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Saturday, October 20 News

Letters to the Editor: Norwalk classroom diversity good for students, Proposed Daybreak development fails to benefit Westport seniors

To the Editors:

Twelve residential units are proposed for the site of the former Daybreak Nurseries, with at least 60 percent of them designated as 55 plus age-restricted. This should be beneficial for Westport’s seniors, right?

That is what Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission concluded when they voted in Sept. 2016 to approve text amendment #716.

The zoning change, which upends the residential “A” half-acre zoning that previously governed the property, was deemed acceptable because it supposedly met a need indicated in the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development which stated: “Westport should continue efforts to help seniors who may not want or need large single-family houses to remain in Westport … respondents indicated there was a strong need for housing for elderly persons.”

According to section 42 of zoning regulations, a text amendment must benefit the town to be approved.

But let’s be clear: the approval of this text amendment was justified using an inaccurate definition of senior. According to Westport’s Town Charter, an elderly person is someone 65 years of age or older (Section. 14-62).

One of the developer’s so-called “seniors” (55 plus) is merely ten years older than the median age of Westport residents (45.1). These newly coined “seniors” would not qualify for:

a) A senior beach parking emblem (which is available for those 62 and older or handicapped)

b) Resources at the Center for Senior Activities — which is “dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for adults 60 years of age and older.”

c) Westport Transit District’s Door-to-Door Service — which serves residents who are 65 and over or certified as disabled.

The low range of the 55 plus age-restriction specified in the developer’s site plan permit application does NOT benefit the elderly, since the elderly are actually 65 and over. It does however, make the units saleable to a large majority of the market.

Let’s examine the numbers:

According to 2016 Census data, of 26,146 Westport residents, 16 percent are seniors 65 and older. Meanwhile, 29 percent of Westporters are 55 and older — almost double! So, half of this development’s potential buyers do not qualify as seniors per the town definition. Setting the age limit at 55+ rather than 65+ presents a potential windfall for the applicant and is not done with a genuine interest in helping seniors.

If the developer truly intends to meet the goal of providing diverse housing choices to Westport’s seniors, then he must stipulate the units be deeded to people aged 65 or older.

It is disconcerting that the commission, which spends its time tackling minutia — roof angles, soil samples, setbacks and the like, did not carefully examine this very simple criteria.

Furthermore, the 2007 POCD “indicated” there was a strong need for housing for elderly persons. A simple analysis of current market conditions demonstrates this is no longer the case.

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According to 2017 Census data, of the 9,573 households in town, 58% have no children under 18. Also, 49% have at least one resident 55 or older.

When that many Westport households fit the 55 or older “restriction” it is no longer a real restriction. It already applies to half the households in town and it cannot contribute to a diversity of homes!

But what about affordability?

The idea of having an affordable component in this development was floated. However, the developer’s planning and development consultant nixed the idea saying that “affordability requires an economy of scale,” which according to the developer wasn’t present. Instead, the 500 Main Street units will be market-rate units: meaning they will cost whatever the market dictates.

To conclude, this text amendment and special permit and site plan application offers no benefits to the town of Westport. The proposed units are not being marketed to real seniors, nor will they be affordable.

According to the developer, each unit will have a $1.2 million price tag. That is hardly affordable for seniors looking to downsize.

In conclusion, the proposed site plan for 500 Main Street should be denied, and the amendment to zoning regulations revisited.

Bonnie Dubson

Westport

To the Editor:

With Trump’s latest nasty and sexist attack on Senator Gillibrand, the disgusting-STENCH continues to emanate from the entire Trump Administration as well as the right-wing Conservative-Libertarian-Republican Congress where many senators and congress people have finally admitted to the public that they want to and intend to make deep cuts in Social Security Retirement benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Many of these Republicans in Congress are actually “survival-of-the-fittest” Social Darwinists who will not be satisfied until there are Americans in the streets dying of starvation and lack of medical care. In time, they will also try to abolish Food Stamps, Student Loans, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, etc.

Stewart Epstein

Rochester, NY

To the Editor:

I first moved to Westport as a child of 8 in 1962, went to St Lukes, Kathleen Laycock, Long Lots and Staples High. The public school system with its marvelous and well-funded math and science programs prepared me academically for my future career as a computer programmer.

The prevailing progressive culture eased me into a decades-long interest in LGBT rights. In one crucial way my schooling failed me — it did nothing to counter the racism of my parents. Had I gone to school in Norwalk, I would have been surrounded by a much greater diversity of classmates — in race and economic background and country of origin. I am constantly being hampered by reflexive attitudes that might have been unlearned in school but due to Westport’s homogeneity were instead reinforced.

I know this because I and my siblings never adopted the virulent anti-Semitism seen in others — with Westport lacking a Gentlemen’s Agreement our best friends were named Sametz, Rosenwald and the like.

Marianne Seggerman

Westport

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