To the editor:

I am writing to comment on and endorse particular candidates for Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Six individuals are on the Tuesday, Nov. 7, ballot, and our town’s ballot policy is that voters can vote for up to four names. The four people who win will join a commission that has seven elected members and three alternate members. The elected members — “commissioners” — serve a four year term.

I endorse Michael Calise and Joe Strickland.

My point of view is heavily influenced by one particular vote made by Westport’s P&Z last December. At that time, the P&Z voted and approved a “Text Amendment” to change the zoning standards in Westport’s Saugatuck District to allow more, bigger, taller and  denser development between I-95 and the train station. A zoning change was needed, and I am in favor of development in that area.

 However, while the issue had many dimensions, the commission went too far. They decided to “up-zone” the area 800 percent. That was and is too much. It allows for future developers to create building and density — and traffic — that would forever change that district in Westport. 

It was the largest and potentially most consequential zoning change in Westport’s recent history. A 400 or 500 percent increase would still be a big change, and would have been more reasonable, wise and expected.

For the best outcome for our town, I’d like to help make sure that future P&Z Commission members make wise and reasonable decisions. Here are two people who I think will help achieve that goal.

Michael Calise

Like me, Michael is a Westport native and Staples High School graduate. I have gotten to know him better in the last few years. His qualifications include:

  • Eight years on Westport’s town council, the RTM.
  • Ten years as member, and four years as chairman, of Westport’s Architectural Review Board.
  • He is a real estate professional, and the owner of Settlers & Traders Real Estate Co.

And while it’s not on his bio, I know his knowledge of zoning codes and the practical interplay between zoning, architecture, construction and real estate economics is extremely strong.

Joe Strickland

Joe’s qualifications include:

  • Joe has been an active member of our community for almost 40 years.
  • He is a registered architect.
  • Joe is currently the appointed chairman of two town boards, the Public Site and Building Commission and the Blight Board.
  • He served on the Building Committee of the Westport Library’s renovations.

And in addition, two architects I very much respect, Joe Vallone and Howard Lathrop, speak highly of Joe.

For these reasons, I endorse Michael Calise and Joe Strickland for Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Rick Smilow