Though Westport developer Rob Haroun would like to break ground in the spring on a next to the Old Town Hall, zoning regulations may restrict several aspects of the development.
Mel Barr, of in Westport, outlined four areas of zoning regulations on the property his client would like modified.
- Loading space
- Cellar Space
- Terrace located in the front landscape area
Barr took issue with the way the parking regulations are stipulated for the property, located at 100 Post Road East. Regulations (29-11) demand existing parking remain, while also providing for additional parking to accommodate any new development. The proposed building only requires 23 parking spaces and Haroun has 25 spaces drawn up into his current plan, which meets the practical needs of the building, according to Barr. Nearly 60 parking spaces would have to be worked into the plan to fulfill the current parking requirement.
“It virtually eliminates the building value of this underutilized site,” Barr said. “It means I have to provide twice as much parking as I would ever need for a building of this size anywhere else in town.”
Zoning Board of Appeals Secretary Jaqueline Masumian suggested reducing the building size as a way to alleviate the parking shortage.
Barr continued by asking the board to waive the loading space regulation, noting the proposed cellar storage space would significantly reduce the amount of deliveries needed. Also, deliveries would come from the rear, by the Westport Police Department, Barr explained.
Parking requirements restrict the proposed cellar as well, Barr said. Westport retailers must provide parking for their basement based on square footage and not usage of the space, something Barr said “makes no sense.”
“The result of that regulation effectively discourages cellars in this town,” Barr said. "What you end up with is commercial businesses in Westport that store out of town and increase delivery traffic because of it.”
Barr mentioned Norwalk and Bridgeport as locations Westport retailers store their merchandise. He stressed that the cellar would be “out of sight, out of mind” and only used for inventory storage.
“On-site storage is important to the success of a new building in the twenty-first century -- particularly in the downtown area,” Barr said.
Masumian raised concern about enforcing how the cellar will be used if it is approved, noting she did not want to see a restaurant rent the space and end up seating people in the basement.
Finally, Barr asked the board for permission to construct a patio in the front landscape area. Besides outdoor eating, Barr said the terrace space could be used for storage and display.
“It’s a feature that belongs downtown when trying to encourage pedestrian street-scape activity,” Barr said, noting other patios downtown like the one at Oscar’s Deli. “The plaza, a front landscape feature, is in keeping with the pedestrian oriented, street-front character of a downtown area, which is precisely what we are dealing with here.”
Barr and Haroun agreed to compromise by reducing the cellar size of the proposal in order to comply with parking regulations. Zoning Board of Appeals Chair James Ezzes and Planning and Zoning Director Larry Bradley agreed to continue the proposal on Jan 10.