February Board Meeting Minutes

P&Z Public Hearing for Post Plaza Feb 11th  (via Zoom))
NEXT MEETING: Monday, March 1st (via Zoom)
ANNUAL MEETING: Thursday, April 8th (via Zoom)

Board members attending: Art Schoeller, Lois Sussman, Judy Swann, Norman Kramer, Anne Hamonet, Matt Spiegel and MaryAnn Meyer
Invited guests: RTM-5 Reps Dick Lowenstein, Peter Gold, Bitsy and Mitch Higgins.

  1. The Board began the meeting discussing the recently held P&Z Subcommittee meeting in regard to revising the amendment on accessory dwelling units (ADU).

The Subcommittee is still in the planning stage as there are many exceptions being discussed based on size of lot, height of building, cupola design and allowed coverage limits rather than square footage limits. The owner of the property would be required to live at the property but it was not clear if owners could rent out their home and live in the accessory dwelling unit themselves.

Peter Gold  (RTM-5) brought up the question if the ADU’s  were counted towards 8-30g affordable housing count or if they are eliminated from the count.

The Board will continue to monitor any further action on the revised ADU amendment.

  1. Update on West Parish (State DOT) where the P&Z and the Town continue to work on their request of 4 acres of land from the State DOT in order for the Westport Housing Authority to build affordable housing units. It is still under discussion. Will continue to follow this project.
  1. State Legislature is working on a bill which would allow the State to control local zoning to build affordable housing units across the State. Bitsy and Mitch Higgins (Iris Lane) provided helpful information regarding DesegregateCT  (headed by Sara Bronin) which is a grass roots organization and a  proponent of the State’s move to control local zoning. It would result in an increase of multiple housing units preferably near transportation hubs (commuter trains, accessible highways) across the State.

State Rep Kimberly Fiorello and State Senator Tony Hwang have held forums (via Zoom) as they are concerned that the bill would diminish the authority of local zoning boards and give the State more control of local zoning. The new proposed legislation would not replace the State’s affordable housing statute 8-30g but would function in parallel.  Proposed bill is still under discussion and the legislature timeline for the bill is uncertain. Art to email our State reps for their input and to request updates on where this bill is headed.

  1. New tenant at  Post Plaza

Barnes & Noble has moved out of Post Plaza and a new tenant (grocery/food market though not yet confirmed) is slated to move into the available space. As the Post Plaza borders a residential area (homes on Iris Lane, Church Street South and Morningside Drive South), the Board discussed the concerns addressed by Bitsy & Mitch Higgins whose property (3A Iris Lane) shares a border with the parking lot. A proper buffer zone is required and the Board will be vigilant to be sure that the owner satisfactorily provides a proper buffer  zone.

Increased traffic on Church Street is also a concern as there is pedestrian traffic from The Little Barn restaurant as well as from pedestrians walking to the shops in the Post Plaza and children and parents walking to the Green’s Farms School.

The owner of the Post Plaza will  be making these improvements including: Installing new lighting, landscaping, a new fence, new signage and grease traps. Also the culvert will be repaired and drainage and flooding will be addressed. The façade of the building will be renovated and the loading dock will be reconfigured.

A status report was submitted to P&Z regarding the ongoing environmental remediation at the former gas station on site and regulated by the DEEP.  A Licensed Environmental Professional will be available at the upcoming Public Hearing to respond to any questions.

Improving lighting on Church Street South and installing a sidewalk along Church Street was discussed by the Board. The RTM is putting together a sidewalk plan and the Board discussed with the invited RTM reps to include Church Street in the plan.

  1. Annual Meeting

Confirmed Date: Tuesday, April 8th  (via Zoom)

Topic: Affordable Housing/State Control of Local Zoning

Panel: (Yet to be confirmed) State Reps Jonathan Steinberg, Will Haskell, State Senators Tony Hwang and Stephanie Thompson.

Postcards will be mailed out to “Greens Farms Resident” with essential information along with GF Association website address and information on 2021 dues.  An email will be sent out to current membership list with annual meeting and renewing membership information. Discussed obtaining emailing addresses from Parks & Rec for additional emails for Matt to create a “once a year” email list to increase membership.

  • Updates on 14 Hillandale

Norman provided an update on 14 Hillandale Road which is an approved new subdivision with 4 new homes proposed. The existing home (A.E.Hotchner’s home) will be torn down and a new private road is proposed  from Wakeman Road to the new subdivision.

The developer set aside land along the border of  Wakeman Road as unused land and will make a cash contribution of 5% instead of 10% to the open space fund based on the property appraisal by a 3rd party.

  •  Westport Library Book Store

Dick Lowenstein(RTM-5)  shared news about the Westport Library Book Store that will be run by volunteers and STAR. The store is located at Jessup Green.

Next Board Meeting: Monday, March 1st (via Zoom)

January Board Meeting Minutes

January 5, 2021

Board Members Attending: Art Schoeller, Lois Sussman, Norman Kramer, Birthe Shwisha, Judy Swann, Anne Hamonet, Matt Spiegel and MaryAnn Meyer.

Invited Guests: Karen Kramer (RTM-5), Matt Mandel (RTM-1) and State Senator Tony Hwang (CT 28th)

The first meeting of 2021 was focused on the State’s efforts to take control of local zoning laws and disregard safety and conservation concerns to allow developers to build affordable housing within half a mile of train/transportation hubs in the State.

RTM Rep Matt Mandel addressed the Board and discussed the implications to Green’s Farms and Saugatuck areas and how this proposal by the State would give developers all the advantage. He also discussed DesegregateCT which is a grass root organization and a proponent of the State’s overtaking local zoning laws. They are very organized getting out their message via local presentations, social media and webinars.

The Board has concerns of the State’s plan to take over local zoning and further overdevelopment in the Green’s Farms area. Several newly built multi housing with affordable housing now line the Post Road. Most recently, the Town worked with the developers of 1177 Post Road East (94 units) which was built under 8-30g and provides 30% of the units affordable.

State Senator Tony Hwang, ranking Senate leader on the Planning and Development Committee, discussed his role and collaboration with local communities. It’s a complex issue and Senator Hwang indicated his plans to continue to raise awareness and representing communities on these potential issues so law makers can fix or create regulations to support the needs of all types of neighborhoods. He also pointed out that it is important to engage everyone throughout the State and to discuss solutions.

Along with his colleagues, Jonathan Steinberg, Will Haskell and Stephanie Thomas all are actively meeting with local zoning boards, lending their zoning expertise and fostering communications in an attempt to develop ideas and solutions.

Art provided an overview of the Green’s Farms Association’s role with local zoning and our support of multi unit housing developments within Westport and Green’s Farms.  Most recently, the Board supported the proposed multi housing development on West Parish which would provide additional affordable housing.  The P&Z Commission and the Town is negotiating with the State DOT to acquire some of their land at West Parish.

Senator Hwang will get back to the Board and determine the best method to convey the West Parish story and where to share it.  All efforts will be made to provide solutions for affordable housing with the goal to maintain local zoning control.  Senator Hwang will be sending Art a summary of the Information Forum with WestCog and Council of Small Towns which was held earlier in December and was also attended by RTM REP Matt Mandel.    

The Board continued its agenda and discussed the date for the Annual Meeting (via Zoom) to be held April/May as well as ideas for a topic and a speaker. Date will be confirmed at our next meeting. 

At our next meeting, we will discuss when to mail out the postcard reminder with the Annual meeting information and website information. Will address postcard  ‘Green’s Farms Neighbor’ (thank you Anne). Art will look into printing facility in Fairfield suggested by Anne.

Board members discussed our role and how to present our view on the State proposal to control local zoning laws.  Matt suggested posting members’ experiences when moving to Westport as Lois shared her story when she first moved to CT in the ‘60’s. She found Westport to be a more open community than other communities in Fairfield County.

Next meeting will be Monday, February 1st at 7pm.