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P&Z OKs Plans for Baron's South

It took four-and-a-half hours of discussion, public comments and a lot of head-butting among commissioners, but the Planning and Zoning Commission decided that a senior housing and skilled nursing facility on the Baron's South property would be an appropriate use of the town-owned land. The 6-1 vote came just after midnight early Friday.

Commissioner Michael Krawiec, who cast the single opposing vote, said he didn't approve of such a facility being on town-owned property.

"Selling the land is in our best interest," he said.

Westport resident Rob Corona agreed that the Baron's South property is not an appropriate place to build a senior housing and skilled nursing facility.

Corona, a resident of Foxfire Lane, which is near the Baron's property, said though he is not opposed to building senior housing, he said putting the facility there would be an "assault on the property."

"This is one most beautiful parcels of land in town. I ask you, would other towns, anywhere, put an assisted living facility in what essentially should be a park?" Corona said. "I ask the town, why open space? Why now? And why not consider the same options given to YMCA, namely the parking lot on Imperial Avenue or behind the police department. It's insanity to do this, however valuable this is."

But most speakers were supportive of the plans. Resident Mildred Bunche said she was appalled by Corona's statement.

Bunche, a 38-year resident, said that such a facility would be a great asset to the town because it would allow "seniors, like myself, to remain in the community they have come to know."

Resident Jorgen Jensen, agreed, saying that supporting the plans for a senior housing and skilled nursing facility helps the town's seniors.

"Many of my friends had to go out of town for rehabilitation and recuperation, and that's tough for their spouses," Jensen said. "Many of friends have had to move out of town because no affordable housing met their needs in Westport."

With this first step approved, town officials involved with this plan, including First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Selectwoman Shelly Kassen, will next have to present specific site plans for approval.

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