It’s Over. P&Z Unanimously Approves Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry Building in Historic District by Tomes Higgins House

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Tomes Higgins House. Credit: Leslie Yager

On Tuesday at an atypical 4pm meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the proposal for Neighbor to Neighbor to construct a new building for a food pantry was approved unanimously by the 5 commissioners voting: Margarita Alban, Richard Maitland, Nancy Ramer, Andy Fox and Peter Levy, who participated by conference call.

Again, a couple dozen residents of neighboring Putnam Park and Putnam Hill attended the meeting. After the unanimous vote, neighbors walked away quietly, though clearly disappointed.

Though the permit was approved, there were abundant conditions placed upon the approval.

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Richard Maitland, chair of the commission, reviewed some givens. Neighbor to Neighbor, would continue to lease space from Christ Church, but in a new building rather than in the basement of the church. He noted that Neighbor to Neighbor proposed to continue the same arrangement of leasing space, but in a new building on land owned by Christ Church.

The proposed location would be approximately 300 feet south of its current location.

Neighbor to Neighbor, which has been in their current location for 40 years, will continue to use the existing driveway off Putnam Ave.

The building would be in the Putnam Hill Historic District, which is in the R-20 zone, with setbacks of 40 ft front yard, 40 ft rear yard, 15 ft minimum side yard, and a total of both side yards of 35 ft. The zone also has a 37.5 ft height maximum.

Mr. Maitland said, “The use in the building is a charity. This use is permitted as a special permit use, under 6-94(b)(1), which states: Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, homes for aged, sanitariums, convalescent homes and other health care facilities for the elderly, philanthropic or charitable institutions, not of a penal or correctional nature, nor for the care of the insane or feeble minded patients, provided that any building so permitted shall be located not less than 100 ft from any street or lot line unless the commission finds in consideration of the particular use at its specific location  that a lesser distance will protect adjacent property owners from adverse impacts.”

“The charitable use of the proposal provides food, clothing and basic living essentials. The clients are all qualified and vetted through Social Services in Greenwich and receive  vouchers to use Neighbor to Neighbor services,” Maitland continued.

“All weekly food distribution is for qualified Greenwich residents, and a one-time emergency food distribution is available for residents of neighboring towns at the request of a social worker,” Maitland said. “The approved agencies are identified as the Greenwich Dept of Social services, Greenwich Public Schools, Family Centers Head Start Nursery School, Family Centers RITE program, and Pathways.”

The current facility occupies approximately 3,000 sq ft in the church’s basement, on site storage containers and meeting rooms borrowed from Christ Church.

The proposed facility will be approximately 6,400 sq ft.

Since Tomes Higgins House is located on the National Register of Historic Places, Putnam Hill District, the commission received comments from the Greenwich Historic District and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Mr. Maitland said SHPO found the design acceptable, and that the location would constitute no adverse effects to historic resources.

Design No. 3, which was before the commission on Tuesday, has less mass, by 743 cubic feet compared to design No. 1. Mr. Maitland said the new design is slightly lower and smaller than previous designs.

In terms of height, the proposed building is  32 ft 4,” it is 5 ft 2″ below the zone maximum of of 37 ft 6.”

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Putnam Hill and Putnam Park are located behind the proposed location for a dedicated building for Neighbor to Neighbor on the Tomes Higgins property. Credit: Leslie Yager

Putnam Hill and Putnam Park are located behind the proposed location for a dedicated Neighbor to Neighbor building. Credit: Leslie Yager

Putnam Hill and Putnam Park are located behind the proposed location for a dedicated Neighbor to Neighbor building. Credit: Leslie Yager

Mr. Maitland also said that the 39.8 ft distance to the porch, and 408 ft to the corner of the building from the property line would not cause adverse effects on the adjacent neighbor due to the fact that is is an office used by a caretaker, and there will be a heavy screening planting border approved by the Architectural Review Committee.

A condition of the permit would be that the hours of operation remain unchanged. Also, a maximum of five trips  per week, Monday to Friday, will be in effect from 8:30am til 12:30pm, with trash and recycling no more than twice a week from 7:00am til 8:00am.

They also agreed to all lights being turned off at 6:00pm and acoustical measurements complying with Greenwich Noise Standards prior to receiving certificate of occupancy.

Also, the applicant agreed to have on-call during construction an arborist to approve, monitor and protect the existing trees shown to remain on the plan.

Maitland said that on Sept. 30, 2016, the DPW issued a memo accepting the drainage design for the project. In the same memo they noted no traffic comments. Both Beta (the commission’s traffic consultant), and the applicant’s traffic consultant have stated that the new facility is not expected to increase the number of vehicle trips to the site.

Any increase in delivery would trigger the applicant’s return to the commission, enabling  neighbors to contact the P&Z commission to report a violation.

“If the neighbors are disturbed, they can come in and let us know,” Ms. Alban said.

Mr. Maitland commented on the height of the cupola, saying it should be removed to reduce the impact on the neighbors. “That’s something that should be incorporated into the decision,” he said.

Peter Levy, via conference call, said he was concerned about the setback of 100 ft, which he said he was uncomfortable with. “The idea that there shouldn’t be any impact on the neighborhood.. there seems to be some impact on the neighborhood.”

Mrs. Ramer said she’d like to see evergreen screening in the corner by the caretaker’s office.

Andrew Fox pushed to have two parking spots removed from the drop-off/delivery area, suggesting the driveway could be lengthened, and there would still be enough room for trucks to turn around, and the commission agreed.

Mrs. Ramer said that if this were a residential property, it could be broken into five lots, with  a max FAR 51,000 square feet vs the proposed 20,581 sq ft. “I think it’s important in reflecting on this that if this were used as residential property it could be used as five lots.”

Neighbor to Neighbor has signed a 25 year lease with Christ Church with two options to renew.

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See also:

Standing Room Only at P&Z as Neighbor to Neighbor Defends New Building to Adjacent Condo Residents

Unneighborly? Putnam Hill, Putnam Park Residents Object to Neighbor-to-Neighbor Building Proposal


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