Seth Braunstein.
Representative Town Meeting member Seth Braunstein

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — The fourth and final Representative Town Meeting committee voted Tuesday to recommend the full body set the town’s new “inclusionary housing fee” at the rate suggested in December by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Ordinance Committee, during a brief meeting Wednesday night, unanimously endorsed the new 0.5 percent fee — $5 for every $1,000 spent on construction costs for zoning permits.

The night before, the Finance, Planning and Zoning, and Health and Human Services committees met jointly online and each voted unanimously to recommend the fee schedule.

The fee must be approved by the full RTM, which will take the matter up at its next meeting, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Town Hall auditorium. The meeting will also be broadcast on the town’s website, www.westportct.gov.

RTM members Seth Braunstein, District 6, and Matthew Mandell, District 1, sponsored the creation of the town’s affordable housing fund. It is expected to raise about $1 million a year for affordable housing creation.

If the fee is approved, it could kick in by Feb. 26, Mandell said Tuesday.

The money collected will go into the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which was established in October. The plan is enabled by state legislation. Several neighboring communities already have such funds. Fairfield collects the same as proposed by Westport’s P&Z. New Canaan’s fee is double that.

“As far as I’m concerned, this die is largely cast,” Braunstein told the Ordinance Committee on Wednesday.

“What we’re here to do tonight is to specifically look at the language in the Town Code Appendix C that relates specifically to this fee,” he said. “We’re not here to discuss the magnitude of the fee, that’s not really the purview of the Ordinance Committee tonight. It’s really just to accept the language as appropriate.”

There were just a few questions, one brought up from the night before by Kristin Schneeman, District 9, regarding whether not whatever committee was appointed by the first selectwoman’s office would have to meet in public.

Nicholas R. Bamonte of the Town Attorney’s Office said the committee would be considered a public agency under the Freedom of Information Act.

He said he couldn’t immediately answer a second question about whether elected officials could serve on it.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 35 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.