Can’t afford to buy or rent in Westbrook? The town’s Affordable Housing Plan is designed to make a run at changing that. Currently, Westbrook has a lot of single-family and mobile homes, but few multiple-family homes, which are more likely to be available for rental. The town plan recommends a few things to address that:
In conjunction with this plan, DesegregateCT is working to provide more equitable and affordable housing statewide. This year, a proposed bill (House Bill 5429) is focused on transit-oriented housing support. It is targeting ~40 towns, Westbrook being one of them. Read their "one pager" giving points of emphasis.
“Affordable” is still pricey. For Westbrook, it means spending 30% or less of family income if a family earns less than 80% of the local median. For one person, 80% of the median would be $57,456 in income and for a family of three, the cutoff is $73,872. For these income thresholds, the maximum rent for a two-bedroom unit would be $1,329. That is not cheap, but local Democrats believe it is a step in the right direction. The town is aging and becoming less wealthy.
On Monday, April 11, the Town Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the plan. All are welcome to voice their concerns. The hearing will be at 7 pm at Mulvey Municipal Center, 866 Boston Post Road, in the Multi-Media Room, and all residents are welcome to attend and voice their opinions.
Other Town News
Cannabis in Westbrook?
Westbrook’s Zoning Commission took a "wait and see” approach to cannabis back in August, since no one had filed an application for a dispensary or grow facility. At the February Zoning meeting, the commission was informally
approached by individuals who were looking to apply for a “Mini Grow” license to open a facility between 5,000 and 7,000 sq ft in Westbrook (This license limits the facility to 10,000 sq ft) and possibly opening a retail dispensary at a later date.
Since the Planning, Zoning and Development Coordinator Eric Knapp left, Tyche Planning and Policy Group has been contracted to provide Planning a Zoning assistance to the town. Mike D’Amato (ZEO) will bring additional information and examples of regulations based on other municipalities to the March Zoning meeting for commission review.
Many people throughout the pandemic and lockdown thought “I wish there were more drive-throughs in Westbrook.” The Zoning Commission has changed the regulations to now allow drive-throughs, by approval of the Zoning Commission, in the Commercial Town Center District (CTC) and the Neighborhood Commercial District (NCD) in addition to the Turnpike Interchange Commercial District (TIC).
Town septic systemThe town has yet to act on applying for federal funding to support a town septic system. You can voice your support by writing a letter to the editor of Zip06.
SidewalksThe town has appropriated funding for a sidewalk from the Valley Shore YMCA down to Rte 153, but Democrats want to make sure we protect our investment and have adequate funds in the maintenance budget for repairs.
Pistol PermitsNow you can apply for a pistol permit online. (But you still cannot vote online!).
SchoolsThe Westbrook Board of Education passed the budget for the school district unanimously, with a 1.34% increase over last year. The budget will now be reviewed by the Board of Finance.
The school mask mandate was removed on the last day of February. Each district will now have its own options.
UkraineNow that Russia has invaded Europe’s largest nation, Ukraine, and is bombing maternity hospitals and fleeing children, the national Republican Party has still failed to come to terms with its vociferous support for Vladimir Putin and opposition to Ukraine. Members on the far right are still supporting Russia, while the party mainstream has quietly moved to Ukraine’s side.
Tucker Carlson on Fox News said viewers should ask themselves: “Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?” His coverage has been so successful in supporting Putin’s position that Russian government memos sent to pro-Putin media outlets said that "it is essential" they feature Tucker Carlson in their coverage.
U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) (who apologized to voters for allowing the 2020 election to occur) called Ukraine President Zelensky a “thug” and said the Ukrainian government has been “pushing woke ideologies.”
“I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another,” said Republican Senate candidate from Ohio, J.D. Vance.
It is worth remembering that Donald Trump was impeached for conditioning military aid to Ukraine on support in the 2020 election. The GOP has now voted to extend that aid to Ukraine.
It would be as if Joe Biden had chaired the Osama Bin Laden Friendship Society – and no one mentioned it after 9/11.
Local Republicans have failed to denounce the national party’s disgraceful support for Putin.
The Westbrook Democratic Town Committee in April plans a sign-waving event during which we will show our support for Ukrainians. If you support this event, please send an email to WDTC@westbrookdemocrats.org.
The Biden Boom
The economy has added a record 6.6 million jobs under Biden. Unemployment is down to 3.8%, and much of the credit goes to the American Rescue Plan. Which Republicans supported it? None.
Mask politicsClinton hired a temporary police officer to cope with one father’s threat to disrupt a basketball game on February 12. The previous week, Shawn Patrick Lessard became belligerent when asked to wear a mask during his daughter’s basketball game or leave the gym After creating a commotion with repeated refusals to mask, he was placed under arrest but threatened to return the following week without a mask.
State Senator Norm Needleman
Deputy President Pro Tempore
Representing Westbrook and 11 other towns in the 33rd District
For More Information:
Sign up for Norm’s informative newsletter: http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/needleman-enews
Please support construction of a town septic system! This is our chance to put Westbrook on the map as a premier Connecticut destination!
On January 12, the town’s Board of Finance met to discuss how to use just over $2 million in funds the town will receive from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA). Democrats believe the town center should get $2 million in order to build a public septic system.
Right now, the Town Center cannot accommodate any new coffee shops, ice cream parlors, or restaurants, because there is no capacity for legally required septic. Restaurants bring foot traffic, and foot traffic brings tax revenue.
Compare Westbrook’s town center to neighboring towns:
Westbrook Town Center
Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News
Madison Town Center
Photo by New York Times
Essex Town Center
Photo: Essex Station Luxury Rentals
Why the difference? Management. Essex and Madison are managed by activist Democrats. Westbrook for almost two decades has had a sleepy, do-nothing Republican town government.
The Republicans claim to have kept taxes low. That is not true. Yes the Mil rate can be misleading, due to the timing of the re-evaluations, but you can find the equalized Mil rates here on ctdata.org. Looking at the most recent data you’ll see that Westbrook’s property taxes are higher, with an equalized Mill rate of 17.01, than those of either Old Saybrook – which has an equalized Mill rate of 13.6 - or Essex, with an equalized Mill rate of 14.77.
At the Ethan's Landing development, for example, which is half in Westbrook and half in Old Saybrook, the same unit in Westbrook paid $1,700 more in taxes in 2020 than one across the driveway in Old Saybrook.
In total, Westbrook will receive around $2 million in ARPA funds this year and could also receive a $3 million grant for a septic system. We believe that the town leadership must commit to AT LEAST $1 MILLION IN 2022 ON A SEPTIC SYSTEM.
Proposals for using money from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) were discussed at a January 12 joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and Board of Finance (BOF). They agreed to include the following ARPA funds in the Town Budget:
1. Fire Department Water Tank $150,000
2. Police Department $261,000
3. Conservation Commission $50,000
4. Town Hall Ventilation – no amount defined
The town voted on these proposals at a Town Meeting on Wednesday February 2nd.
Next up, the town is considering the following appropriations from the ARPA Grant Fund:
1. Westbrook Youth and Family Services: $25,100
2. Shoreline Soup Kitchen: for the purchase of a refrigerated truck. $10,000
3. Social Services Dept: to assist low-income and elderly residents. $25,000
4. Senior Center: to address mental, physical and cognitive needs of elderly residents. $30,900
5. Town Hall Technology: $10,000
The BOS and BOF will continue to discuss additional proposals when they receive additional information.
6. River COG Regional Funding $200,000
Costs are being finalized. This will include digitization of records and reporting and auditing of the ARPA funds. Additional information will be needed to compare costs of these services through ARPA vs in-house.
7. Westbrook Ambulance $985,000
The Westbrook Ambulance Association has requested ARPA funds for various public safety items including paid staff, CPR device, facility upgrades, gear and a new ambulance. The Ambulance is not a town agency and will be forwarded a copy of the “grant application” for outside agencies. When returned, the BOS will consider their request for ARPA funds. The BOS briefly discussed the possibility of the Ambulance becoming a Town Agency. Research will be done as to how to move forward with this service.
First Selectman John Hall said he talked to the First Selectwoman of Durham and discussed their recent contract with Middlesex Hospital to provide ambulance services. John hall said “they got an unbelievable deal” on ambulance services.
The most important part:
The WDTC believes that the most important proposal before the town is whether and how to fund a new septic system. Democrats and Republicans agree that a Town Center Septic System is the key to Westbrook’s ability to realize its collective vision for a vibrant economy and a destination that will welcome all who live in, work in, and visit Westbrook.
We believe the town should move forward THIS YEAR on a new septic system.
Town Center Community Septic System $2,000,000
The Planning Commission with Democratic Chair Marylin Ozols (D) has applied for a grant that could cover over $3 million of the proposed community septic system for the Town Center. When BOF member Chris Ehlert (D) asked if it was the consensus of the members of both boards to fund the Town Center Septic System all agreed that it was an important project that the Town should move forward on. John Hall said, “I would like to leave at least a million dollars of the ARPA funds for this project” and “we have to do something, it’s what people want and have been asking for."
If the grant is approved, the Town will have to put up $1,000,000 to receive the funds.
The question remains, if the Town doesn’t receive the grant, will the Republican board members find another way to fund this project.
The proposal to allocate money for the system will be voted on at a future town meeting, date yet to be set.
In the meantime, here is what residents can do:
In the 2021 budget, Westbrook allocated about $1 mln to replace the roof and heating/cooling system at Town Hall. Solar panels will be a consideration in the project. The Town Hall roof has been leaking on and off for years, thousands of dollars have gone into repairing it, another example of republicans kicking the can down the road and underfunding capital projects.
Republican maneuvering: In an unfortunately typical partisan fashion, Republican BOE members voted out Democratic Board of Education Chair Zack Hayden, a teacher, who had led the board in a non-partisan way for 1.5 very difficult years. During that time, the board undertook a superintendent search, multiple administrator searches, coped with ever-changing Covid protocols, and engaged in difficult budget discussions, among other things.
As Westbrook's school district deals with the pressures of declining enrollment, expectations for excellence from its families, and the complexities presented by educating during a pandemic, what could possibly be gained by bringing petty partisan politics into Westbrook's Board of Education?
Covid tests for free: The town distributed a few rapid Covid tests but far fewer than originally promised and with little public information. Now, everyone can order four free tests per household from the federal government here.
The Westbrook Democratic Town Committee, aka WDTC, held its biennial caucus on January 11th to elect new members to the committee.
The WDTC members are:
Note: There are still open slots, available to any registered Democrat in Westbrook. Please email email@example.com if you are interested, or submit a comment on our website, https://www.westbrookdems.org .
In 2021, government salaries were increased by 2.8% across the board…except for Mike Jenkins, the former Fire Chief, who got a 1.4% raise as a Public Works employee. That’s because Jenkins was dismissed as fire chief in late August because of repeatedly posting vitriolic comments on his Facebook page about then-candidates Joe Biden (whom he called a “retard”) and Kamala Harris (a “whore”). That was a breach of contract. Westbrook public employees sign a contract agreeing not to use hate speech in their public statements.
State Senator Norm Needleman urges you to get vaccinated. Check whether you’re eligible and make an appointment here.
State Rep Christine Goupil wants everyone to know that there’s a 15% boost to the SNAP program coming along. That’s a food-relief program. Subscribe to her newsletter here.
Democrats were asleep at the stick for 40 years and allowed the Tea Party to remake local government. Westbrook is a microcosm of this erosion of community. The lack of vision or willingness to invest in infrastructure like water treatment and sidewalks has made us into a drive-by town between destinations like Madison and Old Saybrook.
The same thing is happening now, as radical GOP activists take over school boards.
We have a historic opportunity to turn the tide. Westbrook is turning blue, and voters are beginning to mobilize. Westbrook has been majority Republican since 2005. In 2020, Westbrook went for Biden. In 2000 there was over 400 more Republicans than Democrats in Westbrook. As of October 2021, the gap is only 63 voters.
We have an opportunity to enact deep, structural change to make America a fairer place. Please join a meeting and see where you would like to pitch in. firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday, February 12 at 7 pm, the WDTC will host another of its wildly successful, semi-annual Trivia Nights. Teams have ten minutes to consult privately over each set of 10 questions on scout’s honor not to check Google. Some practice questions (don’t cheat by looking at answers below):
1. What was Rudi Giuliani’s campaign song when he ran in the Republican primary for president in 2004?
2. Who was murdered along with OJ Simpson’s estranged wife, Nicole?
3. Who won the World Series in 1965?
Note: the real questions are much more fun than these.
The top three teams will win prizes! Play in teams of 2-6 players. Teams larger than 6 are welcome to play but will not be eligible for 1st place. Need teammates? No worries- just show up, and we will help you find a welcoming and friendly team.
The game will be played online via Zoom. Meeting ID and passcode will be provided upon receipt of payment.
Suggested donation for tickets is $20 per person
To purchase tickets please or mail your check to:
WDTC at P.O. BOX 417,
Westbrook, CT 06498
Or go to this link:
Questions? Contact Kate at 860-395-7964
The WDTC will be convening a quarterly meeting of just 30 minutes to inform Westbrook voters about what’s happening in town. Watch this space for the Winter 2022 date.
Answer 1: “Rudi Can’t Fail” by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones
Answer 2: Ronald Goldman
Answer 3: Los Angeles Dodgers