Gobbling up Greenwich: Brunswick Has Big Plans for Justus Sackett House c 1776

Neighbors on central Greenwich’s Patterson Avenue received letters in July from the headmaster of Brunswick School, Thomas W. Philip, explaining his school’s proposal to purchase the historic Justus Sackett House at 45 Patterson Avenue from current owners Tom and Nancy Ireland.

The letter said Brunswick wants to convert the single family home into three apartments for teachers.

The house is not zoned multi-family – it is in the single family R-20 zone – and neighbors aren’t permitted to turn their homes into multiple apartments. But Justus Sackett house is adjacent to the school’s upper school campus, and Brunswick could potentially extend the school use to 45 Patterson Ave, and in the process become tax exempt.

The catch may be that that Brunswick wants to offer lifetime use of the four bedroom cottage in a former carriage house at the rear of the property  to the current owners of the property, Tom and Nancy Ireland, who, obviously, are not school teachers.

Most of Greenwich’s private school campuses are in single family residential zones. The proposal is for an extension of that “special exception” institutional use to this property where neighboring residences are single family homes.

Country Day has housing for its staff in the RA-1, which is on the east side of Fairfield Road. Also, some of the country clubs, another special exception use, have dorm like buildings for their employees.

Brunswick’s proposal includes the exterior preservation of the historic Justus Sackett house, which the Brunswick headmaster promised. This is a major plus, considering the steady march of demolitions in central Greenwich of historic homes.

The Federal style house, plaqued “Justus Sackett House, circa 1779,” was, according to the Greenwich Historical Society, originally located facing Maple at the curved beginnings of  North Street. Back then there was no Patterson Avenue – only part of the Sackett Farm which stretched backward toward the area of Perryridge.

Justus Sackett purchased the house from Nehemiah Mead, Jr.

In 1905 the house was moved to 45 Patterson Ave.

The house has a charming port cochere, with a notable combination of both square and round columns. Before being moved, the house had a pitched roof.

When William H Sackett, who had inherited the house, sold it to James Dominick in 1851, the new owner, enlarged the house by changing the the old pitched roof into a flat roof, with a comfortable third floor where the attic had been.  At the time, Maher Ave existed, but was a private road.

Back in September 2016, the Zoning Board of Appeals gave the Irelands variances for rear and side yard setbacks to build an addition to the carriage house and construct a new detached garage. At the time, the board found that there was “hardship” due to the location of the existing cottage, which was constructed prior to zoning.

In his letter to neighbors, Headmaster Thomas Philip wrote of the school’s wish to expand housing opportunities for teachers and staff.

“Our hope is to provide several faculty apartments on the second and third floors of the existing building, and we plan to leave the ground floor largely unchanged so that it might be used as a communal area and entertaining space for the residents as well as for small gatherings of the school community,” he wrote.

Mr. Philip promised neighbors that neither the exterior of Sackett House, nor the FAR will change. The FAR will remain within the allowed 11,157 sq ft.

Other than a new driveway to the carriage house that will be created off Maher Ave, Mr. Philip said there would be no additional paving as the teachers who live in the apartments will use the existing driveway or park on the adjacent Brunswick campus.

“We greatly value and respect our relationship with our neighbors and felt it was important to be fully transparent with you as these plans are present to the Town of Greenwich,” Philip wrote to neighbors.

On July 12, the Zoning Board of Appeals declined to rule on the application noting that neighbors hadn’t had a chance to become familiar with the proposal.

If the permission is granted for the conversion of the Sackett House to three apartments, and Brunswick buys the property, the school, like its all-girl neighbor Greenwich Academy, would count 45 Patterson Ave among an expansive list of property holdings.

Private school facilities are largely exempt from paying local property taxes.

In addition to Brunswick’s plan to purchase 43 acres from Paul Tudor Jones on King Street, which will result in a loss to the town of $345,121.24 in property taxes, the taxes on 45 Patterson Ave are $27,119.70 according to the Tax Collector’s office.

A search at the assessor’s office reveals that, combined, Brunswick and Greenwich Academy own about 30 properties in Greenwich.

Most, but not all of them are in the area of Northfield Street, which is located in the R6 zone, as well as Maher Ave and Patterson Ave.

In addition to the upper school at 95-100 Maher Ave, and lower school at 1251 King st, Brunswick owns:

  • 91 River Road (WB zone)
  • 9 Riversville Road – Units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (R-C7 zone)
  • 36 Northfield Street unit 3 (R-6)
  • 53 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 57 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 71 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 75 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 79 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 81 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 63 Patterson Ave (R20 single family)
  • 25 Patterson Ave (R-20-HO)
  • 23, unit 35 Sherwood Place (CGB zone)
  • 66 Sherwood Place (R-6 zone)
  • 88 Sherwood Place (R-6 zone)

In addition to its main campus at 200 North Maple, Greenwich Academy owns:

  • 1 Maher Ave (R-20)
  • 26 Division Street  (R-6)
  • 16 Ridgeview Ave (RA-1)
  • 35 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 43 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 45 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 48 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 60 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 64 Northfield Street (R-6)
  • 82 Northfield Street, A and B (R-6)
  • 11 Armonk Street – an apartment building in Byram, located off North Water Street (LBR-2 zone)

During one of his Ask the Selectman radio show on WGCH in August, First Selectman Peter Tesei acknowledged that the sale of Paul Tudor Jones campus to Brunswick would result in upward of about $350,000 (the actual amount is $345.121.24) coming off the property tax roles.

“On the other hand,” he said, “We have a really treasured institution here in town …It has a long history, and when you think about the families who are sending their boys to that school or to Greenwich because the school is located here, it actually serves as a calling card for Greenwich.”

Tesei said the school’s presence helps with local home sales and local commerce.

Also, he said, “Those people will become contributors to the community.”

Brunswick’s application for 45 Patterson Ave  is not currently listed on any agenda at town hall.

However, the Sept 7 Planning & Zoning agenda does include an application from Brunswick to convert office and residential units at the former Paul Tudor Investment Corporation to “school use” on the combined 43.454 acre property at 1275 King St and 100 Cliffdale Rd.

This story will be updated when the application appears on an agenda at town hall.

Rendering of Justus Sackett house with proposed new driveway to carriage house coming off Maher Ave.

Rendering of Justus Sackett house with proposed new driveway to carriage house coming off Maher Ave.

Port cochere at the front entrance to 45 Patterson Ave.

Port cochere at the front entrance to 45 Patterson Ave.

45 Patterson AVe

The application for Brunswick School to convert 45 Patterson Ave to three apartments includes life use of the carriage house to the current owner, the Irelands.

Side entrance to 45 Patterson Avenue.

Side entrance to 45 Patterson Avenue.

Driveway with view of carriage house at 45 Patterson Ave.

Driveway with view of carriage house at 45 Patterson Ave.