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Westport's Swing Set Rule Still Up In the Air

An amendment to a swing set rule was no closer to passing the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission after an hour of talks than it was when the meeting began Thursday evening. The regulation in question , which prohibits the placement of swing or play sets within the setback boundaries of private property lines, has drawn national attention.

Cary Moskowitz made the proposal after a neighbor filed a complaint with the town in November 2009. The current regulation prohibits “structures” within 50 feet of property lines. Moskowitz’s amendment would remove the definition of recreation equipment as structures. Only handicapped access ramps and pergolas or arbors are exempt now.

Joel Green, the attorney for Moskowitz, said Westport is probably the only town in Fairfield County that has such a regulation. But the main objection is that it is unevenly enforced. “Only when someone goes in for a property survey or if a neighbor complains,” he said. Town Planning and Zoning Director Larry Bradley said less than a dozen citations had been issued for such violations in the past five years.

Several commission members were not swayed by Green’s arguments, worrying that an amendment might open the door to other encroachments on setbacks. “I don’t have a sense there will be a flood of swing sets in setbacks if this is passed,” Green said.

Kenny Zinn recounted his experience with his swing set, which had been in place nine years until a neighbor’s land survey triggered a violation, forcing him to relocate the swings at some expense. “I was told it was OK when we first built it, so the town doesn’t even know or enforce the regulation consistently,” he said.

Green also said a more consistent and proactive enforcement of the current regulation would force anyone installing a swing set to secure a building permit and would waste town resources in permitting and enforcement. But ultimately, he said singling out swing sets doesn’t make sense. “You can hang a tire from a tree in a setback, but not put up a swing on a frame,” he said. “You can play in a setback, you just can’t swing there, apparently.”

What do you think about the debate over swing set rules? Is the rule important and valid? Leave a comment below!

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