The owner of a commercially zoned .27-acre property at the corner of Valley Road and Scofield Street in Cos Cob, has filed a pre application to build a 3,000 sq ft single family house behind an existing 2146 sq ft house. It would replace a commercial greenhouse.
The existing house has two Section-8 apartments. There is also an attached dog grooming business. The existing house and dog groomer would remain.
The pre-application was presented to the P&Z commission on Jan 4, with John Tesei representing the applicant.
Attorney Tesei said the applicant was Bruce Wernert and that the Wernerts were empty-nesters who intended to live in the house.
There was discussion about affordability requirements and the applicant was willing to make one unit a moderate income unit. The commission noted that there was no issue with exceeding affordability requirements. Mr. Tesei said Mr. Wernert works through Greenwich Communities (housing authority) for Section-8 tenants.
Filing under the town’s 6-110 for moderate income “workforce” housing would require a 40 year deed restriction.
“Unless it encourages you to fix them up a little bit,” said P&Z chair Margarita Alban.
“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” Tesei said. “I’ll talk to Mr. Wernert about it.”
“It’s funny you’re doing one brand new building and everything is staying the same. Why not spiffy everything?” Alban asked.
“People can discuss their view of aesthetics,” Tesei said. “Economics play a role, and I think the community is served better with a single family home.”
“I think one of the things that most concerned me was that the new building is very contemporary, but the existing building isn’t being touched or remodeled,” said commissioner Nick Macri. “If there’s some thought about even doing something to it – bringing the whole corner together, that would be really great. Could it be painted? Anything to spruce it up?”
“It’s not within our authority to make you do that,” Alban said.
“There’s no explaining taste,” commissioner Peter Lowe said. “It’s not an area we have jurisdiction for.”
During public comment, Carmella Covello, an adjacent neighbor at 84 Valley Road with a single family house with a small cottage at the rear, said she was concerned about drainage and water coming onto her property.
Mr. Tesei said he believed the project qualified for a drainage exemption, and therefore they would not have to submit a full drainage plan.
“What we’ve been seeing people doing is making sure they address concerns such as Mrs. Covello’s that there be no impact on the adjoining properties,” Alban said.
“I think everybody owes that to their neighbor,” Tesei said.
“It has already caused a drainage problem over the years,” Covello said. “On my property.”
Alban noted the drainage engineer Tony D’Andrea was present at the meeting on Zoom, and would look at existing conditions when it is flooded and address them.
“And we will push back on it,” Alban added.
“Over the years the property hasn’t been maintained the way it should have,” Covello continued. “Trucks were not allowed, and they are there. There are vans there today. I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think Mr. Wernert has too much regard for people’s property value. It’s what he wants first, and not really regarding that it floods my property.”
Covello said the issue of commercial vehicles parking on the property had gone to court in 2003.
“None of his commercial vehicles are allowed on that property,” Covello said. “As a senior citizen I don’t feel that I have to police this on a daily basis.”
Alban said the commission would look at the court case.
Mr. Tesei said he was aware of the case. “It had to do with whether the property was a construction yard or not based on Mr. Wernert’s use. At the end of the day it is a commercial property. There is a greenhouse there.”
Attorney Frank Murphy representing Mrs. Covello, elaborated on her concerns, starting with drainage.
He said there was a downward pitch from 80 Valley to 84 Valley and that water accumulated at both 84 Valley and St. Lawrence Club.
“During the time that Mr. Wernert has owned 80 Valley Rd, (Mrs. Covello) has experienced increased drainage and flooding of her property, including into a catch basin toward the rear of her property. She has been required to create a situation where water has to be pumped from the catch basin after heavy rainstorms into the street.”
“We believe that a full drainage plan should be developed to divert water away from Mrs. Covello’s property , such as a berm barrier or catch basin of some type at 80 Valley Road.”
As for the issue with parking, he said, “As mentioned, Wernert Construction has its office at 76 Valley Road. Employees park on this property on a regular basis, and we believe the parking on this site should be limited to residents and patrons of the dog grooming retail use.”
Murphy said there had also been situations where construction equipment had been stored at the rear of 80 Valley.
“As of yesterday there was a vehicle trailer parked on the site and had been for quite some time. There is part of a mechanism with claws on the site, and other similar equipment from time to time,” he said. “We would ask that any storage or stockpiling of materials or contractors equipment or materials not be permitted on this site – that it be strictly a residential site.”
Murphy gave the history of the court case. He said in 2004 the town’s zoning enforcement officer issued a Cease & Desist order against Mr. Wernert for parking construction vehicles on the site, and that the Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the order of the ZEO. It was then appealed to CT Superior Court.
“In June 2005, the late Judge D’Andrea, who was familiar with zoning regulations, found that the parking of vehicles was a violation of your LBR-2 zone,” Murphy said.
Mr. Murphy said he would forward the court case to P&Z.
Ms Alban said the feedback was noted by the applicant’s attorney and drainage engineer.
“When this comes before us for an application, please stay in touch. Come back and give us commentary,” Alban said. “We’re aware of the issue and we’re hoping it will get handled.”
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