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Alternate Seeks Full-Time Planning & Zoning Seat

WESTPORT, Conn. – For the past year-and-a-half, Westport resident Al Gratrix has served as one of three alternates on the Planning and Zoning Commission, filling in for regular members whenever needed. But following next week's election, this Republican hopes to hold a permanent seat at the table.

Gratrix, who earned a degree in biochemistry and environmental biology, has an eclectic resume that includes 16 years as a part-time police officer and 11 years as a volunteer firefighter in Trumbull, where he grew up. He's also served as a consultant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, worked as a part-time, self-employed builder, and as a photographer. Currently, he is the president and owner of a Westport-based merchant credit card financial services company

The stepfather of two Staples graduates, Gratrix has called Westport home for more than 18 years. During his time in town, he's volunteered for a variety of local nonprofits, including Michael Bolton Charities, STAR, CLASP Homes and Project Return. He recently took the time to answer some questions about the upcoming election. The following are his responses.

Question: What to you are the biggest planning and zoning issues facing the town?

A: Overutilized property, commercial encroaching on residential property, lack of control and utilization of town-owned property and emphasis on control.

Q: Where do you stand on the proposed development of Baron's South?

A: As an alternate, I can't discuss Baron's South because if someone gets sick, I could potentially be seated on the issue.

Q: What are your thoughts about a movie theater in downtown Westport? If you support the idea, what suggestions would you propose to make sure it keeps with the town's characteristics?

If a developer wants to propose something that's within our existing guidelines, it should definitely be looked at by the Planning and Zoning Commission and taken into consideration. Again, I can't go further than that in the discussion.

Q: Why should people vote for you?

A: Number one, I have experience on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Even as an alternate, I've actually done work. I've helped rewrite definitions, like the new definition for new construction versus reconstruction, and I co-authorized excavation and fill. Number two, I've worked in the public sector as well the private sector.

Q: If elected, what will your goals be as a commissioner?

A: My goals would be to see better utilization of town-owned waterfront property, protect the town's charm and beauty, open space, and to protect people's property rights and property values.

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