Letters to the editor
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Most of you who live in a beach area or flood zone have learned about the very restrictive zoning changes proposed by Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) for renovation/maintenance of houses in those areas. Those changes are included in a text amendment where P&Z is not required to notify the more than 300 dwellings that are affected.
Our thanks go to William Singer of Roosevelt Road who saw a legal notice for the amendment that contained enough scary information that he went to the P&Z office to fully research the file. What he found he put into a flyer and hand carried to almost 300 mailboxes in the affected areas. He also wrote a letter (last Friday) to the Westport News that included the following quote: "If approved, this amendment would effectively ensure the demolition of many of the older houses in the beach area." He goes on to say that a forever dollar cap would be placed on renovation/maintenance expenditures for each house.
I asked what happens if your house has reached the cap limit and your roof leaks. He said preposterous as it sounds, you would have to go to P&Z to ask for approval to fix the leak under a "health and safety" provision.
Who is responsible for these zoning changes and how did this whole thing happen?
Is FEMA the culprit? No, FEMA did not ask for or require these changes.
That only leaves the P&Z Commission. Yes, they alone are responsible for initiating these changes.
How did the whole thing come about and why?
Last year FEMA and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection mandated that as a part of the effort to update flood maps each town qualified for flood insurance must update their regulations with what Larry Bradley, director of the Planning & Zoning department, described as minor changes. FEMA in December of last year mandated that those changes had to be in place by June 18. And if they are not in place by that time a town is subject to losing flood insurance coverage. Now of course, every town must meet that deadline as homeowners with mortgages are required to have flood insurance if their house is in a flood zone. Bradley's staff reviewed FEMA requirements and prepared a FEMA-only text amendment in February of this year.
Now the P&Z Commission enters the picture. They decided to piggyback highly controversial zoning requirements onto the FEMA text amendment. Why they did this I don't know. You would think that a responsible agency would understand that their requirements are very controversial and should be presented to the public as a separate issue. The public has the right to understand and respond to those issues without the threat of a June 18 deadline.
There is a solution to this problem and it is easy to implement. The P&Z Commission should pull the current text amendment and replace it with the FEMA-only amendment that has already been prepared by P&Z staff. If the commission wants to enact its proposed changes it can do so at a later date.
The complete text amendment can be viewed at the town Web site, www.westportct.gov.
Initial public meeting will be at Town Hall April 8, 7 p.m.
Restaurant Week success
We are writing to express our thanks to the Westport/Weston Chamber of Commerce, which organized Westport's recent "Restaurant Week." As local restaurateurs and owners of Da Pietro's Restaurant on Riverside Avenue, we felt that this event not only promoted our own restaurant nicely, but that it showcased the entire local dining scene in an extremely positive light.
Isn't it great that Westport has more than 35 restaurants? Through excellent media exposure and word of mouth, Restaurant Week brought together 20 of the area's best restaurants, from casual barbecue joints to high- end restaurants, and allowed us, as the owners and the chef, to showcase our fresh market menus to new patrons.
During Restaurant Week, we at Da Pietro's experienced a great "bump" in business, largely from newcomers who were excited to sample our gourmet fare at bargain prices (we offered a three-course lunch, including appetizer, entrée and dessert for $15 and a four-course dinner for $35). The biggest surprise, however, was how this experience allowed us to demonstrate the fact that we offer a gourmet, two- and three-course "express lunch" for $12/ $15 every day.
A lot of our new fans told us, "You're kidding?" and "We'll be back!" and, sure enough, they have!
Westport's recent Restaurant Week was a reminder that, despite the tough economy and a big focus on the fact that some local businesses have closed their doors, many local "foodies," truly enjoy sampling the wonderful restaurants within our midst.
At Da Pietro's, we love our longtime customers and embrace all our new fans with open arms. Thanks to all who took the time to plan and organize such a successful promotional event. Both diners and business owners were winners during Restaurant Week.
Owners (and chef), Da Pietro's Restaurant,
Control over health
Two weeks ago, President Obama signed sweeping "health care" legislation that created a major rift over costs and other issues.
In 2009, we spent $2.5 trillion, or more than $8,000 per person, on medical care. That's 17 percent of our GDP -- more than any other country. And even these outrageous numbers don't account for the economic toll of lost productivity, or the emotional toll of disease and death.
Ironically, these costs and the legislation have nothing to do with health care and everything to do with medical care, directed at alleviating chronic killer diseases that are largely self-inflicted through our flawed lifestyles. Actual health care is absolutely free. It involves exercise, rest and abstinence from smoking, drugs and meat and dairy products.
Yes, meat and dairy. According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 1.4 million U.S. deaths annually, or 58 percent of the total, are caused by heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, which have been linked conclusively with consumption of animal products.
We have no control over national medical care policy. But, each of us can exercise a great deal of control over our family's health every time we visit our favorite supermarket.