Residents voice concerns on 32-unit housing plan

WESTPORT — Despite plans calling for housing in a more commercialized section of town, some Westporters were not happy when presented with a proposed 32-unit development at Post Road East.

The Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed a text amendment change at its meeting Thursday night that could allow for a rental housing development at the former Roger’s Septic Tank property.

The amendmemt, filed by 1480 PRE Associates, LLC, looks to allow greater density at the lot to accommodate two-family and multifamily dwellings, six of which would be affordable housing units.

The applicant’s attorney Christopher Smith said the town’s plan of conservation and development calls for diverse housing options,as well as protecting existing neighborhoods.

“This proposed text amendment would achieve just that,” Smith said.

Planning and Zoning Director Mary Young noted housing is needed in Westport.

“We could use more affordable housing in town, and if this helps brings it to us I recommend you give it a consideration,” Young told the commission.

However, several residents raised concerns about the new proposal. Dan Katz, a Compo Road South resident, said the town has worked hard to get relief from 8-30g applications.

“Please let us not have to build so many units that negatively impact our town, impact the police, the beaches, the schools, the fire department and the roads,” he said.

Westport received a four-year moratorium on 8-30g applications on March 15. In towns without a moratorium, any 8-30g application brought before the town’s zoning board can skirt local building regulations and only be denied on traffic, safety or environmental grounds.

Matthew Elwood, an Elmwood Road resident, said he attended hoping he would hear something positive in the application’s proposal.

“I think it’s safe to say this is not in the interest of us who live in Westport,” Elwood said.

Peter Gold, a Representative Town Meeting member, said the text amendment could affect other possible sites.

“You guys have an obligation to think of the town as a whole, not a specific site,” Gold said.

Commissioner Chip Stephens said he was concerned about a loss of commercial activity with the proposed amendment. He also asked the applicant to show how this amendment could be harmful to the town upon their return.

“We’re worried this type of development does not return the tax base that you get with individually owned houses,” he said.

The public hearing for the amendment and site plan was continued to the commission’s next meeting.

Hotel under review

The commission also gave a pre-application review of a plan to bring a new hotel option to town.

The text amendment proposal, filed by 1 Burr Road LLC, could potentially turn the Westport Rehabilitation Complex into a high-end hotel.

The applicant’s attorney, Leonard Braman, said the property owned by the LLC is currently in need of refurbishment.

“The building is aging and the owner has been searching for alternative uses of the property that could help beautify the building and enhance the neighborhood,” he said, adding that switching the property’s function to a high-end hotel could fulfull an unmet need in Westport.

Currently the Westport Inn is the only hotel in town. Braman said the proposed hotel could also help bring patrons to downtown Westport.

“We don’t envision having a restaurant at the hotel,” he said. “Therefore guests would be more likely to patronize local restaurants.”

He added they have proposed a text amendment change because the property is located in a RORD-1 zone, which prohibits hotels.

The commission could use various methods to limit the scope of the text amendment, Braman said. One method he provided was narrowing the text amend to only adaptive re-use applications.

“There’s a lot of flexibility when you get into the details of the text to make sure there isn’t unintended consequences,” he said.

Many commissioners said they saw the benefit of a hotel service, but were very concerned about parking. They also voiced concerns for neighbors to the property.

“It’s a sensitive area. Anything new needs to be thoroughly vetted and thought out,” Planning and Zoning Chairman Paul Lebowitz said, but added he didn’t see a problem with a hotel in a RORD-1 zone if the proper precautions are taken.

“It’s something that’s controllable if written well and eliminates any unintended consequences,” Lebowitz said.

The commission’s next meeting is on June 13.