Letters to the Editor: Housing issue in Westport
Editor’s note: This letter was originally sent to the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission, and reprinted here at the author’s request.
I have studied the affordable/workforce housing issue in Westport for many years. This includes multiple conversations with the various professional zoning staff over the last 40 years on this subject.
Please note these disclaimers and details:
A: I own a rental property at 10 Crescent Park Road in addition to my residence on Bayberry Lane.
B: Most, if not all these ideas are the work of multiple people and many can be found deep inside the P and Z files. I cannot take exclusive credit for any of them. And certainly, the professional staff of the P and Z can add some of the fine tuning needed for these to become law.
C: The goal is providing the necessary blend of affordable and workforce housing that Westport used to have, without the creation of high-density housing projects that create overload in a single school. This dispersed student body will keep the tax base per student as high as possible.
D: Westport did this for many years, with multiple apartments above retail stores and apartments in or attached to single family homes. Along with a few rooming houses/small apartment buildings.
Here is how we bring back a successful method:
I: Give “Grandfather” approval to all existing illegal apartments as of June 1, 2018. This adds several hundred if not more apartments to the list of qualifying apartments virtually at once.
1: The approval is subject to;
A: The building owner registering the apartment with planning and zoning and the fire department including a current As-built plan within 180 days of the rule being enacted.
B: The apartments being brought up to fire code and building codes within 120 days of being registered.
C: A $500 one time registration fee and $200 annual inspection fee to cover the additional cost of an annual fire inspection.
D: Here is the tool to make it happen — a fine of $10,000 per month for any illegal apartment not registered and made legal within the 180 days.
II: Apartments in non-residential districts. For many years there were apartments above and in the back section of many Westport stores and office buildings. The zoning rules were changed in order to drive out these apartments (long story, not relevant here). We can bring these apartments back, which spreads out affordable housing over the town. And make it easier for people to get to work etc without having to drive.
A: Permit building owners in non-residential districts to add apartments above or next to the retail or storage or office spaces. These spaces can be converted back to retail or office at the owners discretion. As long as the building is existing or meets current building regulations.
B: Permit building owners in non-residential districts to add apartments in a mix of 60 percent market price and 20 percent affordable and 20 percent workforce priced; The restraints on these are the buildings can have flat roofs as long as the façade does not look like a flat roof. With the façade on each side being allowed to reach 38 feet (the roof still stops at 35 feet). The additional space will add no additional parking requirement. However, the additional internal height cannot be used for anything except housing at this mixture or as in section C below. It cannot be re-purposed for office or retail except as storage or open ceiling space. It can change type of apartment (affordable, workforce, market price) within the parameters of this section and section C below.
C: Affordable/workforce housing swap mixtures. In affordable/workforce/market price housing swaps non-residential buildings within 1500 feet of each other that are also in the same school districts can jointly create a mixture of apartments that meet the requirements. The reason for the 1500 foot limit is to keep the housing a mixture within the same section of town. This makes sure we do not get “crappy buildings” and “good” buildings”.
D: In addition to option B, offer building owners in non-residential districts can add housing and extra 10 percent in lot coverage. Subject to the same type restraint as item “B” above, the extra coverage however cannot be added to the flat roof/extra height exception. The extra 10 percent lot coverage can only be used for affordable/workforce housing at least 30 percent affordable. If not used as affordable/workforce housing any space must revert to empty space (not storage, but left empty). This space can be used as part of type C housing swap space.
E: If after five years, if these changes do not create the needed housing (though I believe they will), then allow accessory apartments in all districts as per the current rules for AAA districts. With the applications chosen by lottery: to the number of apartments needed to comply.
Seat available on RTM
To the editor:
A seat on the RTM in District 8 has become available due to the imminent move out of state of our colleague Liz Moriarty. We appreciate her work and good cheer and will miss her. All RTM members join us in extending best wishes to her and her family for their next adventures.
Her departure leaves a vacancy in District 8. In accordance with the Town Charter, (Section C5-8C3), the vacancy must be filled by a registered voter living in RTM District 8. No party affiliation is required since Westport’s RTM is nonpartisan. The term expires in November 2019.
Residents of RTM District 8 interested in being considered to fill the vacancy are encouraged to remit their resume to the Town Clerk, Patricia Strauss by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT. A meeting to conduct interviews will be scheduled at a future date.
Any questions can be directed to the remaining district members listed below. Contact information and a
district boundary map are available
on the town’s website at www.west
Wendy Batteau, Lee Arthurs, Carla Rea
RTM District 8 members
Has your teenager
had an annual
primary care visit?
To the editor:
Aaron, his mother, and I sit together in my pediatric primary care office. He is 16 years old. We discuss his sleep schedule, nutrition, and after-school activities. He’s trying out for the football team, and we talk a lot about concussion safety. He is doing well in school. His physical exam is completely normal.
He’s the picture of health — normal weight, blood pressure is perfect, heart sounds are steady and regular, his muscles and joints ready for football practice. I make sure he is up to date with his immunizations.
But what I don’t see in his exam —and what Aaron and I need to talk about— are the three most common causes of death in his age group: 1) accidents 2) suicide 3) homicide.
I ask Aaron’s mother if I can speak with him alone, just the two of us, as speaking privately with an adolescent is a standard part of the well-visit. She leaves to sit in the waiting room. An important, life-saving part of Aaron’s adolescent well-visit was about to begin.
For 20 minutes, Aaron and I talk about safe driving with friends, cyber bullying, gun safety, drug and alcohol use, sexual health, and mental health — including depression, anxiety, and suicide. During this time, I can identify key things threatening the life of Aaron and take the appropriate steps to help him — whether that includes anticipatory guidance, referral to services, or an emergency intervention.
Despite this crucial moment to intervene with teenagers and impact their lives, the adolescent well-visit is rare. Only about 50 percent of teenagers on Medicaid and about 45 percent of teenagers with commercial insurance have a yearly well-visit. Although policymakers have targeted the adolescent well-visit as an area of focus, the percentage hasn’t budged in years.
Adolescents are in school all day, in sports, in after-school activities, socializing. Despite intense brain development, growth, and hormone changes, adolescents are overall a physically healthy age group, and —understandably— their health is not something at the forefront of their minds. For parents, the well-visit can be put on hold in the flurry of the everyday life of a healthy, busy teenager.
Primary care clinics are often only open during normal business hours, creating a myriad of work and transportation conflicts for caretakers. Many schools, besides requiring an adolescent be up-to-date on their vaccines (something you can do without a well-visit), do not require that an adolescent have a yearly well-visit.
The top three reasons for adolescent deaths are largely preventable. Together, parents, schools, clinicians, community members, policy makers, and adolescents themselves can work together to prioritize the adolescent well-visit as a key opportunity for life-saving interventions.
Katie Piwnica-Worms MD
Yale University School of Medicine
National Clinician Scholars Program