P&Z, finance contests top Westport’s ballot Tuesday
Updated 10:19 am, Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Although there is no single marquee contest on Tuesday’s municipal election ballot in Westport, several hard-fought campaigns for seats on powerful town boards — namely, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance — are in the spotlight.
With no first selectman contest on the ballot, perhaps the hottest race is for the P&Z, which earlier this year became embroiled in controversy after its Republican majority voted to designate the Baron’s South property as municipal open space — effectively derailing years-long planning to develop a senior residential/care complex on part of the 22-acre site.
With four of the seven P&Z seats on the ballot, all four incumbent Republicans are up for re-election, including Chairman Chip Stephens, Vice Chairman Jack Whittle, Catherine Walsh and Alfred Gratrix. The GOP slate is also endorsed this year by Save Westport Now.
WHERE TO VOTE
Voting in the town’s 2015 municipal election will take place Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following polling stations:
DISTRICTS 1 and 2: Saugatuck Elementary School gymnasium, 170 Riverside Ave.
DISTRICTS 3 and 8: Coleytown Middle School gymnasium, 255 North Ave.
DISTRICT 4: Greens Farms Elementary School auditorium, 17 Morningside Drive South
DISTRICT 5: Greens Farms Elementary School gymnasium, 17 Morningside Drive South
DISTRICTS 6 and 7: Long Lots Elementary School gymnasium, 13 Hyde Lane
DISTRICT 9: Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road
For people who need assistance determining which district they live in and where they should vote, check the “look-up tool” on the town’s website: http://bit.ly/1P2Zg72
The Board of Finance will have a new look either way after Nov. 3, as several members are stepping down, including former Chairman John Pincavage, Janis Collins and Tom Lasersohn. As a result, five candidates running are vying for four open seats, including incumbent Republican Michael Rea, fellow Republicans Iain Bruce and Clarissa Moore, and Democrats Sheri Gordon and John Hartwell.
The elections for seats on other town boards, including Education, Zoning Appeals and Assessment Appeals, are not competitive this year. Three incumbents are running for the school board, and under election rules, all will be elected — Chairman Michael Gordon and Mark Mathias, both Democrats, and Republican Paul Block. Three candidates are running for three seats on the Zoning Board of Appeals, including Chairman James Ezzes, Democrat, Vice Chairman Liz Wong, Republican, and Bill Harris, unaffiliated.
“Personally, I am disappointed that the Republican Party decided not to challenge the Board of Education and the Zoning Board of Appeals,” said Keith Stein, Democratic Town Committee chairman. “I believe the election process provides invaluable opportunities for dialogue between our representatives and the community and brings more people out to vote. Clearly the Republicans are acknowledging the strong, long-standing leadership that our Democrats are providing to the town of Westport.”
“Under Republican leadership the town of Westport is heading in the right direction,” he said. “I believe it was 16 years before Republicans had a majority on any of the town boards, before Republicans took control of … finance and the P&Z. At that time our town’s finances were a mess, the pension system was in a crisis, Longshore Golf Course was failing (and) we had a P&Z commission threatening to sue the town and advocating six-story buildings downtown.
“Now, working with the Marpe-Kaner administration, they have led our town in not just the right direction, but in a better direction,” he said.
Voters in each of the town’s nine districts will have a chance to vote for up to four members of the nonpartisan Representative Town Meeting, though Districts 1, 2, 3 and 6 have only four candidates running in each, guaranteeing that all will be elected.
RTM District 9 has the most candidates, with six vying for four seats. Districts 4, 5, 7 and 8 each has five candidates vying for the four spots available.
There are 29 incumbents seeking re-election to the legislative body’s 36 seats.
“I just want to note that everyone running from all parties is offering to spend literally thousands of hours on a volunteer basis to make Westport a better place,” Stein said. “I encourage everyone in Westport to take the time to meet and research the candidates and to vote. These elections are often decided by a margin of a few hundred votes or less, so everyone’s voice matters.”
Among the 15,652 registered voters eligible to cast ballots Tuesday, the largest number is not affiliated with either major political party, with 5,721. There are 5,542 registered Democrats, 4,267 Republicans and 122 registered with minor party affiliations.
By voting district, the 7th has the largest number of registered voters at 1,827, while the 1st has the smallest number at 1,654.