Crowd at Glenville Forum Vents about Byram River Dam, Flooding, Traffic, Urbanization

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo hosted a Glenville community forum Monday night at 6pm and the Glenville fire house was packed to the gills with over 100 people.

Residents lined the walls and sat on the floor when chairs ran out. Some went home and were able to participate via a Zoom link that had been released about 4pm.

Monday night’s questions and complaints focused on development pressures, the volume of traffic, speeding cars, pedestrian safety, flooding and contamination.

Fred Camillo hosted a community forum at the Glenville fire station on Aug 14, 2023 Screenshot via Zoom.

Dog Park, Sidewalks

Camillo said his proposed dog park for the top of the hill behind Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center was on hold given that neighborhood feedback was that there were more pressing neighborhood needs.

When someone noted the stone steps up from the Civic Center were in disrepair and the park was not currently ADA accessible, Camillo promised that if the dog park goes forward, it would be ADA compliant.

Joanna Horan said there was an urgent need for a sidewalk along Hawthorne Street North where children walk to the bus stop on Weaver Street.

“DPW has an unwritten rule that they try to get 75% of the neighbors to agree. The reason is everybody wants a sidewalk. And then, all of a sudden, when they start to do work, or once it’s approved, people come out of the woodwork and say I don’t want to shovel it and I don’t want to look at concrete,” Camillo said.

He noted that while an agreement fell apart for sidewalks on Indian Field Road where it would have cut into lawns and removed stone walls, sidewalks are being installed on Shore Road in Old Greenwich.

Camillo agreed to walk the the area with DPW traffic engineers and neighbors.

Stop & Shop closed permanently in Glenville in June 2023

Replacing Stop & Shop

As for the former Stop & Shop, Camillo said he had spoken to the owner’s attorney, who said they’d received feedback that the community did not want the property developed for residential units, desiring a new supermarket instead.

He noted the owner had an application pending at P&Z to have some of the residential portion of the property rezoned to commercial in order to add parking spots.

Asked what supermarkets were interested in the space, Camillo said he did not know.

“I heard a couple ones with vowels at the end of it,” he said.

He said he learned from the attorney that 3 of the 4 retail spaces in the former post office had been rented.

“The rumor is one’s a pizza place, one is an ice cream place and one is a local store…” (There is a sign in the window indicating Green & Tonic has rented a space.”

“Another thing they told me is that maybe, with a rezoning, they could get another restaurant in next to where a shopping market would be,” he added.

Glenville Corridor Project, Heavy Traffic and Speeding

As for the “Glenville Corridor” traffic project, which runs from the foot of Glen Ridge Rd by the former Stop & Shop, past the fire house, past the intersection with Pemberwick Rd and Glenville Pizza, and around the corner to Weaver Street, Camillo said that in 2021 the project had been paused to determine the fate of some mature trees. (see photo below).

After a public hearing, the Greenwich Tree Warden, Dr. Greg Kramer, issued a decision ruling that the trees could be cut down.

“We put it off for a year, then came back and then, what happened was pandemic prices tripled and quadrupled. So we waited again and applied for more state grant funding, which we just heard this week we received it.”

Trees proposed be removed along Glenville Road to make way for a DPW project to alleviate congestion and improve pedestrian and traffic improvements were posted for a hearing by the tree warden. Photo: Leslie Yager Sept 11, 2020

He said that project would go out to bid in the fall and begin in spring 2024.

Residents nevertheless complained about the sheer volume of traffic moving from the Merritt Parkway through Glenville as a shortcut to the hospital and downtown, and the impacts to adjacent streets including, for example Glen Ridge Rd and Shady Lane.

Camillo also lamented increased traffic throughout town, noting that while the population had not grown much in 50 years, the number of vehicles owned had increased significantly.

Asked about posting police at the intersection Pemberwick Rd and Glenville Rd at 8:45am and 3:00pm, Camillo said he’d bring it up to Deputy Chief Kraig Gray, but the town was 67 square miles in size and the police were stretched.

“Certainly if there is a need there, we’ll look into that,” he said.

Camillo said the state requires the parking spaces on the treacherous corner in front of the pizza parlor be removed as part of the project, but would be “pushed down a little” so as not to hurt the pizza business.

He said the project would feature “smart lights,” but in the interim he would look into deploying temporary electronic signs that flash the speed limit.

“What we’re hearing is traffic and speeding is a concern in Glenville,” he said, adding he would look into having the existing traffic study updated.

Someone requested creating a “don’t block the box” pattern at the end of Angelus Drive at Glenville Street.

“That’s a good idea,” Camillo said, adding he would look into that with DPW.

Greenwich AcademyRockefeller Property

As for Greenwich Academy’s purchase of the Rockefeller property on Glenville Road, he said he had met with the new head of school Margaret Hazlett and learned that only about 15 acres of the property can be developed.

“There’s some trails there, and I asked them if they would allow the public, when they’re done, to give us some trails there,” he said. “And if they did a sports facility, would they allow the town to be a partner with them. The answer was yes.”

“If it’s a field house, we could use one of those,” he said. “We’re going to get the rink done; we’ve made a lot of progress on that in the past two weeks, but we’d like to get a second rink. And in the summer that could be a field house.”

The only current application from Greenwich Academy before P&Z is a pre-application discussed on May 23 concerning traffic in the area of school’s 33-acre campus on North Maple Ave and their hope alleviate traffic through an aggressive busing program. Their attorney explained their goal is to alleviate traffic, with an eye to then seeking permission from P&Z to expand beyond their existing enrollment cap. Currently the school’s enrollment is capped at 730 students, plus or minus 2%. That cap was established 23 years ago.

With the addition of the 54-acre Indian Spring subdivision on Glenville Road they hope to consolidate academic classes on North Maple and move ancillary activities down Glenville Rd, moving students via shuttle bus.

Byram River Flooding, Dam, Contamination

As for flooding in the Byram River, Camillo said there was $37 million in funding coming from the federal government to widen the bridges on the Post Road at the intersection of CT and NY (by Carvel).

“The Byram River has been flooding for a century. In 1955 there were houses flowing down the river. This will not cure it,” he said, noting that the town will contribute to funding the project as well. “When you get 8 inches in 9 hours there’s nowhere for the water to go.”

“When you have flash floods, sometimes there’s nothing you can do,” he said.

A resident commented that the town Health Dept checks the water quality along the river. She said the total coliform bacteria in a June 19 water check was “massively high.”

Everything over 5,000 is considered risky and the water check indicated it was up to 71,000.

She asked what is the town was doing to identify the source of contaminants in the Byram River.

Camillo said he would reach out to Beth Evans, the town’s director of environmental affairs, asked the woman to give provide her name and number for him to follow up.

“This is not a one-time thing. It’s historical – there’s decades of it,” the resident said. “What if you step in it and have a cut on your foot?”

Development Pressures

Camillo said the development on the corner of Angelus Drive and Glenville Street fell under the purview of the Planning & Zoning commission.

“I go there and testify just like you. I don’t have any say there,” Camillo said, noting people have the right to develop their properties under the town’s zoning regulations which are adhered to by the hard working P&Z commission.

Similarly, Steve Schacter from The Mill, recently went before the P&Z commission to propose developing the lawn next to “the mansion” at 6 Glenville Street with 16 residential units.

Camillo said the state affordable housing statute 8-30g was another story.

He brought up Greenwich Woods’ application for an 8-30g on King Street.

The proposal is to change from a 217-bed skilled nursing facility to a 213-unit 8-30g apartment building.

“Not so happy about that,” he said. “To knock that down and do an 8-30g application, that’s what we don’t want.”

“That’s horrible. It’s anti-American. It’s not Democracy,” he said, adding that he would testify against that project.

To be fair, during P&Z hearings, there has not been a public outcry against Greenwich Woods project, which is on 16 acres and can’t be seen from the street.

Residents’ ire has been against large, underparked 8-30g’s in the area of Greenwich Avenue, 5 Brookridge and Church/Sherwood.

Camillo put in a plug for Greenwich Communities, (formerly the Housing Authority) and praised their renovations at Armstrong Court.

He noted Greenwich had 5.8% affordable housing. The state requirement is for every municipality to have at least 10%.

“We are trying really hard. We just want to do it in a Greenwich way,” he said. “We don’t want Hartford telling us what to do.”

On Pemberwick-Glenville Day in May 2015 Aldo Pascarella gave a tour of the historic commercial building and patio overlooking waterfall at Byram River. Photo: Leslie Yager

In Glenville, residents are united in opposition to the 8-30g at 200 Pemberwick Road at the corner of Comly Ave.

The last time P&Z discussed “Waterfall Hollow” was in January via Zoom with 160 attendees. At the time, the proposal had decreased from a proposed 386 units total down to 220 after discussions with the town’s affordable housing trust fund.

On Monday night residents asked about the status of that project and the adjacent dam just above the waterfall.

They wanted to know who owns the dam and shared concern that rock blasting could impact the integrity of the dam, potentially flooding residents along the Byram River further south.

Camillo said for years people had asked about inspections of the dam.

He said he called the state and learned it was the responsibility of the dam owner to inspect it every two years, but that there were hundreds of dams in the state to which no one claimed ownership.

“I said, there are warning signs there. If anything breaks we’re going to blame you – and you’re going to say it was the town. At the end of the day, somebody could get killed, we’d all look bad,” he recalled. “To their credit they started working with us.”

“The state does all the enforcement. The only thing I could have done was order an inspection, which I did. I also hired a title searcher to find out the owner.”

“We’re pretty sure we know who it is. We reached out to them,” Camillo continued. “We’re going to go after them to get reimbursed.”

Further he said, “DEEP told me that the feds are encouraging towns to get rid of these things. That is not a flood control dam. It was for power generation. It really doesn’t serve any purpose.”

He noted a concern about removing the dam was that sediment could be contaminated.

For many years the felt factory operated to the north and the river ran different colors depending on what color dye was being used in the felt-making process.

“You find out what’s in that sediment…and get the feds to help pay for it, it would be kind of nice to get rid of it,” Camillo said.

Asked explicitly who owned the dam, Camillo declined to say.

He said town attorneys were working on seeking reimbursement and that the owner would be required to inspect the dam every two years.

As for status of the development at 200 Pemberwick, Camillo said there were issues with the ownership of the site.

“When they had the forum last year, the owner of that property came with another person who was going to help with development of an 8-30g. We are against that. We do not want it,” he said.

Camillo noted the task force was studying future use of the Havemeyer building, “a $100 million building” at 290 Greenwich Ave, which is home to the Board of Education, and that the existing building at 200 Pemberwick was a potential new home for the BOE.

The existing building at 200 Pemberwick, once a bolt factory, was recently, briefly home to the Cedar School. In the 1980s, it was home to The Mead School.

Town property above the backstop in Pemberwick Park where a drainage pipe was blocked with about ten feet of debris. Sept 5, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Mike Hawreluk investigates the damage in the ballfield at Pemberwick Park after the post-Ida heavy rains. Sept 5, 2021

Pemberwick Park Trash Rack

Camillo recalled the devastating flooding in Pemberwick after Ida last year, where residents were inundated with water not only from the Byram River, but from gushing water coming down the hill through Pemberwick Park.

The First Selectman said town funds had been allocated to fix the trash rack behind Pemberwick Park’s home base, and in the next few weeks the town would start work on installing an additional pipe to take water down the hill, under Pemberwick Park, and out to the Byram River.

At the time of the Ida flooding, longtime resident of 2 Dale Drive, Stella Roberto, said her house was not in the flood zone and she was not required to have flood insurance. Nevertheless she was inundated with water. Mrs. Roberto said she had repeatedly warned that the trash rack was too small, was jammed with debris, and that DPW had not properly tended to it.

Westchester Airport

Camillo said there is no prohibition on flights from midnight to 6:00am. He said he was on contact with Westchester County Executive George Latimer about the topic and that when Westchester County tried to ban overnight flights, the FAA sued them and won.

“What they did was enact a gentleman’s agreement to try not to do these flights, and they were pretty much holding to it until these migrant flights started coming in,” Camillo said. “They were at the mercy of the federal government and the FAA.”

According to a June 2022 article in the New York Times, the so-called “ghost flights,” are government flights carrying undocumented children from the border to federally licensed shelters around the country.

According to the article, planes chartered by the Homeland Security Department transfer unaccompanied migrant children to licensed shelters, a practice that also occurred during the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.

The article said the flights also take place during daylight ours and have been a routine part of US immigration operations for decades.

Camillo said there were no plans to expand the airport and Mr. Latimer did not favor privatizing the airport.

Future Forum

Noting the large turnout, Camillo, who is running for re-election for a third term this November, offered to schedule a future forum at a bigger venue.

He offered to pick a date in late September after the Sept 24 Valley Jam, and work with local PTA’s to spread the word.