Opinion: "Don't let rights get taken away"
Published 1:03 am, Friday, March 5, 2010
Our P&Z Commission is currently hearing a text amendment to change our zoning regulations. It's proposed by Rick Redniss, a Stamford resident and consultant who has been before our commission many times representing developers and himself. This text amendment needs to be defeated on the grounds that it will take away the property rights of hundreds of residents of Westport.
All this is being done under the guise of supportive housing, which Redniss has stated is the moral obligation of Westport residents. Redniss does not live in Westport and must not be aware of the generosity of our residents. Redniss wrote this text amendment for Homes for Hope (aka Interfaith Housing), the Linxweiler project, but somehow included seven other zones that encumbers 39 properties. Why these other zones? He said he does not want to single out the residents living next to the Linxweiler house near Crescent Road.
I believe Redniss has done this to make it virtually impossible for these surrounding residents to protest under the Connecticut State Statute, 8-3(b). This right granted by the state, done by petition of 20 percent of neighboring owners, requires a super majority vote in order for its passage. This would make the threshold of passage much higher and would require a 5--2 vote in order to pass this text amendment.
It would appear that this amendment is being used to address the state's requirement under 8-30(g) that 10 percent of all housing units be affordable. Don't be fooled. The law states that when a town reaches 3 percent affordables, a moratorium will be in place and developers cannot use 8-30(g) to build for four years. Four years is nothing in the life of a developer. In those four years they will be buying property, getting their plans drawn up and be ready to go in front of P&Z using 8-30(g) to build up our town.
I'm sorry that Homes for Hope, a great organization, is caught up in this regulation that is heavily influenced by those future developers who will directly profit from it in the long run. This amendment also mirrors a future proposal to be brought by P&Z itself to add multi-family housing all up and down the post road, with the same loss of rights.
Most disturbing about this and the future amendment is how it's intentionally designed to make the process easier for developers while taking away your rights under the Connecticut general statutes and the Westport town charter to protest to the P&Z and appeal to the RTM. The amendment will allow for the building of condos and apartments on commercial and split commercial/residential lots by special permit and without the proper process of rezoning. The only option left if someone has a problem with a development is to sue. Your only recourse will be to hire an attorney at your own expense and sue the very town you live in and pay taxes to.
Planning & Zoning noticed this amendment in the paper, but I would like everyone to be informed as to what this really means to you and our town. P&Z is not required to inform the neighbors surrounding these other zones, these 39 properties, that their property could be affected. The Linxweiler property was used as an example for this text amendment and many of the residents showed up at the hearing. But where were all the people that live near the other 38 properties? My guess is they don't know about this text amendment and how it will affect their neighborhoods. We cannot let the P&Z take away your rights!