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Westport Woman Helps Kill Housing Bill

UPDATED, 1:30 p.m.: All the work Westport resident Valerie Seiling Jacobs put into fighting a zoning amendment that would restrict home sizes in Westport paid off. Shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Representative Town Meeting, the town's legislative body, voted 32-1 to overturn the controversial zoning regulation.

"What was going through my mind at that point was how great it was that the RTM was listening to people," Jacobs said. "They were listening to the public: We were actually being heard."

The early-morning vote came after nearly four hours of public comments. The lone vote in favor of upholding the regulation came from RTM member Diane Cady, District 1.

Under the regulation, known as Amendment 621 , building coverage for homes in the town's 1- and 2-acre zones would have been limited to 15 percent of the net lot area. Also, swimming pools would have been counted in total coverage instead of building coverage, and tennis courts would have been counted in total coverage at 100 percent instead of 50 percent.

Jacobs argued the amendment would hurt home values by creating an estimated 1,100 nonconforming properties, which are in violation of zoning regulations and as a result, worth less money when owners go to sell.

Eleanor Lowenstein, vice chairwoman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, defended the amendment, saying it was created to help address runoff and water quality issues in town. P&Z Chairman Ron Corwin, Secretary David Press and Commissioner Howard Lathrop also defended the amendment.

"If this is overturned, this is the last time you're going to see anything like this in a generation," Press said, to which the audience responded with applause.

Conservation Director Alicia Mozian and Town Engineer Peter Ratkiewich said they also supported the amendment, as did about three members of the public. But like Jacobs, the majority of those who spoke at the hearing were in favor of overturning the regulation.

"While I salute trying to address water quality issues, there are other ways to get better results. There's too much collateral damage with this [amendment]," said resident and Realtor Elaine Schanzenbach-Campbell. "All of us care about water quality in town, but don't take the bread off people's table to get results."

Before going to the full RTM meeting, the appeal was brought before the RTM Planning & Zoning Committee. On Jan. 12, the committee voted 6-2 to recommend the RTM overturn the amendment.

Do you think the RTM made the right decision to overturn Amendment 621? Let us know what you think below!

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