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.