Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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Staring Down 8-30g, P&Z Favors 4-Story Housing

By James Lomuscio

It looks like a four-story, 94-unit rental property on the Post Road East near the Sherwood Island Connector could be in Westport’s future -– even though the developer has offered an alternative three-story building.

WestportNow.com Image
An architect’s rendering of the proposed project at 1177 Post Road East. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

That was the consensus of a 4 to 2 straw vote taken by Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) in a work session tonight.

The reason: the original 8-30g proposal put forth by 1177 PRE Associates LLC would give the town more affordable housing units, 30 percent, and an eight-year moratorium on how to handle the state’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g.

The developer’s second plan, put forth July 7 at the request of the P&Z, (see WestportNow July 7, 2016) would reduce the number of affordable units to 26.6 percent. That small reduction, however, would cut the number of moratorium points from 60 to 36.

The 8-30g statute allows a developer to override town zoning laws if a community does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable, which Westport does not.

The majority of commissioners felt more moratorium points would allow the town to buy time until it figure out how to deal with 8-30g.

Commissioners Jack Whittle and Paul Lebowitz, however, opposed the four-story plan.

“I can’t get my arms around that if we accept the 8-30g, our fingerprints would be on it,” Whittle said about the building that would be massive and not in keeping with the town’s character. “I don’t want that on my watch.”

P&Z member Chip Stephens was visibly aggravated.

“It’s 60 versus 36 points,” he said. “It’s on the Post Road, the perfect place.

“We’re taking it from the state whether we like it or not; it stinks,” he added. “This will give us time. …We have to take our medicine and get it out of the way for a time.”

Lebowitz said he did not want to see a four-story building, saying it would pose problems for firefighters. He also floated the idea of a compromise, trying to find a way to get a three-story building but not losing the moratorium points.

Stephens also had a problem with the scaled down version because it would have more two-bedroom units. He said those units would attract families with small children, taxing town services, leaving “20 kids with no place tyo play but on the Post Road.”

P&Z Chairwoman Catherine Walsh, Al Gratrix and Alan Hodge said while they did not favor a four-story building, the 8-30g plan appeared the better choice.

“8-30g makes sense to me,” said Walsh.

“I don’t think we have an alternative,” said Gratrix.

The P&Z plans to vote on the matter at its Sept. 8 meeting.

One thought on “Staring Down 8-30g, P&Z Favors 4-Story Housing

  1. Yes, There is an alternative. Approve the 3 story option with full 8-30g compatibility. Force the hand of the developer. There is nothing to lose if P&Z is willing to accept the 4 story option anyway. Better looking and more importantly better from a public safety stand point.

    When the P&Z asked the developer to do the 3 story option, he reduced the affordability. The P&Z is right not to accept that. But if the 94 units are to be accepted why not hold the developer to the law that gives them that density? We become the ones asking for more affordable and the developer looks suspect.

    Does anyone really think the developer will sue over it? Spend the money and risk a loss? Does anyone really think a judge would overturn a P&Z approval of a full 8-30g compliant plan?

    I believe we have the opportunity to use 8-30g in our favor. I understand why some might just have us take our tough medicine here, but why not try to make it better and safer. If the P&Z does end up accepting the 4 story version, let’s hope they insist on a better facing of the building. It would be one ugly building otherwise.

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