Letters to the editor
Bruce family thankful
for community support
As a family, we would like to thank all of Westport, and ineed many in surrounding towns, for the love and support we have received in the days since the death of our son and brother Cameron.
We have benefitted from the kind words and kind works of countless people and groups in these last two weeks, and those words and works have been life-sustaining for us. And that support has come from all corners of our town.
We cannot begin to list all the individuals and groups that have stood by our sides and buoyed our spirit in the past two weeks, but we do want especially to thank the members of Saugatuck Congregational Church and the Westport Garden Club, the kind people at Save the Children, and the Westport Police Department.
It is easy to use words like "community" without pausing to reflect on what they really mean. And it can be easy in this modern era to grow cynical, to lose sight of the personal. It is easy to forget what it means and what it should mean to be friends, neighbours, colleagues.
But in the last two weeks, Westport has shown us that it is indeed a community in the best sense of the word. It seemed to us that we lived in a small town, where everyone knows his neighbours, and everyone cares. This has been an immeasurable comfort to us, and has made a vast and deep difference in our lives.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
Iain, Linda, and Margot Bruce
Proposed zoning changes will affect all properties
On Thursday night our Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) will be presenting regulation changes which will dramatically affect all Westport property owners and the value of their property.
If you have or plan to build a patio, pool, deck, or tennis court, it is imperative that you attend this meeting as your rights to have these may be seriously compromised or eliminated. If you have tidal wetlands, inland wetlands or steep slopes and you have a conforming property, the chances are very strong that it will become non-conforming. If you are planning to sell your property at some time the chances of its value being diminished by these regulations is very high. If you have future improvement plans and have been told they conform to current zoning it is very likely you will be prevented from going forward with your plans. In addition, to all this they will also be proposing multiple family development zones that could end up in your backyard. It is imperative that every Westport property owner attend this hearing, speak and ask questions as well as inform their RTM representatives of their concern.
More leadership needed to control ed spending
Westport has always had an excellent school system and equally fine superintendents of schools. This is not something that has come about recently. What is recent is the intransigence of the present superintendent coupled with a succession of Board of Education and RTM members who prefer the luxury of a to-get-along-go-along posture when they should be asserting a leadership role.
A more balanced approach by clear-thinking policy makers is what is needed.
Do you know what
P&Z is planning now?
My guess is no -- because it has been buried in the fine print of an ambiguous and garbled legal notice. So here is a snapshot of what P&Z wants to do:
1. Impose a brand new 15 percent "building coverage" test on AA and AAA residential zones (on top of the existing 25 percent "total coverage" test which includes buildings as well as driveways, pools, etc.);
2. Begin counting most patios and terraces toward coverage;
3. Eliminate any part of your property with a slope of 25 percent or more from the denominator, further reducing the "building envelope" on many lots; and
4. Change the way that pools and tennis courts are measured for coverage purposes (even for existing improvements) such that they will "grow" in size by anywhere from 15 to 100 percent.
P&Z is being cagey about the effect this will have around town. But the truth is that if these changes are adopted, hundreds of properties around town will suddenly become non-conforming, which means that you may have to beg for a variance just to build a patio or add a dormer -- and which is why non-conforming properties are more difficult to sell and worth a lot less (since a buyer will either need a variance to renovate, or will be stuck with a smaller buildable footprint).
In effect, P&Z is penalizing the people who have not yet renovated their houses -- a group that is likely to include a disproportionate number of our seniors and long-term residents who have been counting on the value of their nest eggs. And this proposal comes at a particularly bad time, when a recession has already hit those on fixed incomes very hard.
The "big houses" may (or may not) be a problem, but it hardly seems fair to craft a solution on the backs of the innocent. Moreover, this proposal is likely to have exactly the opposite effect of what P&Z wants, because as everybody knows (except P&Z, apparently), as the buildable envelope shrinks, house height tends to increase.
If you are opposed to these changes, then I suggest you send a letter to P&Z -- or better yet, come to the public hearing on Sept. 30 at Town Hall and express your disapproval.
Stand up against
MTA fair increase
Connecticut commuters are facing a backdoor fare increase, and we need to stand up and say "no way" before it's too late.
Here is what New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is planning to do:
"¢ Eliminate or substantially reduce discounts for monthly Mail & Ride tickets and tickets purchased online.
"¢ Significantly reduce the valid period of all tickets, leaving much less time to use them.
"¢ Institute a $15 fee for redeeming unused tickets, making them much less valuable.
I learned about these planned "fare adjustments" at a meeting of the Metro-North New Haven Rail Commuter Council, of which I am an appointed member. These are not "official" rate increases. Connecticut, not the MTA, sets the fares in our state. But the MTA sets system-wide rules (such as these new policies) and Connecticut, which is deprived of a vote on the MTA board, has no say.
Commuters continue to bear more costs for reduced services. Already this year, ticket agents have been withdrawn from Darien, Westport, Fairfield and other stations, leaving only automated ticket machines in place and no way to redeem expired tickets.
The MTA has failed to reduce its bloated bureaucracy and raise sufficient revenue from New York -- and now they ask Connecticut's commuters to bear the burden with these backdoor fare increases. We have our own fare increases on the way next year when the new M8 cars come into service.
I call upon Governor Rell and ConnDOT to put a stop to this. Come to public hearings on Wednesday in Stamford or Thursday in New Haven to voice your concerns. Send written comments to ConnDOT. Call Governor Rell's office and tell her to just say no. We pay our own way, and New York should pay theirs.