Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

P&Z Dept. Takes Another Look at ARS Proposal
The planned development of 22 homes could be in jeopardy

By Kirk Lang

Printed in the Westport News

The planned development of 22 homes on the former F.D. Rich property could be in jeopardy after Westport's Planning and Zoning Department recently took another look at its 1960 Town Plan. ARS Partners is in the midst of a public hearing process to build what will be known as The Reserve at Poplar Plains. According to Open Space Residential District (OSRD) regulations, which apply to this site, developments in the zone must have principal access to an arterial road or major thoroughfare.

While both Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road, which border the property, are designated collector roads under the current Town Plan, Town Attorney Ira Bloom has maintained the property can be looked at based on the roads' designation in the 1960 Town Plan, the plan that was in effect when the 55-acre parcel was rezoned from a Design Development District to an OSRD in the early 1980s. Up until last week, P&Z staff had made a determination in a recent analysis that Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road were classified as major thoroughfares under the 1960 Town Plan.

However, a closer inspection of that plan's map of Westport, and its legend, now has zoning staff calling Partrick Road a secondary thoroughfare, rather than a major one. If this is the case, the ARS project may fail to meet the OSRD requirement that all points of entry to the site be on arterial streets or major thoroughfares. However, it's up to the Planning and Zoning Commission to decide whether or not the application complies with the zoning regulations. Two of The Reserve at Poplar Plains' three entrances are along Partrick Road.

Matthew Mandell, spokesman for a group against The Reserve at Poplar Plains, known as the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund (PWPF), said during a public hearing a couple weeks ago that a recent P&Z analysis regarding road designations in the 1960 Town Plan was "flawed."

"Partrick Road was not a major thoroughfare," said Mandell.

P&Z Director Katherine Barnard said the lines on the 1960 map legend for new major thoroughfares and secondary thoroughfares looked very similar and she could see how a member of her staff might get confused.

"We're looking at a 1960 Town Plan," said Barnard. "We're doing the best we can in figuring out what it says.

"We're trying to be as thorough as we can on a very big project. I think the staff has done a very good job."

Although closer inspection has shown that Partrick Road was classified as a secondary thoroughfare under the 1960 Town Plan, Newtown Turnpike is shown as a major thoroughfare and "serves as a primary arterial road system."

While the PWPF still believes that the 1997 Town Plan, which classifies Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road as collector roads, is the document of record with standing, Bloom has said that the 1960 Town Plan should be used.

"This opinion must now take this new determination (Partrick Road being a secondary thoroughfare) into account," said Mandell.

He added, "ARS, in deciding to propose three separate and non-road interconnected neighborhoods or clusters, rather than one with multiple access roads, must meet this section of the regulations at all three locales. The six-house southeastern cluster and the two-house southern cluster each have a single road of access. This 'principal access' is from Partrick Road, which is neither an arterial street nor a major thoroughfare in either the 1997 or 1960 Town Plans. This then precludes these two clusters from approval by the P&Z Commission, as neither conform to this specific section of the regulations."

In a press release given to the Westport News this week, Mandell said the PWPF "welcomes this important determination and thanks the P&Z staff for their continued diligence and objective research."

Barnard said the staff analysis, which called Partrick Road a major thoroughfare, was only a mistake, nothing more. "There's nothing going on here."

Larry Weisman, attorney for ARS Partners, has refused to talk to the Westport News about the project during the public hearing process.