Letter to the editor submitted by Margot Mabie, Old Greenwich, June 1, 2018
To the Editor:
Many of us in Old Greenwich heaved a sigh of relief when, on May 14, the Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a proposed municipal improvement for the stretch of Sound Beach Avenue between Arch Street and Wesskum Wood Road.
Arising from the poor condition of the Cider Mill Brook bridge on the east side of Binney Park, the proposed MI grew dizzily to include raising Sound Beach Avenue by three feet and building a monstrous roundabout in front of the Perrot Library 100 feet in diameter.
Opposition by residents of Old Greenwich was broad and strong: the design was much too large for the terrain; little information was offered about flooding that could result from raising the road; the enormous roundabout might give rise to faster traffic, making it harder for pedestrians to get to Binney Park and the Perrot; and the design did considerable aesthetic damage to the handsome Perrot by putting it below road level and eating into the land in front of it by as much as 8 feet. P&Z rejected the proposal, but the vote was scarily close.
The Cider Mill Brook bridge needs to be repaired, and an enlarged roundabout that doesn’t invade land in front of the Perrot would be a welcome improvement.
Instead of raising the road, I’m hoping the town will go back to its own 2012 study that advised installing railroad culverts to address flooding of the road, then design a bridge and roundabout suited to this stretch of road and appropriate for a village—a beautiful historic village at that. Further, I’m hoping that the Department of Public Works periodically updates townspeople during the design process.
This issue was of particular concern to us in Old Greenwich, but it should be of concern to everyone in Greenwich because it was the result of process gone awry. According to the town’s Charter, “no action, other than the making of studies or surveys,” is to be taken on a proposal until P&Z or the Representative Town Meeting has granted it status as a municipal improvement. In this case, the town had already spent $350,000 on site planning, with another $250,000 encumbered, before the proposed MI was rejected by P&Z. In the rush to start design work, thinking about alternatives and complications, as well as the views of townspeople, was given short shrift.
Process gone awry can have a high cost. It can waste time and money, and it can exacerbate conflict. That was certainly the case here. We would do well to return to the process as outlined in the Charter.