Plans to develop a seniors' living and care complex in Westport on the town-owned Baron's South property were granted preliminary approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission, on a 6-1 vote, at a lengthy meeting that ended early Friday.

The decision specifically approved a state "8-24" request submitted to the P&Z last month by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. The state statute mandates that development of town-owned land be approved by local planning and zoning authorities.

Joseloff's request asked in particular for permission to build an independent living facility -- including affordable housing units and skilled nursing center -- at the 23-acre Baron's South property. The first selectman also presented the plan to the public at an Oct. 28 public hearing.

At Thursday's meeting, the public primarily voiced strong support for the project. Some, however, did express concern about the feasibility of locating a skilled nursing center on the property.

The project also has the backing of several other town boards, including the Human Services Commission and Commission for Senior Services, as well as nonprofit organizations such as the League of Women Voters of Westport.

The approved 8-24 request is only the first stage in a multi-step process for the Baron's South project to win full approval.

More specific plans for the senior living and care facilities will next be formulated under an amendment to existing zoning regulations, which also will also have to be approved by the P&Z.