Appeal forces RTM scrutiny of Westport affordable housing rules
Published 5:17 pm, Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The Representative Town Meeting's Planning and Zoning Committee began its review Tuesday night of recent measures passed by the Planning and Zoning Commission designed to promote more affordable housing in Westport.
These proceedings were initiated in the wake of a petition filed last week that appealed the P&Z's approval of Text Amendments 618 and 619. The two amendments would work in tandem as "inclusionary zoning" regulations.
Among the amendments' key features, development of two-family and multi-family residential dwellings would be allowed for the first time in the General Business District -- encompassing much of the Post Road -- while another new regulation would mandate that 20 percent of two-family or multi-family residential dwellings in all zoning districts be rented or owned as affordable housing.
RTM P&Z Committee Chair Matthew Mandell said the RTM has three options for reviewing the appeal: recommend that no action be taken, uphold the appeal, or vote to sustain Text Amendments 618 and 619.
Lead petitioner Michael Calise argued that the changes would lower the equity of the property he owns at 215 Post Road West by preventing him from charging market rates for 20 percent of the residential units that could one day be developed at that location.
"The way I look at it is the P&Z Commission coming to me as a small businessman and telling me that part of what I own I have to give to someone else," he said. "I see it no differently than if they went to Mitchell's and said, `Every time you sell ten suits, you have to sell two to someone at half-price.' "
Calise said he supports more affordable housing in Westport, but that objective could be accomplished by implementing the 20 percent affordable housing standard in the GBD. Extending that requirement beyond that district, he said, would penalize property owners outside the GBD by not compensating them for providing below market-rate housing.
By contrast, Calise said, GBD property owners would see a net benefit from the new regulations, by being able to offset the 20 percent affordable housing requirement with first-time approval for development of multi-family dwellings in the GBD. Such housing is already permitted in other town zoning districts.
P&Z Commissioner David Press responded that while the amendments might disadvantage individual property owners, they fit into the P&Z's broader goal of promoting more affordable housing opportunities.
as recommended by the 2007 Town Plan of Conservation and Development.
"We're viewing this is as a tool as properties get re-developed along the Post Road," he said of 618 and 619. "It's a tool that somebody who owns a property can use to build something that isn't there now."
Text Amendments 618 and 619 will go into effect Dec. 3, and will stand unless the full RTM votes to overturn them.
The RTM Planning and Zoning Committee's review of the appeal against Text Amendments 618 and 619 will continue at another meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. Mandell said the RTM P&Z Committee would likely vote on the appeal at the Monday meeting.