Preserve Westport's character, promote vitality
Published 1:03 am, Friday, October 23, 2009
and Nora Jinishian
Westport has always been a welcoming and leading-edge community endowed with great natural beauty and splendid low-density residential neighborhoods, with an attractive downtown. We have nurtured an exceptional school system and provide a wide range of recreational opportunities for all residents of our town. These are the core elements of Westport's character. The Planning and Zoning Commission's (P&Z) recent decisions have reinforced these elements. This election is about whether or not that direction will be sustained and protected.
In the last four years this commission has approved the judicious lighting of certain athletic fields for our children, relaxed the regulations for more outdoor dining, approved the Y's Mahackeno application, adopted regulations to protect our historic buildings, approved the careful redevelopment of the Saugatuck area and improved access to the river for everyone to enjoy. We created a new Town Plan emphasizing green initiatives such as preserving open space, natural beauty and environmentally critical resources; protecting residential neighborhoods and moving to create a range of housing opportunities and choices. And for the first time, we included an action mechanism -- The Plan Implementation Committee -- for promoting the implementation of the Town Plan's recommendations.
During the past 12 years under Democratic leadership the commission approved the construction of Staples High School, Bedford Middle School, and the renovation of the majority of our other schools; the construction of the Senior Center, the renovation of the golf course and marina at Longshore, the construction of the tennis pavilion and expanded our inventory of open space.
The successful actions listed above were approved with votes from both sides of the aisle. In all of our decisions, we`ve been sensitive to neighborhood concerns while recognizing broad community needs; balancing common good vs. the forces of "no change/ do nothing" and "yes, but"�"
The new commission will be dealing with broad issues facing our town. The term "Smart Growth" is commonly used to describe how a community is planned. But Westport is already 97 percent built. Land is at a premium. With much of the major construction completed for the foreseeable future, the town has the real opportunity to evaluate our needs for the downtown area, recreation for our families and children, an even better public library and housing. These are big decisions and a process that demands real experience, dedication and impartial judgment. It isn't words or scare tactics, but informed knowledge of the regulations and a balanced view of how best to address our current and future needs.
Pubic access to the commission has never been more transparent. All of the public hearings are televised throughout the town, open to the public to attend and all residents are encouraged to comment. An applicant and all Westporters have to be assured that members of the commission have no personal agendas, will be open and impartial and will make an educated decision.
Overall, we need to preserve Westport's single-family character, while encouraging downtown vitality and protecting our neighborhoods from State housing mandates by being pro-active on affordable housing in selected areas. We need to work to accommodate the needs of all residents of the community while preserving our incredible natural resources and open space.
On the ballot you have the opportunity to vote for any three of the four Planning and Zoning candidates. Please vote for all three Democrats, Ron Corwin, Nora Jinishian and Howard Lathrop to retain the direction, leadership and commitment to the entire Westport community. It is essential to vote for all three to keep the commission and our town going in the right direction -- serving the needs of all Westporters.