Westport affordable housing plan hits a roadblock with state

900 Post Road East, a portion of the land owned by the state was requested by Westport's Planning and Zoning Commission to establish affordable housing.

900 Post Road East, a portion of the land owned by the state was requested by Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission to establish affordable housing.

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WESTPORT — A plan to create a new affordable housing neighborhood has hit a roadblock, with the state Department of Transportation rejecting Westport’s request for a portion of land to build the townhome community.

“Unfortunately, their first response was a no,” Danielle Dobin, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Affordable Housing Subcommittee, said at Friday’s meeting. “I remain optimistic about the idea of creating something like this in this location and I’m not planning on taking no for an answer. Certainly not at this time.”

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State DOT Commissioner Joseph Giuletti wrote in a letter dated Feb. 6 that the land at issue — 900 Post Road E. — was not available for sale or lease.

“The property houses an active Maintenance Facility that is crucial for keeping the State’s transportation system in a safe and properly functioning condition,” he wrote. “This facility is used daily and is a storm response operations center with a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week operation.”

The plan had previously received cautious support of some residents, while others questioned the commission’s involvement.

Elizabeth Rubidge, a West Parish Road resident whose property abuts the state-owned land, said the neighborhood remains tentatively excited about the housing initiative.

“It is a very moderate income neighborhood,” she said. “We’ve endured over the five or six past years increased activity as far as noise, lights, and disruptions in the middle of the night,” with some residents even filing light complaints.

Barring some minor concerns neighbors hope to address down the road, Rubidge said they are in support of the committee’s proposal.

While the letter signals at least a temporary halt to plans, the town stayed steadfast in its commitment to the housing project.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said the town is in touch with its legislative delegation about the proposal, as well.

“They’ve been very supportive in this effort,” he said. “They’ll be part of how we work through this process with the state.”

Dobin said she and Marpe would respond to the state’s letter declining the proposed transfer of land.

“It started as a collaborative effort and it’s going to stay one,” she said. “Hopefully, that will lead us to success.”