The Westport Planning and Zoning Commission is currently considering a handful of changes to the land use regulations. We know, don't jump out of your seat with excitement.

Chances are that unless you are a zoning buff -- and let's be honest, most residents are not -- you probably feel you don't have the time or energy to consider the potential ramifications of regulation changes to your property and your quality of life -- let alone take it a step further and attend a public hearing to share your opinion with the commission members who you elected.

But this is when you should get involved.

Sure, land use issues can at times be as dry as your tax accountant's sense of humor and the meetings can drag on longer than the line at the post office. But the policies and laws outlined in the Westport Zoning Regulations may, in fact, be one of the most direct influences that government can have on you, your family and the community. The regulations dictate how big your yard can be, how high you can build your house or fence, where businesses can operate, how many parking spaces are needed for a restaurant, and countless other facets of our lives -- all of which can personally affect you and your property values.

In short, when changes are proposed to the regulations, it's in your best interest to pay attention and get involved.

As your trusted source for hometown news, we take our role in the community seriously. And, as such, we will endeavor to provide you with accurate information in a timely manner. So let's get to the facts.

Below is a run-down of proposed changes that the Planning and Zoning Commission will be discussing at its upcoming meetings at Westport Town Hall.

At its meeting on April 8:

"¢ Proposed by the commission, amendment No. 609, Application No. 10-006 will add or alter many definitions and make significant changes to the zoning regulation regarding construction in flood hazard areas. "While most of the changes are being mandated by FEMA and CT DEP, there are several changes which are discretionary," said Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley. There is a sense of urgency as the commission considers the amendment, since June 18 marks the date when the revised flood zone maps for the town will become effective. "The Town of Westport must adopt these regulations by June 18 in order to remain eligible for residents to obtain flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)," Bradley said.

Barr Associates' proposed amendment No. 608, Application No. 10-005, to modify regulations so that swimming pools would be added to total coverage calculations instead of building coverage, as is currently the case. The applicant claims the change would "ease the regulations for swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, encourage more private pools and help relieve any burden or strain on the town's one outdoor public pool at Longshore Park."

At its meeting on April 29:

"¢ Amendment No. 610 is a commission-generated text amendment that would provide a major relaxation of outdoor eating standards for places of business in Westport. "This amendment is one of a series that the commission is reviewing to provide support for both the efforts to revitalize the downtown area and ease some of the restrictions on outdoor dining in general throughout Westport," said Ron Corwin, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission. "These are important matters that affect the quality of life in the entire town, and the commission not only welcomes, but seeks public comment and input."

We agree.

Copies of all the amendments are available in the offices of the planning and zoning department and town clerk. Those unable to attend the hearing are welcome to submit comments in writing to the zoning department, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport.