A by the First Selectman [Gordon Joseloff] to the Planning and Zoning Commission that the town contribute Baron’s South for senior housing and a skilled nursing facility. Supposedly, this will meet an existing need and allow our seniors to remain in town. This is a very valuable piece of land that has existed until now as open space. If designated for the proposed use, it would be removed in its entirety from both open space and the town’s tax rolls. But will Westport and its seniors be getting the value they’ve been repeatedly promised and deserve?
The P&Z has already enabled the use of this land for such a project. Before the P&Z this Thursday, Feb. 17, is the next step, text Amendment #625. This which would amend our regulations to permit such construction on town-owned land. However, a central and critical question remains unaddressed: Can we guarantee that Westport seniors get first priority to whatever is built on this land? If we are preparing to sacrifice a valuable and irreplaceable piece of land, the town and its seniors should have such a guaranty in place, in advance.
If, and only if, we can make such a guarantee, should we continue along with this process. That means that this Thursday the Planning and Zoning Commission needs to find a way to stipulate, in the revision to its rules, that Westport’s seniors must get first priority in any facility built on the town’s land. This may not be possible, given the January 28 memo from the Town Attorney’s office to the P&Z Department, and the subsequent recommendations in the Staff Report (pp. 6-7) noting legal concerns about doing so. And yet, this priority is integral to the promise given our seniors, and all of us, as the reason for the proposed change of use for this unique and irreplaceable land.
Why should our seniors find themselves at the end of a waiting line, with no priority, when the land we will all have sacrificed is Westport’s own? If the town can not safeguard this promise, the concept needs to be seriously reconsidered. To do otherwise would be nothing less than a giveaway of this land. Would that be in the interest of our seniors or anyone else in our town?