Letter to the Editor: Why did Greenwich Reform Synagogue Downsize Building from 20,000 sq ft to 12,000 sq ft?

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Image, courtesy John Timm

Much has been stated in various blogs, letters to the editor, newspaper columns, etc that the Greenwich Reform Synagogue (GRS) reduced the size of their synagogue at 92 Orchard St. from 20,000 sq. ft. to 12,000 sq. ft. in response to the concerns of the neighbors.

The question is, is it correct that the reduction in size was in response to the concerns of the neighbors.

GRS purchased 92 Orchard St. on Oct 2, 2012 sevens day later, Oct 9, 2012, GRS released a Request for Proposal (RFP) in which it states they have a membership of 150 families and are planning on a 20,000 sq. ft. building, parking for 100 cars, a sanctuary of 2,500 sq. ft. and a social hall of similar size that can be combined with the sanctuary. Other items are a chapel, ten classrooms for religious school and preschool, a board room, four offices, ample storage and plans for future expansion.

If one were to look at the property GRS has and try to apply the requirements of the RFP it looks like it does not fit, which appears to be the reason the size of the synagogue was reduced as well as the number of parking spaces.

The Greenwich Municipal Code 6-206 requires that property in a R-12 zone must have as a minimum green area of 55%. The size of 92 Orchard St. is 77,141 sq. ft. So the minimum green space requirement for their property is 42,428 sq. ft. The GRS Planning and Zoning application states they have a green area of 43,539 sq. ft. which is 56.4% of the property so they meet the 55% requirement. When you subtract the green area from the lot size they are left with approximately an area of only 33,602 sq. ft. for development. The 43,539 sq. ft. green area includes the wetland area of approximately 20,500 sq. ft.

The GRS plans submitted to the Planning and Zoning office for the 12,262 sq. ft. building and 47 parking spaces lists the square foot area required for the 47 parking spaces, driveways and walks of approximately 25,000 sq. ft. leaving only approximately 8,600 sq. ft. for the building. If they wanted parking for 100 cars would they need approximately 50,000 sq. ft. just for parking or if they wanted a 20,000 sq. ft. building with a 10,000 sq. ft. foot print with two stories they would only have approximately 23,602 sq. ft. for parking.

Does it look like the building was reduced from 20,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet in response to neighbors concerns or did they lack enough property to accommodate the requirements of the RFP. Is that why Greenwich Reform Synagogue made an unsolicited offer to purchase Tony and Barbara Lovallo’s property at 90 Orchard St. You can read the GRS offer and a letter from Frank Farricker at ccffrr.org.

Why parking for 100 cars? The Greenwich Municipal Code 6-158 defines the number of parking spaces versus seating in a place of worship as 1 parking space per 3 seats. Working back the RFP 100 parking spaces will yield a seating capacity in the social hall/sanctuary of 300 seats far more than the current plan of 141 seats.

One has to ask why 300 seats. If you go back to their previous synagogue at 257 Stanwich Rd. the social hall/sanctuary had a seating capacity of 266 seats expandable to 312 seats requiring 104 parking spaces.

They also had a 90 seat chapel which required an additional 30 parking spaces. This is from the Planning and Zoning Site Plan # 1527 of Feb. 25, 1992. To meet the 134 parking space requirement GRS had a shared parking agreement with St. Agnes to allow GRS to use the St. Agnes parking facility because they did not have enough parking on their 11.5 acre property.

Was the Request for Proposal requirements meant to approximately duplicate what GRS had at 257 Stanwich Rd. which would require a 20,000 sq. ft. building and parking for 100 cars.

John Timm
78 Orchard St.
Cos Cob, CT 06807

  • Carl

    The Greenwich Time has repeatedly printed information about the reduction in size of the Synagogue in a way that is misleading the public. Despite having been educated on the math involved with our zoning, a certain Greenwich Time reporter still prefers to perpetuate the myth of a 20,000 sq. ft. building being reduced to 12,000 to make it appear as if GRS is being conciliatory with regard to the sq. ft. footprint of the building. The truth of the matter is, @12,000 sq. ft is what is allowed on this lot, after taking into account the wetlands and required parking spaces. Thank you for clarifying this fact for the public, John.