Letters to the editor
Published 4:18 pm, Thursday, November 18, 2010
Don't allow hunting
I am a 36-year resident of Westport. I am very proud that we are a town that has said "No" to hunting since 1933.
If this no hunting ordinance is overturned, the regulation becomes the domain of the State. I don't want my children or grandchildren to see dead, injured or dying deer on my or my neighbor's property. Hunting deer on any of the few large parcels of open land left in town could endanger my family and my pets by an errant bullet or arrow. Controlled hunts do not ameliorate this situation. They have not really been effective in other towns in Fairfield County and there is no evidence that deer numbers are going down as a result of these hunts, even after five to 10 years of annual controlled hunts.
I know Lyme disease is a big problem but statistics have shown that the number of Lyme disease cases reported in neighboring towns, which do allow hunting, has not decreased. Comparative data shows that the number of deer per acre has remained stable for the past 10 years whether or not there is deer hunting.
According to the State of Connecticut, one only needs to be 12 years old to get a hunting permit. I don't know any pre-teens who I would entrust with a lethal weapon. It is also a fact that if a wounded deer dies on your property and is not retrieved by the hunter, the expense of removal lies with the home owner.
I implore the RTM to not overturn the no hunting ordinance in Westport.
Obama needs to push back
Woody Klein is so right in his defense of Obama and the caution that more "fight" on his part is very necessary (Nov. 10, 2010). I have found his desire to avoid an ongoing confrontation with those who have dedicated their party to the destruction of his administration most frustrating.
barn survey underway
Over the next few weeks, if you see a car cruising very slowly in your neighborhood, and then perhaps stop to park, while a couple of people equipped with clipboards and digital cameras emerge, peering intently at what they think may be a barn -- yours or your neighbor's -- there's no need to call the police. It's just the Westport Historical Society's Barn Survey Team, documenting, categorizing and counting how many barns -- buildings once used for agriculture or to house carriages or farm equipment -- are still standing.
The project, done under the auspices of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's State-Wide, Town-by-Town Windshield Survey of Barns, seeks to answer several questions that have been keeping many of us awake at night: How many barns are still standing in Westport? What kinds of barns? Where? Are there some barns that would benefit from preservation assistance grants?
Please note that the team, under the law, and as directed by the Trust, may only take photos from public property. So, if anyone reading this letter has a barn that cannot be seen from the roadside, and would like to provide permission for yard access to make sure that their barn is counted and classified properly, please contact me soon at the Westport Historical Society (WHS) or 203-246-0543.
Why, you may wonder, are barns so important? Yes, they are artifacts of Westport's past as a farming community. Barn construction styles provide insights about the people and activity that shaped life here, including the builder's country of origin and the type of crop grown. For example, the hept/octagonal cobblestone barn at the WHS may have been used for the storage of hops, an ingredient in the making of beer! In Westport, barns have an important historical association with the arts. In the 20th century, famed artists moving to town snapped up barns and converted them to studios and sometimes to private homes.
To follow the results of the survey or to apply for a Connecticut Trust grant for barn preservation assessment or preservation assistance, visit www.connecticutbarns.org. By February 2011, we at the Westport Historical Society will know and will share the results of the barn count, so stay tuned...
We also hope to develop a map of all the barns in Westport as part of our ongoing celebration of Westport's 175th anniversary as a town, and to display it at the WHS by late spring.
Meanwhile, we've learned already that there are many more barns still standing in Westport than we realize. This past weekend, two members of our survey team found four on one short street!
Dorothy E. Curran, president
Westport Historical Society
A thank you
from Judge O'Grady
Dear voters of Westport and Weston,
I have been remiss in thanking you, the voters of Westport and Weston, for my stunning election victory on Nov. 2. I truly couldn't have succeeded in my victory without your votes. As always, both my staff and I will be available to help you with any probate or elder law matter, with the exception of matters which are before the court. Once again, thank you!
Judge of Probate
to hear from residents
I am a representative to the RTM from District 8: the district is bounded by the Weston border, the Fairfield border, Cross Highway and Weston Road. While I'm most concerned about my district's interests, the RTM's decisions usually affect the whole town so I must be mindful of the impacts of each decision we make.
We are now approaching the beginning of our budgeting season, and recently the RTM has been asked to make judgments on decisions made by other town bodies. In order to be most useful to constituents, I'd like to hear what they consider our most pressing needs, priorities, and specific concerns. Affordable housing? Cleaner environment? More teachers? More town transportation? Less town spending (and more controlled taxation)? These are only a few possibilities.
While some groups in town have partial lists of e-mail addresses for residents, these lists are considered private and RTM representatives do not have access to them. In the past I've sent mailings to constituents and phoned random individuals when particular issues were up for discussion and vote. The former is quite expensive; the latter gives me access only to a narrow range of opinion on issues of specific moments.
I invite residents of District 8 (and other concerned Westporters) to send me e-mails with their thoughts -- even perhaps just listing priorities and concerns. This will ensure that everyone's opinions are considered. Please respond to email@example.com
Good-bye Grand Old Party
The Grand Old Party of Lincoln, no longer the party that Lincoln knew, based on its core principle that government must be small and nonintrusive on the individual, has increasingly become the party of the private sector.
Exploiting the old chestnut of untenable cost, far rightests preach that government must not be held responsible for the security of its people; instead, that onus must be left to the whims of Wall Street, while funding for medical research, endangered species and wildlife and other optional initiatives to elaborate events hosted by the very wealthy at their fancy.
Although government is the livelihood and claim to fame of the powerful lawmakers, the source of their health insurance and financial security for life, even when voted out or retired, right wingers continuously push to undo the very benefits for their constituents that they themselves receive. (Why can't those, like the lachrymose house minority leader John Boehner, remembering his own financially deficient years, identify with others now in similar circumstances?)
They would leave Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration to the vagaries of the financial sector. George W. Bush said on Oct. 21, 2010, that he should have privatized Social Security while in office. They would roll back the health care reform law, privatize public education and deregulate all corporate activity. They are fighting a raise on the already unsurvivable minimum wage. They would impede the extension of unemployment benefits. They would eliminate funding for National Public Radio and quell the voice of all but coservative opinions. They've enabled outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing overseas and in the last three elections and recent mid-terms finagled to depress the Democratic vote.
Former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, a spokesperson for reverse mortgaging, in praising it, describes it correctly as "government insured." Where is the consistency?
Where is the consistency in any GOP position? Where the common sense? Where the concern for country over party, lobbyist financial gifts and personal re-election?
A post-election letter
to Congressman Himes
Your second victory helped by my contributions and monetary support, modest as it was, came about because I appreciated your actions and candor.
Now I fear that too many new and many longer-term members of congress are persistently blind to the element that will to bring our country to its knees, over time.
The cost and destruction of, and by our troops, is just awful in itself. Our nation's philosophical underpinnings, as defined by our history, are in grave disrepair. This came about because our oil-thirsty power structure figured we could insure supply through the expedient of annexing Iraq, by assigning blame there for 9/11, when the attackers were mainly Saudis. This is confirmed by our building of an Embassy in Baghdad costing one-half billion dollars and our State Department's contracting of mercenaries in defense of that 40-acre facility. Why?
Our latest blunder with Saudi Arabia will be our recent acceptance (?) of an order for some $6 billion for instruments of war. Yes, it will produce jobs here but I remember when we knowingly provided scrap steel to Japan, used to build their military base before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a draftee my service followed this event along with 16 million uniformed responders. This was the last engagement won by us, and our Allies, 65 years ago.
Understanding my view, that every war since WWII has failed to produce any tangible gain for our country might help us get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And, save adding to the moneys spent, or to be spent, over generations -- multiple trillions of dollars. I blame this on the former Bush-Cheney administration's illogical (and illegal?) wars.
And finally, it is past time that this administration and our party starts to face the fact that the Republican goal will continue to be the destruction of our elected president. That must not be permitted.
Level playing field no longer exists at Longshore
I want to thank Mr. Fred Hunter for introducing himself as chairman of Golf Advisory Committee (GAC), and taking time to react and respond to my comments published in the Nov. 5 issue of the Westport News.
I also want to thank Mr. Hunter for appreciating merits of getting youngsters started early in golf; and especially getting them trained by John Coopers' staff which is considered one of the best in Connecticut. Recognition of a successful golf program at Staples High School is also gratifying; especially to me since both my boys played on Staples teams in late '70s and early '80s; and one or both of 'em may have captained the teams as well.
I want to take issue, however, with Mr. Hunter's contention that fees to play at Longshore are fair to every one. Yes, indeed they were fair and reasonable for 50 or 60 years, but then, someone came along and changed them in 2008 or thereabouts. No, in my opinion, they are no longer fair, especially to juniors and seniors.
Until a few years ago, seniors paid only half for a "hand pass." Now they pay full; the same as adults half their age. The 50 percent discount to seniors disappeared overnight.
One has to ask why?
Does Mr. Hunter think that seniors' Social Security income has doubled? I know my fixed income hasn't changed any significantly since I retired in 1991; and I suspect that is perhaps the case with most other retirees in town. I feel that doubling of hand pass fees for seniors was unwarranted; it was wrong; it is still wrong, and it should be reversed.
Yes, the "greens fees" are discounted some, for seniors and juniors on specific days and specific hours. In reality, however, some of these discounts turn out to be meaningless.
For example, juniors can play at a reduced rate from Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. They do not get any discount for plays on weekends, nor on Fridays. Even on Monday through Thursday they do not get any discounted rate after 4 p.m. This leaves them a play time of 8 to 4 only on Mondays through Thursdays to avail of a discounted rate.
This scenario compels me to ask Mr. Hunter and the Town administrators and parents of school-going children, do they really want children to skip school to avail of slightly reduced greens fees to play golf during school hours?
I don't think so.
One last thing I want to say before I end this written conversation via courtesy of the Westport News. I am not familiar with all the sports played around the world, but to my knowledge, golf is the only sport that mandates golf courses to "level the playing field" by making allowances for players ability to play the sport with others with higher or lower level of proficiency. That is why every hole on every golf course has two, three or even four tee off locations; separately for men, women, juniors and seniors to suit the distance they can drive the ball and the hazards they would need to overcome. Golf is also perhaps the only sport which provides for a "handicap" system to accommodate new or less proficient players to compete effectively against seasoned or experienced players.
Golf thus is perfectly suited for a family where men, women, juniors and seniors can all play together. At $90 annual charge for a hand pass and an $18 greens fee for everyone after 4 p.m., the playing field is no longer level at Longshore.
Thanks for letting me vent my opinion.
P&Z amendment creates too many non-conforming lots
My house is on an AA lot of one acre with a coverage ratio of 22.77 percent -- below the current maximum of 25 percent. Under the proposed P&Z Amendment 621 with a maximum of 15 percent coverage my lot becomes non-conforming with a 16.1 percent coverage. Why? It's not because I live in a McMansion -- far from it. It's because I have substantial wetlands on my property. I believe many of the other 300 or so lots in town that will become non-conforming under 621 will be due to the amount of wetlands on their properties.
Let me explain. With the primary objective of reducing house size and their foot print, Amendment 621 limits lot coverage to 15 percent, which equates to 6,534 square feet for a 1-acre lot. However, if wetlands exist on the property, 80 percent of the wetlands are deducted from the lot size. This is a significant deduction in lot size calculation for many home owners since about 40 percent of the town lot parcels have wetlands. A lot with 40 percent wetlands could have a maximum coverage of 4,443 square feet, or about 68 percent of the coverage allowed for a 1-acre lot with no wetlands. Assuming a driveway of 2,000 square feet, that leaves 2,443 square feet for house coverage -- certainly not McMansion size.
No, I don't advocate building in wetlands. In fact, the current wetland setbacks provide adequate protection of building encroachment.
If P&Z believes that passage of Amendment 621 will reduce house size and house foot print then at least consider modifying Amendment 621 to allow for a sliding scale for calculating lot size on lots with wetlands.
% wetlands on lot % deduction from lot size
Using the above example will allow for 5,488 square feet of coverage on a 1-acre lot with 40 percent wetlands versus 4,443 square feet under Amendment 621 rules. On a lot of 15 percent wetlands, lot coverage would be up to 6,387 square feet, still less than a 1-acre lot with no wetlands.
Importantly, P&Z along with conservation would keep the current wetland setbacks, which probably precludes many of the 300 houses in question from much expansion.
So, why reconsider how wetlands are calculated in lot size? I ask P&Z why create non-conforming lots with the current language in Amendment 621? Why enact regulations which can negatively effect resale values, cause lender mortgage anxiety and require homeowners to go through the Zoning Board of Appeals for even the most minor home modifications?
P&Z can still accomplish their objectives without hurting existing homeowners by modifying the calculations for wetlands deductions.