After quick P&Z review, fate of Bedford Square awaits decision
Published 12:21 pm, Friday, July 19, 2013
A public hearing on the Bedford Square project proposed for the site of Westport Weston Family Y was closed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night following a brief review of a new traffic study submitted by developers the day before.
The commission now has 65 days to rule on one of biggest downtown development plans in decades.
The multi-use development would rise on Post Road East site of the Family Y, as well adjacent property on Church Lane. The plans, already approved by several other town boards, call for retail, residential, restaurant and office use in the new development, anchored by a large public plaza. The complex would incorporate and renovate the Y's Bedford building and a former firehouse as part of the project, while the Weeks Pavilion, the newer Y building, will be torn down. The Family Y is currently building a new headquarters on its Mahackeno property in northern Westport, which it plans to complete next year.
During Wednesday's meeting, commissioners heard from Town Attorney Ira Bloom about the question of why and how retail use could be allowed on the second and third floors of the revamped building, as is proposed.
The Bedford Square developers had drawn up their plans based on an understanding of a 2005 ruling by then-Planning and Zoning Director Cathy Barnard, who wrote, in essence, that sections of the Family Y's second and third stories qualify for use as retail space.
In 2008, however, the P&Z ruled otherwise.
The issue came to light during the commission's June 20 meeting, and the divergent interpretations prompted commissioners to ask Bloom to reconcile the conundrum. He cited a ruling earlier this year from the Zoning Board of Appeals that uses a broad interpretation of retail space.
This seemed to appease the commission.
In considering the application, the commission also needs to rule on several variation requests for the project, including relocation of some floor area; extension of the floor in the mezzanine area, and a variance on the allowed rooftop height owing to skylights, elevators and rooftop condensers.