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House Size Dominates P&Z Hearing

Westport residents spent nearly two hours Thursday night weighing in on proposed changes to Planning and Zoning, including a tightening of the limit on house size. The P&Z Commission hearing on Amendment 621 was actually a continuation of a session started on Sept. 30, and for the second time, residents like Sheldon Minkowitz spoke out against the proposals.

"That's what people come to Westport for, to enjoy their property," said Minkowitz, a builder who has lived in town since 1965. "Before we moved to Westport, we always marveled at how you can drive down any street and see tremendous variance in house size."

If approved, the changes would limit residential building coverage to 15 percent of the total lot size. Further, pools and decks would count as part of total coverage instead of building coverage, patios and terraces would become part of total coverage, and tennis courts would count in total coverage at 100 percent of size instead of 50 percent.

The changes were prompted in part by a 2007 phone survey in which the prevalence of big houses was identified by participants as the main quality of life issue in Westport.

But Lois Schine, a member of the RTM and opponent of these changes, had doubts about the survey.

"The value of my property has gone up, not because my house has grown, but because land [value] has gone up because of the houses around me," Schine said. "I question the validity of a phone survey done 2007. I'd like to see one done now. You might find a lot of changes."

Unlike many who spoke, Michele Lamothe favored limiting house size.

"What's driving big house building is not demand, but profit," she said. "Only through amendments to our current regulations can we protect our environment and streetscapes from this."

Discussion on the amendment will continue Oct. 14.

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