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Thursday, April 26 News

P&Z denies Toyota's plan to allow construction of garage

The public spoke and the Planning and Zoning Commission listened.

By a unanimous vote, the commission Thursday rejected an application from New Country Toyota for a text amendment that would allow it to construct a three-level garage on residential land adjacent to its Post Road East dealership.

"What bothers me the most is what comes after this," said Chairman Chip Stephens. "What does this lead to with other places?"

"We're going to open the flood gates," he said.

"The other problem is what comes after New Country is gone? ... What happens to this behemoth 30,000-square-foot building ... so the whole thing troubles me greatly."

In its proposal, New Country had offered to permanent designate as open space approximately 100,000 square feet of land behind its building. In exchange, it asked the P&Z to grant 5,000 square feet of land it owns -- now classified as residential -- to be used for construction of a three-tier garage.

"I'm not quite sure if it works for me," said Vice Chairman Jack Whittle, "and I don't think it works for the neighbors, who are the ones who should be appeased by the open space here ... I'm not in favor of it."

Jay Sandak, a lawyer for the car dealership, argued that Text Amendment 666 would have allowed the P&Z an increased opportunity to legislate growth at the business.

"It's better to have something in the regulations, than outside the regulations," he said, referencing pre-existing nonconformities that currently allow some parking in the residential zone.

"There's no hidden agenda here at all," he said. "We are trying to improve the site ... for the benefit of the people of Westport."

"We opposed this expansion," Patti Heatter, who lives on adjacent Ruta Court, told the P&Z before the close of the public hearing. "We hope you don't approve it.

"I think I prefer a house being there," she said, instead of the open space with a parking garage behind it. "I just don't want encroaching business ... We don't want this plan to go forward."

"Westport tries to limit commercial buildings to 10,000 square feet," said Westporter Connie Greenfield. "What benefit is it to the town in expanding it to 30,000 square feet? Does anyone on this commission think Westporters want a 30,000-square-foot building on the Post Road?"

"This application could be a bad precedent, I believe," she said. "What benefit to Westport are commercial incursions into residential zones?"