32-unit housing plan approved for Post Road East
WESTPORT —A new 32-unit rental housing development planned for 1480 Post Road East was met with overwhelming support by neighbors at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting Thursday night.
The commission unanimously approved the application filed by 1480 PRE Associates to establish a multifamily housing development at the former Roger’s Septic Tank property, which includes seven affordable units.
Leslie Meredith, a resident of nearby Cottage Lane, said she supported the development where Roger’s once was. Ten years ago, neighbors joined a restrictive covenant against multifamily housing, she said, but the economy changed.
“In 10 years nobody has come. Nobody has stepped up and nobody wants to build the commercial building we had all hoped would be there,” Meredith said. “Since that time, 1480 Post Road has deteriorated.”
Neighbors then looked at the viability of multifamily housing, which Meredith said could be far superior to any commercial building they foresaw going there.
“We don’t need another bank or nail salon,” she said, adding the project was beautifully designed and vast improvement to the site.
David Rutski, president of the Cottage Lane Homeowners Association, praised the developers for their open communication with neighbors.
“A lot of time and money has been spent. I know I spent so much time myself on this,” he said. “I think it’s time for a change. It’s not going to get any better.”
Rutski added the development was not just for the better of Cottage Lane, but for the town as a whole. The vacant property currently represented an eyesore, he said.
“Cottage Lane Association supports this application 100 percent,” Rutski said.
One resident in particular noted the importance of affordable living. Nicole Keane, a 1177 Post Road East resident, said after years of taking care of her ill husband, she fell on hard times.
“Upon his passing I had to figure out how to survive,” she said. “Over the next years I worked to supplement my pension and my social security. As I approached my mid-70s I realized I could not continue to work and I needed a different type of living situation.”
Keane said around this time she learned of 1177 Green Farms Apartments from friends and subsequently applied.
“I was so excited when I was approved,” she recalled. “It has been one of the most wonderful things that has happened to me in a very long time.”
She said the housing has allowed her to enjoy a safe environment in a wonderful town.
“I can not imagine that there’s more people in my situation and in the same position,” she said. “Affordable living would be a life saver for them also.”
While residents favored the project, commissioners included a sunset provision in fear a proposed text amendment allowed “spot-zoning.”
The commissioners previously cautioned text amendment 772 — which increases the density in an inclusionary zone to accommodate two- and multifamily dwellings — could cause townwide consequences if kept indefinitely.
The applicant’s attorney Christopher Smith then reworked the amendment with language to make it specific for the 1.625-acre property at 1480 Post Road East, but the specificity still worried some members.
“Spot zoning is something that benefits one person and not another, and if indeed there is a lawsuit on spot zoning, you’re going to be the poster child,” Commissioner Chip Stephens said to Smith.
However, Smith disagreed the site-specific text amendment was spot zoning, arguing spot zoning did not exist unless there was a detriment to neighbors.
“Regardless we are willing to agree to a sunset provision,” Smith said.
Commissioners also voiced concern about the buried septic tank on the property. Stephens noted it was important the applicant has on record when they test the industrial contaminated soil, and notify what they do with any removal of the waste.
“Do you have to remove 100 truck loads of stuff? I don’t know, but I do think it has to be treated properly,” Stephens said.