The 192-unit multi-story affordable housing development proposed for Church St and Sherwood Place in downtown Greenwich was discussed at Tuesday’s P&Z meeting.
Under 8-30g, the state’s affordable housing statute, 30 percent, or 58 units, would be designated affordable out of 192.
The applicant’s attorney Chip Haslun was accompanied by Peter Cabrera of Eagle Ventures, which was founded in 2010 by Greenwich native James P. Cabrera. Consultants with Mr. Haslun included attorney Matt Ranelli, architect Stuart Johnson, traffic engineer Chuck Olivo, engineer Len D’Andrea and landscape architect Tom Carman.
About 70 members of the public attended via Zoom.
Because the proposed demolition of seven houses in the Historic Fourth Ward, a National Register Historic District, had been discussed at length in April, the commission asked for a focus on different issues.
And there were plenty.
Greenwich Sewer Dept Comments
A memo from Richard Feminella of Greenwich DPW’s sewer division said the town had consulted with CDM Smith and concluded that additional peak flow from the development would be significant.
“The data indicates that portions of the collection system downstream of this project currently flow nearly 70% full in some circumstances, and there is an area that sometimes does surcharge,” Feminella said in the memo.
Feminella said the sewershed already had capacity limitations, and with similar size projects, the Town has been requiring developers to do infiltration/inflow removal projects.
He said that for a sewershed with capacity limitations like the one at hand, a removal ratio of 6:1 (remove 6 gallons per day of Infiltration/Inflow for every 1 gallon of new flow proposed, based on average daily flows) would be required to offset the impact of the new development.
“Our consulting engineer’s estimate that this project has an anticipated average daily flow of 29,540 gpd, and the existing properties contribute approximately 5,132 gpd. These flows differ slightly from what the developer’s engineer included in their analysis,” the memo said. “The expected increase in average daily flow from this project is approximately 24,408 gpd. A removal ratio of 6:1 would require approximately 146,000 gpd of extraneous flow removal.”
Len D’Andrea, engineer for the applicant, was surprised by the request from Mr. Feminella.
“We don’t understand how they come up with this suggestion or request that we do something else for infiltration. Around our site there is no capacity problem,” D’Andrea said. “They are asking can this project do more for the town to reduce infiltration? We’re not sure how he arrived at this number which is sixfold relative to our contribution. We need to dig into that.”
Commissioner Nick Macri pushed back. “I’m reading this in a different way. He’s saying there is a significant increase over peak conditions and would require increased capacities for proposed flows. It’s not your development as it connects, and it’s not the plant processing. It’s everything in between.”
P&Z director Katie DeLuca explained further.
“They’re saying under wet weather conditions you are going to cause a problem. One of the things you can do is solve the number of things coming from up sewershed to create some space in the distribution line,” she said.
“Yes, they’re asking us to do more. This is something new,” D’Andrea said. “We want to sit down with them.”
“I want to ask about traffic,” said P&Z chair Margarita Alban. “It’s the thing I’m struggling with.”
Mr. Olivo said the applicant’s studies indicated there would be decreased trip generation compared to the current situation.
Ms Alban described that as counterintuitive.
“You have great infrastructure, meaning you’re less than a mile from a train station, and a great bus system, great shuttle system and great walkability throughout this area with sidewalks, etc,” Olivo said. “From a multi modal transportation system, you have it all.”
Olivo said that infrastructure would reduce the need for a single occupancy vehicles and went on to talk about a 20% reduction in residential trips.
“And you now have work from home,” he added. “It’s changed the nature of land use and development, particularly with residential development.”
“Are you suggesting, at least in part, that this community, a portion of which is used to and can afford to do as it pleases… now suddenly start walking more and taking public transportation?” asked commissioner Peter Lowe. “It seems to me that would be a leap of faith that belies reality.”
Ms DeLuca asked Mr. Olivo if he had studied the impacts on Church and Sherwood given they are narrow and are used as routes to Greenwich Hospital.
“But narrow streets are not necessarily a bad thing depending on how much traffic you have. Your guiding principles in the POCD talk about reducing road widths where you can. (Church and Sherwood) carry about 2,500 vehicles on a daily basis,” Olivo said. “These are low volume roadways. The Post Road carries about 20,000 a day, about 10 times much as these side streets.”
“To pull over and wait slows vehicles down. I know it’s frustrating, but that’s exactly what we want,” Olivo said. “When we talk about Church and Sherwood, what’s important to get right is that the volume associated with this project can be accommodated.”
Ma Alban suggested a separate meeting be scheduled to focus specifically on traffic.
Fire Dept Access
Stuart Johnson said the applicant had met with the Greenwich Fire Marshal, Rob Natale.
Mr. Macri noted there is not access for ladder trucks on the north side, adjacent to Sherwood Green condos. On the east there are utility lines that could be restrictive.
And, he said, “The south side has some restriction because of the covered carriage area. That seems of a concern to me.”
Mr. Johnson said Mr. Natale had seemed pleased the development would have access on three sides of the building.
“There is a seven story building across the way with less access than this proposed building,” Mr. Johnson said.
Commissioner Arnold Welles asked, “Have you checked with Greenwich Fire Dept if they could evacuate people from the roof in case of a major fire below?”
The rooftop is proposed to have an 8,000 sq ft amenity deck with a pickle ball court, fire pits, and a landscaped area.
Mr. Johnson said that had been discussed, and in that instance people would egress from stair towers.
He said the fire marshal did not classify the building as a “high rise,” which would require a different set of codes.
He said the 7th floor of the building is the highest level of the building that could be occupied, and it measured 74.5 feet tall, which is less than the 75 ft threshold that would qualify the building as a “high rise.”
Asked about code changes when a building is categorized as a high rise, Mr. Johnson said that would require additional pressurization and additional life safety and mechanical systems.
Johnson said at 74.5 ft tall, the building does comply with both building code and local codes.
“So you’re just 6 inches below 75 feet,” Macri said. “That’s a narrow margin.”
Putnam Court Easement
The issue of the easement to use Putnam Court was discussed. The Exchange for Women’s Work, a non-profit that owns 27 Sherwood and shares use of Putnam Court, has said deeds only give access to 1, 2, and 3 Putnam Court.
Haslun said residents of the 8-30g would have access from both Church and Sherwood, so traffic would be dispersed.
“It should not make for any more volume on (Putnam) Court,” he said.
“There’s a case from superior court in the 1950s when the court threw up their hands and said, ‘We don’t know who has rights,'” Haslun added. “We have easement rights and we intend to continue to use them.”
Mario Coppola, attorney for the neighbors commented on the topic of the easement for Putnam Court. He said he disagree with the applicant’s counsel. He cited a CT Supreme Court decision in 2001, Abbington Limited Partnership vs Heublein. “From what we see, I respectfully disagree with the applicant’s counsel and that it would not overburden the other parcel,” he said. “If the Women’s Exchange engage counsel, it’ll be clear that the applicant’s proposal would violate the easement that exists over that property.”
Ms Alban asked for a copy of that court decision.
Extra Fees for Amenities
The commission asked for more clear details on what amenities the applicant would charge tenants extra for.
“We are told there are certain amenities you can charge for, whether it is 8-30g or not, but we’ll make sure it’s approved by the State,” Haslun said.
“We have separately talked to the State on this issue. It’s excellent you’re seeking clarity on what amenities can be charged (for),” Alban said.
“We’re not trying to distinguish between one set of tenants and another,” Haslun said.
Removal of Trees
Haslun said he had met with the tree warden, Dr. Greg Kramer.
He said the applicant proposed to remove two town trees on Church Street. “They’re not great trees and they’re in the power lines….And two we have to remove because they’re on the loading dock, and, again, not great trees.”
The applicant proposes to plant 13 “better specimen” trees on their property along the streetscape on both Church and Sherwood.
The commission said based on past experience, they want to see the tree plan up front.
Ms DeLuca recalled that during review of a proposed development at 62 Mason Street, the tree removal plan wasn’t worked out until after approval from the commission.
“The practice is to deal with the tree issue before final approval from the commission,” she said. “It’s to your benefit.”
Storm Water Run Off
Mr. Coppola introduced licensed professional engineer Steve Trinkaus, who commented on the applicant’s drainage plan and volume of runoff.
He talked about discharge of pollutants into the town’s storm water system and downgrading of water ways.
“Without evidence that water is actually going to infiltrate on this site, you will have increased volumes being discharged to the Town of Greenwich system,” he said, adding that additional runoff into the municipal storm water system could harm the environment.
“Increased runoff volumes can cause stream channel erosion, which destroys the native habitat along streams. Increased pollutant loads – particularly metals and hydrocarbons – are toxic at very low levels to the benthic organisms that live in the bottom of native stream channels. So there is an environmental impact from both water quality and runoff volume.”
Ms Alban asked for Mr. Trinkaus’s recap in writing.
Trinkaus talked about discharge of pollutants and their negative effect on the environment. He said TSS pollutants go into the receiving municipal system and downgrade waterways. TSS is short for total suspended solids, which Trinkaus said were essentially fine silt and clay particles from organic debris being decomposed, including leaves and sand.
“With a site like this you’re not going to have nutrients, because you have very little green space around. But you’ll have metals and hydrocarbons from the movement of cars in and out of the site.”
Over time, he said metals and hydrocarbons bio-accumulate in the environment so the impact can become worse over time.
Commissioner Lowe asked if a shadow analysis to determine impact on neighboring buildings had been done. Mr. Haslun said that was in progress and would be ready for the next hearing.
During public comment, several neighbors complained about potential of loss of sunshine.
Stephen Stern, a psychiatrist who specializes in depression and anxiety said, “shadows and darkness increase depression.”
One of the speakers during public comment was Greenwich Communities (Housing Authority) chair, Sam Romeo, who described the 8-30g statute as the Cinderella Statute.
“The step sisters try to get their foot into that tiny glass slipper and make it fit at any cost,” Romeo said. “It’ll destroy the neighborhood and Fourth Ward.”
The item was left open.
Ms Alban said she would like to schedule a meeting specifically for the Church-Sherwood application and drill down on traffic data.
Beyond that, she said the application be on the June 21 P&Z meeting agenda.
Also from May 26 P&Z meeting:
April 11, 2022