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Westport Votes Down Senior Housing Plans At Baron's South

The entrance to the Baron's South property in Westport, where a plan for senior housing has been voted down.
The entrance to the Baron's South property in Westport, where a plan for senior housing has been voted down. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

WESTPORT, Conn. – Plans to develop senior housing at the Baron’s South property in Westport have failed after town government bodies voted to keep the land as open space.

The 22-acre Baron’s South property on Compo Road South was purchased by the town in 1999 for $7 million. The creation of a senior housing development at the property had been in the work for a number of years. The project would have encompassed 3.3 acres of the town-owned property, and included 165 rental units, with 60 percent being designated as affordable. The development plans also included an amenity center with an aquatherapy pool, exercise rooms, a salon and a café.

The plan created some controversy in town , with supporters of the development highlighting the need for affordable housing, while others believed the property should remain open space. In March, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of designating the property as open space. A vote was held Wednesday in the Representative Town Meeting to overturn the P&Z Commission’s decision, but that effort fell short by four votes.

In a statement, First Selectman Jim Marpe said he was disappointed by the RTM vote and said that he would be dissolving the Baron’s South Committee, which had worked for five years on developing the senior housing project. He said the committee would host one last meeting in the next few weeks, during which he would acknowledge their hard work.

“While the original concept of providing senior housing on Baron’s South was not achieved, the work was certainly not in vain,” Marpe said. “The Committee has garnered immeasurable information concerning senior housing and, more importantly, senior living in Westport. This information will be critical as we pursue alternative senior living strategies.”

The debate over the housing development has shown there is support in town for an expansion of the Center for Senior Activities, which sits on the Baron’s South property, Marpe said. The town will work to develop plans to enhance the center, he said. Marpe also said that he would create a committee to develop a vision and action plan for the Baron’s South property.

“As a community, we have an opportunity to place another jewel in Westport’s ever-expanding crown. I hope a well-planned and well-maintained public park on Baron’s South will benefit Westporters for generations to come,” Marpe said.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Chip Stephens said he and the rest of the commission would work with the town and property owners to find a location that would address senior housing needs and expedite the process.

“The P&Z will also be receptive to review plans to enhance our wonderful senior center. I look forward to working with the RTM and Selectman’s office.”

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