This week’s Planning & Zoning 7-hour meeting featured another look at plans for a 48-unit residential development on Strickland Rd in an under-utilized town parking lot.
The proposal is still in the pre-application phase.
Since it came before P&Z previously, the applicant, Greenwich Communities (formerly the Housing Authority), revised the design in response to feedback that it was “inward facing” in a neighborhood characterized by houses with front porches.
The new design is broken up by varying facades of brick and clapboard, and many units feature porches. This was well received.
All 48 units would be affordable in perpetuity.
And now it has a name: Ferris Landing.
Architect Rudy Ridberg said patios and porches had been added, but were at the backs of the apartments; the main entrances remain inward facing.
He said building #4 had been pushed back 8-10 feet from Strickland Rd in response to feedback.
And, in response to concerns about adequate parking, they proposed to add two levels of parking north of building #3 where trees today form a buffer against I95. He said the goal was to have 1.5 parking spaces for each of the 48 units.
While the commissioners appreciated that all 48 units would move the town closer to the required goal of having 10% housing stock affordable, some challenges exist.
First, the property is in a flood zone. Commissioner Nick Macri noted that the back entrance to the lower level was in the FEMA flood zone AE, elevation 13.
Ms Alban said during recent flooding in Mill Pond, both Loughlin Ave and the top of Strickland flooded flooded. “The picnic tables at Mill Pond were ankle deep with water,” she said.
Mr. Macri talked about the balance of parking to the number of units.
“Maybe the balance and compromise is we have less parking and less building,” he said.
“Maybe, I dare say this, maybe this wasn’t a good idea in the first place…There’s no wiggle room, maybe the whole thing doesn’t work,” Macri said.
And second, building #2 is proposed would replace a wooded area, leaving minimal buffer with I95.
A challenge is that the commuter parking will need to remain and the applicant hopes to get an MI for a lease from the town.
The apartment buildings would be built above the parking lot, and an additional level of parking would be created under it.
At the end of the discussion the P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban said they appreciated the design being more “street friendly” and fitting in better with the neighborhood.
“Overall I’m hearing: try to get more green space and a willingness to reduce (residential) parking,” she said.
Anthony Johnson, the director of Greenwich Communities, voice rose in response to the feedback.
“I heard some comments that this wasn’t a good idea. Then vote it down! If you don’t think it’s a good idea, don’t do it. Tell the state you don’t want affordable housing and you don’t want to make it happen!”
“Mr. Johnson, let’s not go with that type of behavior,” Alban said. “I’ve been telling everyone to keep it calm. The ‘Go ahead and vote it down’ kind of thing, please, let’s not do that.”
Public Comment: Traffic and flooding
During pubic comment, Sean Meyer of Sachem Ln, previously of Butler Street, was concerned about increased traffic, given speeding commuters were already a problem. He noted the proposed site was on a sharp corner and there are no sidewalks.
Jenny Jones of Butler Street said she supported affordable housing but had concerns about flooding.
“That property floods with the super tide every single time,” Ms Jones said. “We have seen it flood three times this year, all the way up through Butler Street and the entire Loughlin Park.”
Blake Delaney said he was concerned about emergency vehicle access in flooding events.
“I am concerned about access to the site for fire trucks and health and safety services,” he said. “I’m a little surprised this site was even considered just for that fact itself.”
Susan Ferris a 35-year resident of Strickland Rd said both flooding and traffic were an issue.
“I’ve been a recipient of the flooding. Two weeks ago Strickland Rd was blocked off for five hours. Five hours I could not get back into my own home,” she said.
In response to the concerns about flooding Mr. Johnson said Greenwich Communities was familiar with the neighborhood and flooding as they own buildings adjacent to the parking lot.
“Our building – as long as we’ve owned it – has never flooded. The street has flooded. It can get bad there, but what better place to do flooding is to have a parking lot where the water runs through.”
“We can’t keep throwing money at this,” Mr. Johnson added, referring to multiple renderings and iterations that he said had already cost over $50,000.
While the commissioners spoke about loss of green space, Greenwich Communities board chair Sam Romeo said that with large developments like the one at Post Road Iron Works being proposed under 8-30g, in the bigger picture, “If you want to keep the green in Greenwich the way to do it is to work with us.”
Ms Alban reminded the applicant that the pre-application phase was for non-binding feedback.
“Don’t spend a lot of money. We’ll take any sketch. Any time you want to talk to us, you don’t have to have a set of fancy plans,” she said.