Architect's rendering of new 23 Soundview Drive.
Architect’s rendering of new 23 Soundview Drive.

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday approved a plan to replace 23 Soundview Drive with a new house overlooking Compo Beach.

The existing house, parts of which date to 1909, will be replaced by a larger structure, but with a slightly smaller footprint.

The project at the corner of Soundview Drive and Danbury Avenue needed Coastal Area Management site plan approval from the ZBA as well as variances for coverage and setbacks.

ZBA members on Tuesday appeared to appreciate consideration afforded to neighbors, even if it meant a more difficult bureaucratic process for the applicant.

An earlier application had been denied by the board. The new application for the house was submitted by Peter Romano of LandTech. The house is owned by Lola’s Beach Shack LLC. Architectural plans from Tanner White Architects are titled “New Single Family Home Hirani Residence.”

Curt Lowenstein of LandTech presented the application to the ZBA on Tuesday.

23 Soundview Drive. / Town of Westport photo.
23 Soundview Drive / Town of Westport photo

The applicant could have avoided seeking the setback variance by shifting the new structure on the property, but that would have obstructed a beach view for neighbors, according to correspondence and comments at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Our letter is in strong support of Hirani’s request for 23 Soundview to rebuild [in place] and not be forced to move the location of the new home to the center of their double waterfront lot because it will forever take away — even the tiniest of water view from MANY, many, many of the surrounding neighbors …,” Betsy Kahn wrote to the board.

She attached a sunrise photo from her property, the view of which would be lost if the new house were built in line with regulations.

A view of sunrise at Compo. / Betsy Kahn
A view of sunrise at Compo. / Photo, Betsy Kahn

“I think the house is absolutely beautiful, it’s a beautiful design,” said Chairman Jim Ezzes.

“These people would have made their lives significantly easier had they pushed it back on the lot,” he said. “I think they were sensitive to the neighbors … and they are reducing the setback coverage and the building coverage,” he said.

“I respectfully disagree,” said member Josh Newman. “I think that there’s a lot that could be done to use the space in a different way that would adhere to completely or a lot closer to the regulations. I’m on that side of it.”

“I think it’s a good plan,” said member Liz Wong.

“I’m in support of the application,” said member Michelle Hopson. “I appreciate Mr. Constantini’s explanation of how it would negatively affect the property value of the neighbor.

She was referring to Rick Constantini of FLB Law, who is representing the owners of 7 Danbury Ave., a trust.

“Obviously, while preserving water views is not grounds for granting a variance, I think in this case I think it’s a point that the ZBA should be considering,” Constantini said during the public hearing.  

Constantini said his clients had an appraisal done assuming the beach view is preserved, and another done without that view.

“The reduction in value was $450,000,” he said.

Constantini noted it’s rare to see an application in the neighborhood where all the correspondence was supportive.

“The reason for this support is that the variance makes sense for both the applicant and the neighborhood. And that’s a rare occurrence.”

Newly sworn-in board member Joe Scordato said he thought the applicants had been sensitive to the neighbors and the location, as well as the character of the neighborhood.

“They’ve really tried to keep it the way it is, even though it is a new house,” he said. “So, I’m in favor.”

All voted in favor of the variances, except for Newman. The vote on the Coastal Area Management compliance was unanimous.

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.