WESTPORT, Conn. Westport is more than just a place to live for Chip Stephens. As a 51-year resident, Westport is his home the place he planted his roots and raised a family. Hoping to maintain the character of the town he knows and loves, Stephens is running for a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Stephens, a Republican, is the founder and principal of Bio-Logistics USA, a Westport-based company that specializes in life sciences. Outside of his work, he's a volunteer football coach with the Westport Police Athletic League.
Over the years, Stephens has served as the varsity wrestling coach at Staples High School, a Little League coach and a Boy Scout volunteer. He recently took the time to answer some questions about the upcoming election. The following are his responses.
Question: What to you are the biggest planning and zoning issues facing the town?
Answer: One of the biggest issues facing the town is the fact that we have a good set of rules and procedures that were set in place in the '70s to curtail overdevelopment and congestion. We also have a town plan. Those are both being torn apart by text amendments that will radically change Westport unless they are stopped. We have a good blueprint to run by, and for some reason, the current Planning and Zoning administration is tattering those rules.
Q: Where do you stand on the proposed development of Baron's South?
A: Again, we have rules and regulations in place on how to govern and utilize the town. I'm all for senior housing, but I'm concerned with it being on Baron's South. It's open space. I don't know if that is the proper use for the land. The previous administration didn't approve the YMCA for that space because of environmental concerns. I think a lot of research has to go into it in terms of possible impacts. Is it the right project for that land? I'm open to the argument but think we have to do some real due diligence on it.
Q: What are your thoughts about a movie theater in downtown Westport? If you support the idea, what suggestions would you propose to make sure it keeps with the town's characteristics?
A: I would love to have a movie theater in town. I spent many hours at the five we used to have in town. I would support anything within the rules. I'm dead set against setting up anything in the name of revitalization that's an economic issue, not a planning one. If they can afford it and build one that's within the rules, go for it. But I don't think we should rewrite zoning regulations to subsidize something that in long term is going to bite us.
Q: Why should people vote for you?
A: People should vote for me if they believe in preserving the character, image, size and plans for the town as we currently have. Also, they should vote for me if they want someone who will be a team player. I think it's time to change the way business is done on the Planning and Zoning Commission. There are a lot of issues in this town, and we've got people pressuring us from outside, overbearing state rules and developers out for all mighty dollar. We've got to work together to maintain the town.
Q: If elected, what will your goals be as a commissioner?
A: I will work to bring sanity and transparency to Planning and Zoning. I've spent a lot of time on football and soccer fields, shaking a lot of hands, and one recurring thing I hear, beside concerns of overgrowth, is that the Planning and Zoning Department is not a friendly department to work with. I want to improve the way people work with Planning and Zoning by making processes more transparent and friendlier.
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