Residents help steer direction of development
WESTPORT — Conserving the town was considered the No. 1 priority for future town planning, beating out development and infrastructure handily in a survey workshop to help shape the 2017 Plan of Conservation and Development.
Community character, a subset of conservation, was tabbed as a focal point for the residents who participated in the survey Jan. 12 at town hall.
“Community character, for me, is preservation, specifically, preserving the Saugatuck swing bridge, the William Cribari Bridge,” said RTM member John Suggs in regard to the preservation of the 133-year-old bridge. “It’s often said that we preserve that bridge so we can preserve ourselves and that community.”
The Plan of Conservation and Development is a blueprint for how the town wants to develop over the next 10 years and is a guide to local decision making in areas such as natural resources preservation, economic development, housing, land use and public services.
Open space, particularly parks, where people can take advantage of Westport’s natural beauty was voiced as an important asset of the town.
RTM Moderator Eileen Flug said, “I think something that contributes to our community character is all the parks that we have. We have about 30 named parks in town. Some of them are them are tiny…but it’s nice that so many people in town have a beautiful piece of open space that they can walk to from their house.”
Open space, a subset of conservation, was another popular choice in the survey.
“Open space I think is critical. ... In reading the current town plan, there were a number of parks that were pointed out that should be acquired by the town in the future and some of those parks have been sold to a developer. I think a great emphasis should be made on acquiring additional space,” local business owner Michael Calise said.
Take the survey
For residents who did not attend the meeting, but want to participate, the Planning and Zoning Commission is conducting an online survey to obtain additional input. The survey will close on Friday. Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Westport_POCD_Scoping.
At the meeting, Wendy Crowther expressed a need to make a stark distinction between active-use open space with set activities, and passive-use open space, where it is reserved for walks and enjoying nature.
Coastal resources, a third popular subset of conservation, was a topic where residents asked to make the dredging of the Saugatuck River a priority. The river has not been dredged in 47 years and has been a high priority project for the Marpe administration, but to no avail.
Not much time was spent on development, but infrastructure, and the addition of sidewalks, bike lanes and bus service was flagged by the public as having a set place in the POCD.
The presentation put on by Glenn Chalder from Planimetrics, who also constructed the 2007 POCD, examined the town assets residents are proud of including: the beaches, Baron’s South, open space, William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge, downtown and schools. Aspects of town the participants marked as issues included threats to town character from development, traffic and parking issues.
After having worked with the Planning and Zoning Commission for months, Chalder said he is going to consult town department heads and then there will be two opportunities for public comment in the future.