Town officials pushing for development of Baron’s South into a ‘senior campus’ said they are not opposed to selling parts of the land that might not be used.
“We tried to be as flexible as possible in this amendment to give us an opportunity.,” said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. “If there’s a piece of a parcel that can’t be used or won’t be used that might create some revenue for the town…we’re happy to sell off the piece of the property.”
The amendment was presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night and would pave the way for a proposed skilled nursing facility for 84 patients and 66 one- and two-bedroom rental units for seniors on the land near the Center for Senior Activities on Imperial Avenue.
In a with the commission in Nov. 2010, some commissioners urged Joseloff and his administration to craft a proposal that would allow the selling of property.
The amendment proposes a number of changes to regulations, and leaves open the possibility of selling a chunk of the land. The plan is to partner with a nonprofit company and have them maintain the facilities. A request for proposals has not been issued yet, but the land would likely be rented for a nominal fee.
A Home for Westporters?
A memo issued by Town Attorney Gail Kelly on Feb. 10 raised concerns that Westport residents would not be able to receive any preference to obtaining one of the rentals. In an interview, she clarified that there could be preferences as long as they did not violate the federal Fair Housing Act.
However, she also said that who lives in the rental units might be tied to federal or state money that might be used to fund the project. Government money, and also Medicare, could put restrictions on allowing solely Westporters to the senior campus.
In response to those possible hindrances, the commission asked the Planning and Zoning Department and the applicants to provide reports that would be analyzed by the town attorney.
Little is known about the finances behind the project, as no specific plans have moved beyond the conceptual stage.
At the onset of the meeting, the three Republican members of the Planning and Zoning Commission wanted to hire independent legal counsel aside from town attorneys, whom are appointed by Joseloff.
Commissioner Michael Krawiec said this is a conflict of interest in this case since the first selectman submitted this amendment.
“I am not unsympathetic to the idea that there are times when the commission may want to have independent counsel for a variety of reasons,” said Corwin, “but to adopt that position prior to the time the questions are understood or clarified gives a precedent where we almost would be obliged to do that every time an application comes to us that is an application from some town body.”
The motion to obtain independent legal counsel failed in a 3-4 vote split along party lines.
The hearing will continue on March 10. For a detailed history of the recent history of the Baron’s South property,.