Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

P&Z Discusses Open Space Zone Proposal
By Kirk Lang
Printed in the Westport News

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a work session discussion last Thursday on Matthew Mandell's proposed text change to the Open Space Residential District (OSRD), which would apply to the former F.D. Rich property, the town's only OSRD.

The intent of Mandell's amendment is to protect neighbors of the planned development at the site from relatively close cluster housing. According to a written statement from Mandell in the P&Z files, as it stands, houses built in the OSRD can be 15 feet apart or less depending on their height, which would allow three to six houses on a single acre.

"The current OSRD regulations permit such clusters to be located 50 feet from any neighboring property. Such encroachment on existing homes and families would ruin property values, destroy the character of the neighborhood and erode the aesthetics of the community," Mandell said.

His amendment proposes that the spacing between any house in the OSRD within 200 feet of a one-acre or two-acre zoning district be no less than 80 feet from any other house in the OSRD. The text change also proposes that no accessory building or structures for multiple or community use in the OSRD shall extend closer than 100 feet of any one-acre or two-acre zoning district boundary.

Many commissioners were in favor of the amendment but felt the proposed changes were inconsistent with other districts in town.

"I think we're going to lose the consistency of the regulations from district to district," if the amendment is approved as is, said P&Z member Duane Nelson. "That policy question troubles me, even though I agree with the merits."

Commissioner Michael Stashower said if the zoning board approved the text change "we're asking for a lawsuit." Fellow P&Z member William Crowther argued the OSRD district stands alone.

"It's unique," Crowther said.

P&Z Chairman Eleanor Lowenstein, however, said the OSRD district is not that different from the Planned Residential Development (PRD).

"I think they're asking for special treatment," said Stashower. "I don't believe the people on Partrick Road are hurt by this any more than the people on Drumlin Road are," referring to the plan to double the number of units at Hales Court, as well as provide multi-family buildings. "I don't think there's a necessity for this. The regulations basically say, 'We don't trust the P&Z to protect us.' The implications are there."

ARS Partners has a plan to provide roughly two dozen units on the former F.D Rich site. Much of it will be centered in one area since a majority of the 55-acre parcel is wetlands. If the proposed enhanced setbacks and spacing between buildings were approved, it would restrict the development even further.

"You're going to force the developer to put in multi-family housing," said Stashower. "If you restrict them to putting the buildings 80 feet apart, it will force them to put the buildings together."

At the present time, ARS plans to develop only single-family units. The OSRD zone, however, allows for the development of single-family, two-family and multi-family housing. Throughout multiple public hearings, ARS attorney Larry Weisman has said he has the ability to provide multi-family housing but his client would like to build a more upscale development.

Stashower said the developers can get more money for single family units. Commissioner Elizabeth Kuechenmeister supported the amendment. She said everyone who ever ran for the P&Z made a pledge to protect residential property owners. The commission will continue its discussion and is expected to reach a decision Nov. 7.

Since it seemed like the proposal might not pass the approval of the full commission next week, Mandell was upset before leaving Town Hall after the work session.

He said the commission should not be worried about multi-family housing. "Multi-family can't fit in the OSRD, because the wetlands setback for multi-family is 65 feet. You'd need 200 feet across to stick one in. Their argument that an approval of the text change will force multi-family is not a valid argument."

He said the developers are having trouble trying to squeeze in single-family housing. He added the threat of litigation should not be a reason for denial.

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