The night did not start off well for applicants seeking to construct a 60-unit apartment building at 143 Sound Beach Ave.
The proposed 60-unit apartment building in the Local Business Retail (LBR) zone, and 30% of the units would be marketed as affordable under CT General Statute 8-30g.
Representing the applicant were attorney Chip Haslun of Johnson, Haslun & Hogeman, architect Rich Granoff, engineer Tony D’Andrea, traffic expert Michael O’Rourke of Adler Consulting and owner’s representative, Joseph Cosenza of Ivy Realty.
Since converting the application from 6-110 to an 8-30g, Haslun said he was surprised and perplexed by the about face from Greenwich Fire Dept.
He said the footprint hadn’t changed and the proposed building was only four feet taller since the original application.
“It was very surprising to get that letter from the Chief on Friday,” Haslun said. “We’ll try to find out why there is 180 degree reversal from the Fire Dept.”
Also, Haslun said he had yet to meet with Richard Feminella of the town’s Sewer Division, but had finally scheduled “a historic meeting” with him on Friday.
Haslun began to list what progress had been made since the last meeting.
“We addressed comments of Conservation, DPW, and added a new landscape plan…” he said, but P&Z chair Richard Maitland interrupted ask about parking.
Haslun abandoned his previous argument that millennials don’t drive. Instead he said there was parking in the village and that 2 of the building’s 47 parking spaces are reserved for Zip Cars, which in practice, he said replace 15 cars each.
“How are you going to allocate the parking in the building when you don’t have enough parking spaces to have one per unit?” Maitland asked, adding that 8-30g apartment must be equal in all respects to market rate apartments, including allotment of parking spots.
Haslun said he’d spoken to Mike Santora at CT’s Dept of Housing and was advised he must provide an equal proportion between market rate apartments and affordable ones.
“There are 121 new parking spaces added to the lot at Old Greenwich train station,” Haslun continued, to a chorus of groans and gasps. Mr. Maitland asked the audience to be quiet and wait for their chance to speak.
Haslun said the train station parking spots would be available to people in the evenings if they commute to work and need to park when they come home.
“There are other spots in the public lots and in the area in the evening,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of specificity there,” Maitland said. “You keep saying, ‘There could be spaces.'”
P&Z director Katie DeLuca said if the applicant expected tenants to use the Old Greenwich train station lot, they’d need to provide a letter outlining an agreement with Metro-North.
Haslun said cited data from Transportation Association of Greenwich (TAG) who provide 100,000 rides a year to people who don’t have cars or don’t drive.
“They’re mostly elderly or disabled, but a huge amount of people,” Haslun said. “TAG provides 280 trips a day. We’re hoping to have a lot of those people interested in this apartment complex.
Still, Maitland insisted on something more comprehensive. “You’re well under the parking requirements for the town, even with 8-30, I think one space per unit would be a minimum. I don’t see how you’re going to do it.”
DeLuca and the commissioners urged the applicant to research proposals approved for similar developments in Stamford and Norwalk.
“I’m sure planning staffs would be happy to share that,” Ms. Alban said.
Michael O’Rourke, the applicant’s traffic expert, said they’d conducted another traffic study in August at the behest of P&Z, to factor in beach traffic to their analysis. He said they found the traffic to be lower than their April 29 study.
As for the request for accident analysis, O’Rourke said Greenwich Police provided figures. He said there were no fatalities and that most of the accidents were rear-end accidents.
“Which is typical in an urban collector such as Sound Beach Avenue,” O’Rourke said. “The cause was following too closely. That’s typical of an urban collector street.”
As for pedestrian access, he said sidewalk improvements have been made and access via new stairs to both sides of the platform that were part of the Metro-North project.
As for “trip generation,” Maitland said the applicant’s anticipated number of trips off the site surprised him.
“You have more trips occurring mid day and evening than either the morning or Saturdays,” Maitland said.
“That’s the nature of an apartment building,” O’Rourke replied. “What you normally see in single family houses, is it (trip generation) is more in the mornings. With apartments, in the evening and the afternoon you have people arriving or leaving for dinner or a social event.”
“It could be that the numbers are just not correct,” Maitland suggested.
“We’ll check those numbers,” O’Rourke promised.
Commissioner Nick Macri asked whether it had been factored into the trip generation on an under parked site, “people might arrive seeking to find parking on site and not find it and have to leave again.”
“The trip generation analysis is based on the number of units,” O’Rourke replied. “That is something that would have to be resolved.”
“Something needs to be massaged a bit,” Maitland said. “To me it’s a bit confusing.”
Haslun explained why the applicant postponed their scheduled appearance before the Architectural Review Committee for October 4.
“No matter what you decide, there will probably be an appeal to court, and then we can defer the ARC,” he said.
During public comment the neighbors’ traffic expert, David Spear of DLS Traffic Engineering LLC, questioned Adler’s traffic counts showing higher traffic in April than beach season.
“I’ve seen their counts, but it goes against common sense as far as what you’d expect from a recreational beach route,” he said. “You’d not expect the peak to be in April.”
Spear said his firm has conducted studies in areas with beach traffic and found it 20-30% higher than off season.
Spear had a long list of issues with Adler Consulting. He said the site line from the proposed driveway was deficient, and that the turning path for people making a right turn to the apartment building will cross over the driveway apron of the neighboring property.
Also he said the building should be designed with fire lane access from all four sides, which it isn’t.
He said while Mr. Haslun had his eyes on the 121 additional parking spots at Old Greenwich train station, he should instead have been factoring in the extra traffic those spots will create. That, plus the expansion of the train platform would result in both more pedestrian activity and more traffic.
With an eye to the entrance to the train station lot, Spear said, “We notice the drivers ignore the flashing light, which he noted is in a temporary location during construction. “My discussion with the DOT project manager indicated he did not expect pedestrians would suddenly run up and down the stairs.”
“The path of least resistance will be to go across Sound Beach Ave and through the parking lot to the train platform,” he continued. “I believe Adler needs to really take a look at the train station.”
Spear said he was also concerned for safety of pedestrians in the parking lot at 143 Sound Beach Ave because there would be backing up and turning around by residents who can’t find parking and leave to search off site.
He said that even if there were assigned parking, visitors and guests would be searching for parking.
He said at The Gables, a similar multi residential site in walking distance to the train station, with 168 units and a shared parking agreement with a local business, demand is 1.5 spaces per unit.
“Even with availability of trains, they are using far more than one space per unit. …I’ve been doing traffic studies for years. That’s the minimum we’d ever consider. Under one (parking space per unit) is not realistic,” Spear said.
As for pedestrian safety, he said that the shortage of on site parking and necessity for off site parking would mean more people would have to cross Sound Beach Avenue.
He said he had observed traffic on Sound Beach queue up northward and seen pedestrians cross through queues of traffic. “If the pedestrian is waved through, it doesn’t mean it’s really safe.”
Spear said a lot of towns require 3 parking spaces per unit to accommodate resident and visitors, including towns in Fairfield County.
“Greenwich is more affluent than your typical town in Connecticut,” he warned. “The car ownership and parking demand would be as high or higher than you would expect in other towns.”
Katie DeLuca asked Mr. Spear, if he knew any other towns in Connecticut that would use the ratio being proposed for this development?
“No,” he replied.
James Fulton, an attorney hired by Potter Drive neighbor Adam Tooter, said the fire department was right that installing sprinklers did not negate the need for access from four sides by fire fighters to rescue people from balconies or windows.
Moreover, he said it is a mistake to give so much significance to the 8-30g statute.
Fulton said the law doesn’t specify that if less than 10% of dwelling units in a town are affordable that a town cannot reject an application. “All it says is that the affordable housing appeals procedure is available,” he said.
Fulton said that in Glastonbury, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the town council who denied an affordable housing application because the need for open space, conservation and recreational use outweighed the need for affordable housing where only 6% met the criteria to avoid the special appeals process.
“This application doesn’t need a massage,” Fulton said. “It needs a meat cleaver.”
Former Director of P&Z Diane Fox, now with the Greenwich Preservation Trust, questioned the way affordable housing units are calculated.
Fox said 256 housing units are provided to staff by Greenwich Hospital, 4 private clubs and 5 private schools.
Further she said there are 143 accessory apartments in Greenwich with rents at or below $1,500 a month, which qualifies as affordable, plus 32 moderate housing units. In total, she said that number is twice what the state says Greenwich has.
Fox said new units at Hill House are not represented in the state’s tally. Nor are the 11 new units at Adams Gardens, both of which are now occupied.
“We’re up to 8.3 % affordable,” Fox said. “I suggest our actual amount of affordable housing is larger than the 4.91%.”
She said Greenwich is getting closer to the 10% the state requires.
Mr. Tooter said Mr. Haslun had been careless when he previously suggested residents could park in the Kings lot, or fire fighters residing at 143 Sound Beach Ave could leave their cars at the fire house.
Tooter said he’d spoken, to Assistant Fire Chief Kick, who said off duty firemen and women are not allowed to park at the fire house.
He said he also spoke to a manager at Kings Market, who said staff were asked to park behind CVS, despite signs saying parking is only for customers.
“We know a lack of parking is dangerous, yet Ivy Capital chooses to ignore it and make more money,” Tooter said.
Tooter said he didn’t have to look far for evidence of the town’s concerns for safety. He counted 441 signs of safety. Also, he said a petition against the development has 2,000 signatures and 100 letters had been sent.
Tooter also read statements from State Reps Fred Camillo (R-151) and Mike Bocchino (R-150) opposing the development.
Daren Schneider, a parent of four children in Old Greenwich, said the under parked building would force overflow cars and visitors onto non-metered streets.
“Old Greenwich is one of the last towns that has no parking meters,” he said.
Charlene Burns, who lives on Highview, agreed. “These businesses have trouble staying in businesses at it is.”
Also, Burns said, “I was surprised to hear the area described as urban,” she said referring to Mr. O’Rourke’s description of Sound Beach Ave as an urban collector. “Tonight I almost hit a deer on Sound Beach Ave, and I almost got rear ended.”
Coline Jenkins who represents Old Greenwich on the RTM said, “One of the voices missing are merchants. I haven’t heard a merchant speak. They’re dependent on parking on Sound Beach Ave. It is free parking.”
Jenkins who said she rents affordable housing in central Greenwich, questioned the applicant’s focus on units, rather than number of tenants.
“You may think a studio is for one person, but very shortly if the tenant gives the key to another person, you have another occupant,” she said. “So half of the studios have two tenants. With a two-bedroom apartment, you can have two adult children in the second bedroom and potentially four cars.”
Diane Dutcher, a real estate agent with offices in Old Greenwich village said her lot has 13 spaces for 26 employees and is generally not full. However, she said, “During drop and off and pick up (at Old Greenwich School) there is double parking going on, and the lot is full.
Also, Dutcher asked what would happen to all the people who have been on a waiting list for parking at the train station if the 121 additional spaces there are given to tenants of 143 Sound Beach Ave.
After remarks from a dozen people of the 100 who attended the hearing, Mr. Maitland said the application would be kept open, meaning no decision taken, and that the applicant would return on Nov. 9, the date the application has to be wrapped up.
Nov 9 is a Thursday. (Most P&Z meetings are on Tuesdays).
Unanimous Vote by P&Z on Sheephill Development Stuns Crowd (September 25, 2017)
Email news tips to Greenwich Free Press editor Leslie.Yager@GreenwichFreePress.com
Like us on Facebook
Subscribe to the daily Greenwich Free Press newsletter.