By Jarret Liotta

The Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday returned a negative report to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff on a proposal to move the historic Gunn House from Church Lane -- where its site will be incorporated into the Bedford Square development to the town's Baldwin parking lot on Elm Street.

If the 130-year-old Queen Anne-style house is to be saved, a two-thirds majority of the Representative Town Meeting must vote to overturn the P&Z decision.

The relocation proposal from Bedford Square Associates -- the consortium that intends to build a multi-use complex on the site of the Westport Weston Family Y -- was designed to save the structure from demolition, for which it has filed an application. The developers offered to pay for moving the house at 35 Church Lane, on the western side of Elm Street, across the street onto the town-owned parking lot.

"I don't think it's a good site for the house," said Commissioner Tim Wetmore, who voted against the request, along with Ron Corwin, Howard Lathrop and Nora Jinishian.

Commissioners Chip Stephens and Jack Whittle spoke in favor of the move, as did Chairwoman Catherine Walsh, who opted to abstain from voting after Stephens requested a roll-call vote.

"I think it's a good location for the house," said Whittle, saying it could soften the façade of a parking garage which someday may be developed at the Elm Street lot.

"The public spoke loud, very loud, in favor of this project, in favor of saving this house," Stephens said.

"We're going to be known as the wrecking-ball commission," he said. "We're going to have sawdust on our hands."

Jinishian conceded that while there was overwhelming support for moving the house voiced at the last commission meeting, she said she had spoken with many people privately who were opposed.

"I know we heard from a lot of people who spoke in favor of it ... but I spoke to a lot of people who weren't in favor of it," she said.

"I think we all feel badly about losing the house, but the price is simply too high in what the use of that key lot for the town is, and that's the way it goes," said Corwin.

"It may not be a popular decision," he said, but "I think we've been elected to think through as best we can what uses we want where. That's what the commission does -- decides what use can go where and how dense it can be."

"That's not true, Mr. Corwin, or the previous commission would still be seated," countered Stephens. "To say that the public's voice doesn't matter and that we're making our own decisions ... "

"I didn't say that," Corwin retorted.

"The development that is slated for where the house is now located is going to go forward," Whittle said. "That's code for: The house is going to be demolished."

Zoning Director Laurence Bradley noted, however, that the RTM could reverse the commission's decision with a two-thirds majority vote.