Sell part of Longshore? Officials say no, but ...
Published 5:51 pm, Wednesday, May 6, 2015
With the dust still settling from the battle over the Baron's South open-space designation, zoning officials are focusing on clarifying regulations in a bid to head off another showdown that potentially could erupt if -- as some officials have suggested -- parts of the Longshore property are sold off.
A Planning and Zoning Commission subcommittee met Monday afternoon to review and revise wording on rules for Dedicated Open Space and Recreation Districts. Among the topics discussed was the idea, posed previously by some Board of Finance members, of selling parts of Longshore.
"I know that certain members of the Board of Finance have suggested that," said First Selectman Jim Marpe, who attended the small meeting.
"That is not my intention going into this ... Giving up town property, unless we don't know what to do with it, doesn't sound like a good idea," he said. "There are some properties that might be worthy of just unloading."
"We are in the process of doing a strategic plan for that property," the first selectman added.
P&Z member Cathy Walsh, who chairs the subcommittee, said she once had favored selling off the back lots on the Longshore property, but no longer does.
"The fact that it's floating out there," said P&Z Chairman Chip Stephens, "the fact that the town has an RFP out there for a real estate agent, it's troubling to this commissioner."
The town is considering hiring both a commercial and residential real estate broker, with "requests for proposals" having been issued earlier this year.
The commercial broker, Marpe said in an email to the Westport News, would primarily help in the acquisition of a new site to park school buses. But the commercial broker "might also assist the town in leasing property or selling property," he said.
If the town hires a residential broker, Marpe wrote, it would be "to assist the town in buying or selling any residential properties with which the town may have an interest in taking some action."
But regarding the possibility of selling part of the Longshore property, Marpe reiterated, "We are currently conducting a comprehensive review of the lease arrangements of our various town properties including those at Longshore, but we have no plan to sell any of the properties or land at Longshore."
At Monday's P&Z subcommittee meeting, Larry Bradley, the town's planning and zoning director, noted that even if the issue of selling part of Longshore arises, "the P&Z could say no," adding that process would likely be lengthy in any case.
P&Z members indicated, however, that it would be prudent to have the commission vote on clarifying details of the DOSRD regulations before being confronted with such an issue. Part of that clarification may involve classifying Compo Beach and Longshore Club Park as a separate subcategory since they are combined-use properties that include private enterprises.
The subcommittee spent a lot of time discussing a definition of municipal use, which is currently open to some interpretation and was a factor in the debate over the Baron's South property. Ultimately, the Representative Town Meeting upheld the P&Z's decision to classify that 22-acre tract as open space, blocking a proposal to build a housing/care complex for seniors.
"I was mindful of the importance of this discussion," Marpe told the subcommittee before leaving early for another meeting. "I just want to be sure ... we don't want to do something that handcuffs future generations."
He said he recognized that "30 years from now someone from stupid or nefarious motives" could abuse the regulations, but added, "I would ask that you be judicious."
"Nothing we do is in perpetuity," Stephens said. "We're not a covenant on the land ... What we're mostly worried about is keeping control of the properties."
The subcommittee intends to meet again next Wednesday to discuss the matter further before proposing an option to be considered by the full P&Z.