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Commission Plans the Future

Revitalizing Westport's commercial areas took precedence on the Planning and Zoning Commission's list of goals and objectives for 2010. The list was presented by P&Z Commission Chairman Ron Corwin to the RTM Planning and Zoning Committee, April 26.

“There was a broad sense that downtown was falling behind in vibrancy, activities and interest compared to other downtown's,” Corwin said. A series of text amendments are pending public hearings and workshops to help address that issue. Chief among them is an amendment to expand outdoor dining opportunities. Other amendments will allow restaurants to more easily add a patron bar separate from the dining room, accommodate second floor restaurants and offer new regulations for events.

Affordable housing will get a review with the possible goal of establishing affordable housing zones in areas with utility access and public transportation. Established zones would give the town some leeway with developer's using state regulations to force housing proposals around town while Westport rests below the 10 percent affordable housing level.

The commission is also considering an amendment to reduce a developer's ability to “decapitate” hills and bring in large amounts of back-fill to reshape landscapes. “Right now the amount of fill a developer can bring into Westport is staggering,” Corwin said.

The commission will look at redefining some residential regulations, including a lower “B List” priority to rezone and establish a beach zone with its own regulations. Parking will also be given the two stage treatment. The first part will be a general review of the parking regulations to allow more flexibility when determining necessary parking based on usage. Later, the commission will investigate instituting a right to waive certain restrictions including parking requirements.

Lower priorities on the P&Z Commission's list of goals include noise and tree ordinances, lighting regulations and a moratorium on banks.

The proposals put forth by the commission will be brought before the public in a series of workshops and public hearings throughout the year. The next hearing will address the outdoor eating regulations on April 29, 6:30 p.m., in the Town Hall Auditorium.

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