Cabin 1 in Longshore Club Park may be demolished under several options under consideration in the Longshore Club Park Capital Improvement Plan. The current tenant asked to switch to a different cabin in the park because of the cabin’s uncertain future, without the new lease going to the usual lottery. / Photo by Gretchen Webster

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — Two cabins in Longshore Club Park and a small artist studio on Compo Road South were discussed Wednesday by the Board of Selectwomen as they acted on two agenda items that touched on the issue of affordable housing. Both agenda items involved town-owned properties, requiring action by the selectwomen.

Cabin swap OK’d for Longshore tenant

At Longshore, Philip Restieri, a town employee currently renting Cabin 1 near the Inn at Longshore, sought approval to move into vacant Cabin 9. The request involved waiving the lottery system usually used to select tenants for the park’s cabins, because the future of Cabin 1 is uncertain.

Cabin 1 might be demolished to make way for pickleball courts, platform tennis courts and parking in several scenarios outlined in the Longshore Club Park Capital Improvement Plan currently in the early stages of development.

“The tenant is not feeling secure about staying there,” Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug said.

“The reason we’re doing this is because of the uncertainty — it would give this tenant the security of knowing what is happening,” Jennifer Fava, the town’s parks and recreation director, told the selectwomen.

 The plan for capital improvements to Longshore Club Park, currently under development, lays out two options that would require demolishing Cabin 1 to build either pickleball or platform tennis courts.

The unsettled plans for the cabin’s future may involve its demolition, allow it to stand for several years or resume renting it indefinitely, Fava said. But officials do not want to lease the cabin until the Longshore plans are adopted, she said.

Selectwoman Candice Savin said she agreed that Restieri should be allowed to switch to vacant Cabin 9, but that Cabin 1 should be made available for tenants soon. “I’m sure there’s a demand and it would be revenue for the town,” she said.

“We’ll definitely be doing that,” First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker responded. “We’re not going to leave the property open. We have no desire to leave a piece of property empty … It’s just a matter of knowing the timing.”

According to Flug, Cabin 1 was leased to Restieri for $1,400 per month, and Cabin 9 will be leased to him for $1,475 monthly.

The board approved a one-year lease for Restieri to rent Cabin 9 as well as a one-time waiver of the usual lottery requirement. The Board of Finance still has to sign off on terms of the lease, which is on that panel’s Dec. 7 agenda.

Flug said the town currently owns three cabins in Longshore Club Park — Cabins 1, 9 and 10 — and that Cabins 2-8 no longer exist. Town employees are given first chance to rent the three cabins through a lottery. If no employees are interested, an open cabin could be rented to a tenant from the general public.

Encroachment rules waived for accessory dwelling unit

The selectwomen on Wednesday also approved a waiver that will allow a small free-standing building at the corner of 162 Compo Road South and Ivanhoe Lane to encroach into the town’s right-of-way by one and a half feet on two sides.

Requests for waivers of the town’s regulations prohibiting encroachment on public property, including rights-of-way, are routinely denied by the board at the request of the Department of Public Works. Town engineers traditionally recommend such requests be denied because encroachments can interfere with road maintenance and improvements, as well as utility or sewer projects.

But the selectwomen and Keith Wilberg, a town engineer, agreed Wednesday this time the encroachment waiver should be approved because the right-of-way being encroached on is small and steep, and is not be useful to the town.

Glenn Major, a lawyer representing property owner CLH Compo, LLC, said the small building, which was an artist’s studio for the previous owner, would be used as an accessory unit for rental. The main dwelling on the property is being demolished.

Encouraging small free-standing rentals is a goal of the accessory dwelling unit regulation approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in April 2021 to help increase the inventory of affordable housing.

“While it is normally the policy of our department to discourage any encroachments, there are no adverse engineering requirements; it is steep in this area,” Wilberg said. “There’s no downside to the town approving this.”

Flug reminded the board that approving the encroachment waiver would require the property owner to sign an easement with the town and to buy insurance to cover liability within the relevant area.

The selectwomen then voted unanimously to grant the waiver.

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and currently teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.