A controversial 86-unit development proposed for the corner of Brookridge Drive and East Putnam Avenue returns before the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday.
The application is being submitted under the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g, and 26 of the units will be Affordable per the state, which defines maximum incomes to qualify and maximum rents that can be charged.
The applicant plans to demolish a circa 1900 single family home and redevelop the property with a 5-story, 112,350 square ft of gross floor area building.
There are 185 parking spaces proposed including: 18 surface parking spots, 6 standard spots, 98 covered parking spaces in the basement, of which 13 are tandem, and 63 garaged spaces on the ground floor.
The two existing curb cuts (Putnam Ave and Brookridge) will require widening to accommodate larger vehicles.
The development’s outdoor amenities include private picnic areas under shade trees, a resident pool with outdoor lounging decks, a small dog park, a multi-purpose sports court, a children’s playground, and family picnic area.
On January 14, 2022, there was a public hearing on a request from the applicant to have the town cut down a Norway Maple on the town’s right of way. The tree warden denied the request, noting first P&Z would need to consider the site’s overall development. The applicant intends to re-apply to the Tree Warden after the Commission’s review of its preliminary site plan application.
Health Dept Comments
Per the file, the applicant wrote to the Health Dept asking them to confirm that the site could not support a septic system for 86 units, to which the Health Department responded:
• Article 16 Sec 269a(d)(2) of the Greenwich Town Charter states “That the Director of Health has determined that on-site sewerage disposal cannot be provided.” Based on the information outlined above, a septic system can be provided on this lot for a system sized for the existing flow/bedroom count with or without variances to the code.
• To approve an increase in design flow or bedroom count over what is existing (5-bedroom residence), a plan for a code compliant septic system for this increase, including a reserve area, would need to be approved either by this office or the State of CT Department of Public Health depending on the total design flow of the project.
Comments from the Fire Marshal include that from the east side of the property, access is not available for either Fire Dept apparatus access or personnel. And from the west, access is via Brookridge Drive, but there is no direct driveway entrance for this side of the building.
Also, there is an open terrace on the second floor with a pool. “This area does not appear to have any access to grade from the East side of the structure. This lack of access to/ from grade can hinder emergency personnel from immediately accessing the second floor terrace area during a fire or medical emergency.”
Comments from the town’s traffic consultant, Beta Group Inc, noted that the parking supply proposed is less than Town regulations require. In addition to pedestrian and bicycle improvements, they suggest other strategies be considered including rent reduction (or increase) based on the number of parking permits assigned to a lease (or unbundling of parking permits from lease agreements), offering discounted transit passes.”
Also, per the traffic consultant: “There are a greater number of crashes in the study area than were presented in the Traffic Study and Narrative.” There have been several crashes at the intersection of E Putnam Ave and Brookridge Dr, more crashes on E Putnam along the site frontage and beyond, a few crashes along Brookridge Dr, and additional crashes along Fairfield Rd.
The town’s traffic consultant pointed out that the applicant’s traffic analysis “did not apparently include the two signalized intersections to the east and west of this intersection (E Putnam Ave at Hillside Rd to the West and E Putnam Ave at Indian Field Rd to the East).”
“Including these signalized intersections in the analysis will also provide information on queuing during peak periods that has been raised as a concern by the Commission and neighboring residents.”
Comments from DPW Engineering say CT Dept of Transportation would have to approve the removal of the trees on East Putnam Avenue for the proposed driveway and sidewalk from the property.
Comments from Conservation Dept note there is a proposed increase of impervious surface of over 212%.
“The lack of proper filtration mechanisms for the storm water will directly impact its quality. The high density of the development will significantly increase the potential for storm water contamination.”
“The sand filter is the only mechanism offered for the storm water renovation. Sand has a very law cation exchange capacity (CEC); therefore, its ability to absorb pollution is minimal for the water born contaminants such as PFAS, fertilizers, pesticides, lead, E. coli, Salmonella, etc. These untreated water will be discharged directly into the private pond located across from East Putnam Avenue.”
Further Conservation comment: “This development relies on the existing street drainage, not on the storm water storage and treatment within the property boundaries. This approach will put an unnecessary constraint on the town’s drainage system making this development of a high impact on the existing community resources. While the Town strives to build resiliency to protect the community and the natural resources against the climate change impacts, this type of development is not only unacceptable, but it works against these efforts.”
Conservation said the proposed site development would result in impervious surface covering 1.29 (75%) out of 1.7 acre of the area leaving only 0.43 acre (25%) available for storm water infiltration. Their report added that the impact on the storm water quality and quantity of this large percentage of impervious cover will have several consequences reaching beyond the property boundaries and affecting downstream area of the Greenwich Creek Watershed.
Further, Conservation said the impacts to downstream properties were not theoretical.
“The waterbodies downstream have sustained impacts from sedimentation generated upstream, the bridge was seriously damaged with flooding from tropical storm Ida, and the pollutants that generated from polluted runoff are well documented in the downstream freshwater environments and Long Island Sound.”
Public Written comments
As of Monday, public comments, which are part of the record, were all in opposition to the development, including one from Berrin Snyder saying, “I worry about flooding now that the trees are clear-cut(and less green to soak up the traffic air pollution), 183 more cars – no one wants to ride the bus, impact on emergency services burden, and sewage capacity. The financial burden for all this falls on residents, if there even are solutions.”
“For all this cost and sacrifice, we can add 26 affordable units?” Snyder asked. “Citing proximity to public transportation is a joke. The buses often run empty for a reason.”
The application has come before the commission before. In January many residents testified in opposition, citing concerns ranging from the traffic at the intersection of Indian Field and East Putnam, to drainage and sewer capacity.
According to P&Z staff, “There are several outstanding issues that require additional material and review by Town Departments, primarily dealing with traffic safety, sewers, fire, and how the affordable units are structured.”
The staff report also noted, the commission had received numerous of comments from the public, with the clear majority expressing concern about the density of the development and how that will impact what is described as an already taxed intersection with several conflict points, particularly given the pedestrian activity from Pathways and the High School.
There are several outstanding issues that require additional material and review by Town departments, primarily dealing with traffic safety, sewers, fire, and how the affordable units are structured.
Of primary concern is that the site does not provide a viable sewerage disposal system in that the parcel is not within the sewer boundary.
The proposal does not comply with local zoning, but since it is submitted as an 8-30g affordable housing development – of the 86 residential units, 26 will qualify as Affordable housing units – the commission may only consider whether the proposal “protects substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters which the Commission may legally consider.”
On Sunday night a Zoom event hosted by 169 Strong was on the topic of recent proposed zoning legislation backed by Desegregate CT. The event was moderated by Alexis Harrison of Fairfield P&Z, and included Greenwich First Seletman Fred Camillo, State Senator Tony Hwang, Kathryn Braun from Fairfield P&Z, and Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell.
Camillo talked about flooding and the risks of increasing impervious surfaces.
“We just had a 500-year flood in September,” he said, adding that Greenwich’s infrastructure was dated and old. “When it was built 80, 90, 100 years ago it wasn’t really meant for what it has now.”
He noted Greenwich had 59,000 residents in 1969. Today it has 63,500 residents. “That’s 4500 new residents. That’s not a lot.”
He noted that, per 8-30g, 5,000 units would have to be added in order to satisfy the requirement of 8-30g and achieve a 10% “affordable” housing stock.
Several people commented during the Zoom session that opposition to new zoning bills, which are backed by Desegregate CT, is largely bi-partisan.
In an interview on WICC AM radio ‘s Melissa in the Morning show, Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, had praised Greenwich’s efforts to increase affordable housing.
“It sounds like you don’t agree then with the General Assembly’s bills, which would be to dramatically change zoning laws, requiring towns to build out with more units, basically letting developers make the calls on what those projects would look like without hearing the towns input on it. It sounds like you’re not really for that?” the host asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” Lamont replied. “What I like is the towns doing the right thing, doing it themselves, they take the lead, they know their community, and it’s important they do it and that’s what I believe.”
March 29 P&Z meeting
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 4:00pm and the Brookridge proposal is second on the agenda.
Residents will be allowed to raise their hands and testify in support or opposition to the proposal.
On Monday morning Desegregate CT emailed its distribution urging people to testify in support of the development.
“I need your help in convincing the planning and zoning commission that allowing more inclusive housing is beneficial for Greenwich. As of now, only 5.3% of Greenwich housing is considered affordable. This development would be an important step in the right direction,” wrote Emily DiSalvo, an organizer with Desegregate CT Monday morning.
She added a link to tips on commenting in support of affordable housing and rebutting “myths.”
To join Tuesday’s P&Z meeting remotely, use the information below:
Please use the link below to view, listen, and/or participate in this meeting:
You may listen, and/or participate in this meeting by calling the following:
By Telephone: (646) 518-9805
(877) 853-5257 (Toll Free)
(888) 475-4499 (Toll Free)
(833) 548-0276 (Toll Free)
(833) 548-0282 (Toll Free)
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Jan 15, 2022
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