A new amendment could give the green light to Westport’s five design development districts in making a series of improvements, and possibly, be the answer to keeping the town’s largest employer and taxpayer - Bridgewater Associates.
“This regulation does no harm. I think it’s a smart thing to do and I think it’s a necessary thing to do,” said Larry Weisman, the presenter of the amendment.
The proposed text amendment was a hot topic during Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Meeting as it could allow for building, parking and environmental changes in the districts, as long as changes do not increase lot coverage or building coverage by 20 percent. Essentially, the amendment reverses a ruling of the 1980’s that prevented all alterations to existing buildings. Presently, those buildings could be more than thirty years old, which means they could lack the health and safety codes that have become standard today.
“These buildings are many cases substandard and in need of a repair,” said Weisman. “I can’t imagine what public good is furthered by freezing these sites in their public state.”
While the hearing centered on a text amendment, many could not help and connect the dots to a site plan for Bridgewater. The international multi-billion dollar hedge fund is currently headquartered on the Glendenning property on Weston Road, but recently has explored moving to Stamford.
Selectman Jim Marpe spoke positively on the amendment in regards to Bridgewater.
“I believe a positive action by this Planning and Zoning Commission related to this property would be well received by Bridgewater,” he said. “I believe they deserve to improve this property and that their intent is long-term occupancy of that property,” he added.
Right now, the buildings on the Glendenning site have no elevators or sprinkler systems. Also, Bridgewater has previously voiced that it would like to re-locate its parking lots from the flood zones of the Saugatuck River.
Many residents were supportive of the proposed amendment. But one question remained unanswered: How will this amendment impact the four other design development districts, like Nyala Farms Corporate Center and Gorham Island?
The Planning and Zoning Commission will continue to investigate the matter, and expects to bring an answer to that question in the coming meetings.