Details Emerge as Greenwich Communities Eyes Air Rights on Underused Commuter Lot in Cos Cob

Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting featured an agenda item described as a first read on a request from Greenwich Communities (the housing authority) for a referral for municipal improvement status for a development on Strickland Road.

They seek air rights from the town to build over an existing commuter parking lot that is under-utilized.

Representing the housing authority was its chair Sam Romeo.

Democratic Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan questioned whether the board would vote in two weeks at a second read. The meeting materials were posted 24 hours before the meeting and only included an aerial photo of the parking lot and two 3D renderings.

“We’re trying to promote affordable housing where people can live side by side,” Camillo replied. “And also, to get the state off our backs.”

“We can’t vote in two weeks because if we do, there will be a petition Tuesday morning and people will be playing politics with this,” he added.

Stone McGuigan asked if the presentation satisfied the requirement for a site plan. Mr. Romeo said it did not, and that it was only “a first step – an idea” and a site plan, drainage plan would be forthcoming.

Camillo said that it was called a “first read” on the agenda had led to some confusion.

Four buildings are proposed, with the fourth cutting into a heavily wooded area.

Building #2 would cut into the wooded area between the property an I95.

Mr. Romeo said Greenwich Communities was part of the solution to “save the character of town.”

He noted that unlike private developers who apply under 8-30g and affordability expires after 40 years, Greenwich Communities’ units all count as affordable and remain so in perpetuity.

He said the housing authority was also working on a proposal to redevelop Quarry Knoll, a six-acre property in central Greenwich.

Romeo said he intended to contact Governor Lamont and was confident he would be pleased with the idea.

Architect Rudy Ridberg said the buildings would not be perceived from the exterior as being on stilts, though the interior would be on stilts.

The basement parking would have punched openings to be open for light and ventilation.

The four buildings numbered #1-4 would be identical in scale and size. There would be a plaza level in the middle of the four buildings.

All the units would be for the town workforce. They would be two-bedroom apartments, about 1200 sq ft each, each with its own laundry and two bathrooms.

There would be six units per floor for a total of 12 units per building.

He said the commuter lot which has 105 spaces would remain, though it would lose a few spaces in order to be re-striped to meet town standards. Still there will be over 100 spaces.

He said units would not have patios, but rather have a Juliet balcony.

Renderings show the mass of the buildings. Siding is yet to be determined.

Engineer Tony D’Andrea said the interior area of the development would feature plantings and greenery, and that the site was ideal as it is elevated 10 ft from the lower area of Strickland.

“The site will have to be excavated down to create that lower level,” Ridberg said. “Drainage is not a problem. We do have close proximity to the outfall – all the water will be treated in accordance to the drainage manual. It’s very close to the sewage pump station, so that’s not a capacity problem.”

Peter Berg, chair of the RTM Land use committee, said the location of the development was ideal, walking distance for residents to shopping and public transportation. He said it work toward reducing traffic in town and that the MI would be consistent with the town’s POCD.

Tony Johnson, executive director of Greenwich Communities, said. “We’re not here for a fight or controversy. This is an idea we think has merit.”

Vice chair of Greenwich Communities board, Jim Boutelle, said the housing authority owns the property adjacent to the parking lot and that when they bought it, it had looked like it was “owned by the Beverly Hillbillies before they packed up the truck and moved to Beverly Hills.” Afterward, the units were so attractive that detractors turned into advocates.

He said after Armstrong Court was renovated, there were inquiries to realtors from people who assumed they were market rate condos.

He said the residents of the proposed workforce housing would be town employees, including school teachers and police officers.

Boutelle, who lives in district 2, which is in the neighborhood of the proposed development, said nevertheless he anticipated pushback from newer Cos Cob families who paid high prices for their homes.

“My neighborhood is moving in the wrong direction,” Boutelle said.

“I bought my home 10 years ago for about $720,000. Two houses closer to this project is 40 Butler Street. Developers – flippers bought that house for about $1million about three years ago and it just sold for $2.2 million.” (Per the Assessor’s office, 40 Butler Street sold from Jose Morocho to Katherine La Fuentes on Sept 1, 2023 for $2,025,000)

He added that longtime neighbors directly across the street from him thought they were selling their house to a family who “wanted to come in and develop their dream home, but it turned out to be another set of flippers.”

“I have had to restrain my wife  from calling the town on the amount of trucks parked on our street, the fact that those builders are working until 8:00pm at night and working on Sundays. So, a lot of building going on in our neighborhood. You’re going to have, probably the new homeowners of 40 Butler Street going, ‘Oh my God I just paid $2million and I didn’t know this was coming.’ There will be some negative reaction.”

Boutelle had the last word, saying he was not a NIMBY but a YIMBY.

“I’m a homeowner, where I could be looking at a $720K house that’s nicer than 40 (Butler), that just sold for $2.2, and I would rightly say be saying, ‘Wait, I don’t want this because I would lose money.’ No, I want the neighborhood to reflect what Greenwich should be.”

See also:

Greenwich Communities Seeks Air Rights MI for 48-Unit Strickland Rd Development
Sept 27, 2023

Also from Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting:

Flag policy for Greenwich passes in split vote after contentious exchange
Sept 28, 2023