Main Street building project to continue with conditions
WESTPORT — A building reconstruction project on Main Street is allowed to continue, but this time with conditions.
The Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday again reviewed and approved the application submitted by Frederick William Hoag Architect for flood proofing and reconstruction of a one-story commercial building at 69 Main St. This came after commissioners voiced contamination concerns about the project in October after learning seven fuel tanks remained on site.
Commissioner Chip Stephens said he was told by Department of Public Works Chair Peter Ratkiewich two of the tanks on site had substantial fuel in them.
Water being pumped into storm drains in Parking Harding Plaza also drew scrutiny, and a smell from the excavation was apparently so bad one store in the area had to close, according to Stephens.
Eric Bernheim, attorney representing the applicant, noted the Department of Public Works and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were both made aware of the work.
“We want to make it clear that we had no intention of hiding this from anybody,” Bernheim said.
Stephens insisted the commission’s push for extra documentation wasn’t a form of punishment, but a way to show transparency.
“What we’re here for is to make sure that the rules are abided by, that the regulations are met and these things are done right,” Stephens said. “The only way we can do that is if there is full transparency between us.”
In the future, the commission should reconsider any waivers being given for site plans in coastal area management areas — locations near the river or Long Island Sound — Stephens said, adding when permits are put in for downtown properties it should be noted if they are under any environmental restrictions.
“We appreciate the owners. We appreciate the work of the developers, but we’ve got to get it right,” he said.
The commission asked that a construction timeline and any updates on potential environmental concerns be given to the town moving forward as conditions for the zoning permit.
the commission addressed a request to convert a previously approved affordable accessory apartment at 7 Westfair Drive to an age-restricted apartment. Planning and Zoning Director Mary Young said while the unit was on the grand list of affordable units in town, it was not utilized in the moratorium application.
“So it’s not going to take away from our moratorium,” she said.
Some commissioners cautioned against converting the unit, due to a need for affordable housing in Westport.
“We’ve underpromised and overperformed with seniors, but we’re still struggling, believe it or not, with affordable,” Stephens said. “That denominator keeps going up and I think this will be a bad precedent to set.”
The commission will discuss the proposal again at its meeting on Nov. 14.