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P&Z Discusses Limits on New Banks

Does Westport have too many banks? The Planning and Zoning Commission met Thursday night to discuss a proposed zoning amendment that would restrict banks from opening in most areas of town.

"There are 30 existing approved bank locations in Westport," Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley said. "It would appear that Westport is quote 'overbanked.' We have more banks than we need for our population in comparison to similar towns."

In Fairfield, New Canaan, Darien and Wilton, the average number of banks per town is 18, Bradley said. "Westport has 320 households per bank whereas the average in these four towns is 546 households per bank," he said.

The proposed amendment, which would limit bank locations to the General Business District and the Highway Service District and would require all new banks get Special Permit approval, was created because banks "detract from the retail fabric of the community" because they don't generate much foot traffic.

"We need to bring more night life, more activity, to town. Banks generally close at 5 p.m. and aren't open over the weekend," he said. "To have all the banks in one area, or even spread out, has a negative effect on the town."

Resident Michael Calise disagreed.

"Banks are viable businesses in the community. What makes banks so bad?" Calise said. "The only things that bring people [at night] are movie houses or restaurants."

Calise, who owns the property at 215 Post Road W. that houses Fairfield County Bank, also disagreed with Bradley's statistics.

"There are five banks on that list that really do not exist," he said. "Furthermore, a lot of people in Weston do their shopping in Westport. Some parts of other surrounding towns are a part of the Westport market, too."

The commission took no action and did not specify when a vote would take place.

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