River Road will soon be home to a new rowing club. On Tuesday night the Planning & Zoning commission approved “Phase 1” of the club’s birth in a vote of 5-0.
The new club will be heralded by port-o-potties and, for now, the old red Fjord Fisheries building will continue to sit empty.
Stripped of the row boat that once embellished its facade, the building is in disrepair and Mrs. Nancy Ramer asked whether it was safe to have children coming and going from the rowing club with the abandoned building in the midst.
As it turns out it, the decision will also mean a reprieve for Sandy’s Summer Stand, though the applicants were prepared to end permission for the seasonal fruit and veggie vendor if the commission requested it.
Bearing in mind the Planning & Zoning’s preference for water-related use of the property, Sandy could just as easily have been sent packing. But she will stay. For now.
With Fred Brooks having resigned last week from the commission, the voting members Tuesday night were Donald Heller, Richard Maitland, Margarita Alban, Peter Levy and Andy Fox.
Representing the applicants – Mianus Marine Inc and Fred & Miranda Peters – was attorney Thomas Heagney. He said his clients’ goal is to be able to establish the club before the fall using existing facilities.
Mr. Heagney said that earlier in the day on Tuesday the applicant had received a certificate of permission from the State of Connecticut DEEP to reconfigure the floating dock on the south side of the property and for a new access ramp.
Heagney said the rowing club runs other locations, including one in Westport on the Saugatuck River and another in Rye, NY. “They’re looking to provide the same services they’ve been providing in those communities,” Heagney said.
Existing Boat Slips and Parking Plan
In Phase 1, the parking lot will be striped for about 40 cars. There are 22 boat slips on the east side of the property, which Mr. Heagney said are in poor condition. He said the boat slips may be removed as they are not part of the rowing club plan.
“I can represent to you and make it a condition of approval that none of the 22 slips will be occupied, or used or rented out,” Mr. Heagney offered, when Mr. Maitland pointed out that each of the 22 boat slips requires 1.5 parking spots.
Phase 2 will include renovation of the building of offices and storage from when the property operated as a marina. Mr. Heagney said his clients are not sure whether in Phase 2 they would renovate and rehabilitate the buildings.
Phase 3 would be to construct a new building for offices and winter use.
Mr. Maitland pointed out that there is an existing approved plan on the books, and asked Mr. Heagney if his clients sought to void that plan, which featured rowing tanks. Mr. Heagney confirmed that plan is no longer desired, and offered to submit a letter to confirm his client would rescind that plan.
Dave Dickison, President of Row America with clubs in Rye and in Saugatuck Rowing in Westport, said the majority of the Greenwich club programs will be oriented for children and he hopes to start just after Labor Day.
Under Phase 1, the maximum club membership would be 25 adults and 50-75 juniors. With the image of 100 people lined up for port-o-potties, Mr. Dickison pointed out that club membership would be spread throughout the day. “The idea here is to immediately get to phase 2 in the fall,” Dickison said.
Sandy’s Summer Stand
“We realize it’s never been approved,” Mrs. Alban said of Sandy’s Summer Stand which has operated seasonally out of the parking lot for many years.
“It’s there. It’s a neighborhood institution,” Mrs. Alban continued. “I don’t know what’ll happen with the parking because people pull in and park there. We have to ask you. We recognize it’s not a water-dependent use, so I was hesitating.”
“Our intent was to leave it there as part of Phase 1, and make the determination as part of phase 2 as to whether it should go,” Mr. Heagney said, adding that the stand functions similarly to a food truck.
Mrs. Alban pointed out that Fjord Fisheries previously had a retail operation on the site, which might serve as a precedent for Sandy’s Summer Stand to stay.
Harbor Management Commission member Peter Quigley addressed the Planning & Zoning Commission to point out that ideally there would be better communication between the two commissions on applications such as the one for the rowing club. He said it was a pity to lose dock spaces, which are in short supply in town.
“We’re already losing a lot of docks,” Quigley said.
Mr. Heller said Mr. Quigley’s points were well taken.
Mrs. DeLuca said she’d spoken with Parks & Recreation director Joe Siciliano about the dredging schedule for the Mianus River area as it relates to the proposed rowing club. “He told me it is scheduled for October 2016,” Mrs. DeLuca said.