Housing Authority Is Suing Greenwich P&Z over Conditions of Approval for Vinci Gardens

Last week we published a story quoting Sam Romeo the chair of the board of Greenwich’s housing authority, “Greenwich Communities,” saying on his Thursday radio show on WGCH 1490 “Greenwich Matters” that in response to untenable conditions of the Sept 8 P&Z approval for Vinci Gardens, they would re-submit the application under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing statute.

The P&Z vote was 5-0 in favor of the 50,000 sq ft development in Byram featuring 52 units of affordable housing for seniors. Voting were Alban, Macri, Levy, Yeskey and Lowe.

Attorney Chris Bristol told the commission that all the units in Vinci Gardens would count toward the State of Connecticut’s 8-30g requirements.

The housing authority has a lease for the six acres of land from the owner of record, which is the Town of Greenwich.

But the approval came with conditions Mr. Romeo said were burdensome.

Proposed location for Vinci Gardens on land leased from the Town of Greenwich. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

First, there was the condition the housing authority work with P&Z staff on a change from vinyl siding to brick veneer.

Second they were told to revise the roofline from mansard to hip or gable geometry in keeping with the historic Byram School.

The housing authority converted the brick former school to senior housing (McKinney Terrace I) and subsequently built additional affordable housing in three buildings for families on the property (McKinney Terrace II).

The former Byram School is on the National Register of Historic Places where it is described as architecturally significant as a well-preserved superior example of institutional Colonial Revival-style architecture.

The commission have noted they follow the regs in 6-17 of the P&Z regs for Special Permit Standards including that consideration of whether the proposed use will “Be in scale with and compatible with surrounding uses, buildings, streets, and open spaces.”

See Building Zone Regulations, special permit standards: 6-17 (page 25)
The side of the former Byram School faces Eugene Morlot Park and the Hamill Rink. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
The front of the senior housing in McKinney Terrace I was originally the back of the former Byram School. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
The front of the senior housing at McKinney Terrace I was originally the back of the former Byram School. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
The front entrance of the former Byram School, now senior affordable housing “McKinney Terrace I,” faces away from the main entrance today. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
Brick buildings at McKinney Terrace II, which is comprised of affordable family units. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
Brick buildings at McKinney Terrace II, which is comprised of affordable family units. Oct 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

Mr. Romeo said the condition that the mansard roof be eliminated would result in the reduction of 17 units, and that if he had his druthers he’d tear down the former school and replace it with something new and modern.

Two other conditions were that the applicant submit a draft affordability plan to P&Z staff and law department for review, and prior to the C/O the applicant submit an affordability plan to the P&Z staff and law department.

Another condition was that the housing authority relocated tree and marker dedicated to Mrs. Anne Kristoff to the central landscaped island in lieu of a proposed Japanese cherry tree.

Hence, the decision to resubmit as an 8-30g, which would exempt the housing authority from local zoning regs, except for extreme instances of health and safety.

That approach came as a surprise considering Mr. Romeo has not only been a vocal opponent of 8-30g, but of for-profit developers who use it to propose oversized buildings.

In January 2022, Romeo railed against a proposed 5-story 85-unit apartment building at 5 Brookridge submitted under 8-30g, describing it as “another offspring of the Hyde Hotel.”

At a hearing on a proposed 192-unit 7-story development on Church Street to replace a row of historic houses in the Fourth Ward, Romeo referred to 8-30g as the Cinderella Statute. “The step sisters try to get their foot into that tiny glass slipper and make it fit at any cost,” he said.

But apparently the housing authority changed tack.

Instead of resubmitting Vinci Gardens as an 8-30g, they are suing the town’s P&Z commission.

According to the complaint, the conditions of the P&Z approval are “illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unconstitutional, discriminatory to the elderly, disabled, poor and minorities, and not in accordance with the authority vested in it, such conditions completely destroying the viability of the project by requiring changes that cause the loss of 17 of the proposed affordable units, which is almost a 1/3 reduction.”

Further the complaint says that the conditions are not based on factors contained in the regulations, do not protect substantial interests in health or safety, and do not outweigh the need for assisted or affordable housing in town.

P&Z director Katie DeLuca declined to comment on the pending litigation.

See also

Greenwich Communities to Challenge Local Control of P&Z and Resubmit Affordable Project under 8-30g
Sept 15, 2022

Greenwich Communities Unhappy with Conditions of P&Z Approval for Vinci Gardens
Sept 13, 2022

Greenwich Housing Authority Frustrated over High Cost of P&Z Process for Vinci Gardens
August 6, 2022

Proposed “Vinci Gardens” Criticized for Height, Mass, Tree Loss, Lack of Respect for Historic Byram School June 10, 2022

P&Z WATCH: Tough Questions Posed for Greenwich Housing Authority’s 52-Unit “Vinci Gardens” Sept 29, 2021

P&Z Watch: Pre-Application Submitted for “Vinci Gardens,” 52 Elderly Apartments in 4 Story, 50,000 sq ft Building in Byram August 6, 2021