Monday, May 3, 2021 (Zoom Meeting)
Board Members and several of our members attended. Invited Guests: P&Z Chair Danielle Dobin, State Senator Tony Hwang and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.
After Art welcomed all to the Annual Meeting, he opened the meeting with a tribute to Bob Scholl who had passed away a year ago.
Bob was a member of our Board and was our legal advisor for many years. He played an important role for the GF Association as well as for the Town of Westport. Bob was Chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Board of Education, Southwestern Regional Planning Agency, a member of the Westport Historical Society and a Rotarian for 43 years.
Bob knew and understood the mechanics of Westport. He was very knowledgeable and paid great attention to town issues. Always working well with others to come up with a solution, Bob was a great sounding board for the GF Association and was exceptional in his service to the many organizations he served.
Our Annual Meeting focused upon Affordable Housing which is a front and center issue in Westport and in the State.
Art moderated a panel discussion with our guests, Daniele Dobin, State Senator Tony Hwang and State Rep Jonathan Steinberg.
State Senator Steinberg stated that Westport has “stepped up to the plate” in providing affordable housing before 8-30g became a State mandate. Hales Court predates 8-30g and Westport continues to offer creative ways in providing affordable housing under 8-30g. It is important to “get it right and have a broader conversation” on affordable housing. The bills currently in committee at the State House would allow the State to take control of local zoning to build multi housing units in all 169 towns.
Danielle Dobin further discussed the State proposal which is not a fit for all communities across the state. Some aspects of the proposals are misguided. There is a focus on building housing nearby train stations which would allow the State to build without zoning approval or need to provide parking for housing units. She stated the efforts of P&Z to create more diverse housing for families (West Parish proposal). The State 8-30g has not created family housing. West Parish has the support of the neighborhood and will be 90% affordable housing.
Senator Hwang stressed a “call to action”, staying informed, working together and the importance of including all major shareholders. The current affordable housing proposals are not effective, overrun personal property rights and may create high density housing. He has encouraged leadership not to call the bills but rather to create real solutions for affordable housing.
A short Q&A for the panel followed.
There is pressure to pass an affordable housing bill this year. Panelists agreed that it is a slow and steady approach to work on a collaboration to find an agreeable solution.
Art thanked the panelists for their time and providing great insight to the affordable housing proposals facing Westport and the State House.
Current Board officers will service another term for May 2021-May 2022.
Art and the Board welcomed two new Board members Bitsy and Mitch Higgins. They bring not only their fondness of Green’s Farms but their extensive knowledge of local Town issues and Town government.