opponents of the B&B plan, proposed as Text Amendment 652.
The Planning and Zoning Commission was set to review Thursday night the text amendment proposed by Coke Anne Wilcox, which would allow certain historic residential structures in town to be used as guest houses or tourist homes. The amendment would permit 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.
Under the proposal, no more than six lodging establishments in residential historic structures, situated at least a mile from each other, could be opened in Westport.
If approved, Text Amendment 652 would provide the zoning framework for Wilcox and her husband, Jarvis Wilcox, to then seek site plan and special permit approval from the P&Z to open a B&B at an vintage home they own at 25 Turkey Hill Road South in the Greens Farms section of town.
In response to opposition to the bed-and-breakfast proposal, Wilcox on Thursday proposed to the P&Z two changes to the amendment: a requirement that a bed-and-breakfast owner live on the premises and a narrower geographic scope, which would allow only historic homes within a quarter-mile of Post Road East to be eligible for a bed-and-breakfast. The latest submitted version of the amendment allowed a B&B in historic homes within a quarter-mile of Post Road East, Interstate 95 or the Merritt Parkway.
But bBefore P&Z members and dozens of residents at Thursday's meeting could debate the amendment, Wilcox withdrew it. In a handwritten letter to P&Z Director Larry Bradley, she said she planned to resubmit it "in the future" to the town's Historic District Commission. That panel rejected the bed-and-breakfast proposal last month, but its decision on the amendment is only advisory.
"I think the proposal would make the town a happier place to be," Wilcox told the P&Z.
Text Amendment 652 has provoked vociferous criticism from many Greens Farms neighborhood residents, who argue that a bed-and-breakfast establishment at 25 Turkey Hill Road South would constitute an inappropriate commercial use in a residential area. Dozens of town residents, including many from the Greens Farms area, have also signed a petition opposing Wilcox's proposal.
Several Greens Farms residents told the Westport News Thursday night that Wilcox's proposed changes to Text Amendment 652 did not alter their opposition to the proposal.
"It doesn't change anything, from the principle of this being a commercial operation in a residential zone," said Art Schoeller, president of the Greens Farms Association. "Granted, she's taken some of the Westport real estate off the table, but it still keeps residential zones exposed to commercial use."
Meredith Bluestine, a Canning Lane resident who lives near 25 Turkey Hill Road South, argued that other parts of town could better accommodate a bed-and-breakfast establishment.
"The town has plenty of zoning for commercial properties, so if you would like to buy a small boutique hotel on Post Road, go for it," she said. "It's not necessary to have a hotel environment in a residential neighborhood. You're adding traffic, you're adding strangers in the neighborhood and you're going to harm my property value."
Jim Marpe, a Republican candidate for first selectman and a Greens Farms resident, told the Westport News he also opposes Wilcox's text amendment.
"My view is that the text amendment as proposed was not in the spirit of the bulk of the Town Plan," he said. "The Town Plan talks about the preservation of historic houses, but it also talks about the preservation of neighborhoods and the total separation of commercial activity from residential activity."
The Wilcoxes have owned 25 Turkey Hill Road South since 1986 and maintained it as a rental property. A "dismal" real estate market contributed to their decision to seek to convert the approximately 3,400-square-foot house into a bed-and-breakfast, Coke Anne Wilcox told the P&Z in December 2011, when she first filed a preliminary application.
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 new P&Z hearing for Text Amendment 652 has not yet been scheduled.
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