First Selectman Peter Tesei addressed the Planning and Zoning commission on May 3 with a request for Municipal Improvement to acquire 4.27 acres of land at 1241 King Street for a Fire and GEMS facility. He also requested a preliminary subdivision to divide a 198.8 acre parcel into two, with 4.3 acres taken out the Fairview Country Club property, leaving 194.5 acres for the club.
The two requests were discussed in combination, and the P&Z voted 5-0 in favor.
Of interest was Mr. Tesei’s timeline of search for a suitable site for a northwest fire station. “The need for a northwest fire station is well documented,” he said, pointing out that a report commissioned back in the 1980s recommended a northwest fire station would reduce response times.
In 2004 the Board of Selectmen approved recommending the purchase of land at 1327 King Street, for initial use by GEMS, with a long term plan of accommodating both fire and GEMS.
In July 2004 the BET appropriated the funds for the land purchase.
Tesei said that P&Z approved the property purchase for use by GEMS stating that the purchase ‘was in the town’s and residents’ best interest to improve response time in emergencies.’
Since August 2004, 1327 King Street has been continually used by GEMS.
“In fiscal year 2010 we requested design funds from the BET which were rejected,” he said.
In Nov 2012 P&Z approved a temporary placement of a residential trailer and reconfiguration of driveway at 1327 King Street because the existing house on the property had deteriorated and had to be demolished.
In 2013, due to concerns about limitations of the 1327 King Street property, the BET requested evaluation of all town properties in northwest Greenwich.
In spring 2012 the town sent out letters to 64 property owners in northwest Greenwich.
Six expressed interest in discussion. Five properties were evaluated.
Those properties were all close to the John St and Riversville Rd intersection, and the Cliffdale and Riversville Rd intersection. Mr. Tesei said the town DPW evaluated the properties, sizing up “soil deficiencies” and site usage related to zoning. The “top three properties” included historic buildings and a religious institution. The fourth property was at Audubon.
“As of summer and fall of 2015, we considered two options as viable: the 1327 King Street for fire-only –so we would still need a home for GEMS – or 1241 King Street,” he said. “We were approached by Fairview Country Club of interest in helping the town meet this long identified need for public and life safety need. We determined that it this accommodate a joint facility and progress was made in negotiations with were made with Fairview in 2015.”
Tesei said BET did recommend $500,000 for a design study for a joint fire-GEMS facility. In addition, the budget committee added $2 million to the capital budget for the land purchase. He said the plan is consistent with the POCD, and that the Phase 1 and 2 environmental assessments were conducted in 2014. “In addition, we just completed the archaeological assessment and nothing significant was found,” he said to the commissioners.
On Friday morning, during his Ask the Selectmen show on WGCH, Mr. Tesei defended the proposed King Street Fire-GEMS plan against a suggestion by Ed Dadakis to move the Glenville Fire Station to Riversville Rd near Camp Seton, and his accusation that a King Street location would primarily benefit New York residents.
“I don’t think he’s carefully studied the proposal he’s outlined,” Tesei said. “There is no ability to put a fire station at the reservation. We looked at that for GEMS five years ago,” Tesei said. “We spent in excess of $5 million renovating the Glenville station, which the community sees as not just a fire station, but an anchor for activities that support community life.”
Tesei said that the idea of locating a fire station on Riversville Rd had been studied and was a poor alternate to King Street.
He pointed out that King St has several life care facilities holding hundreds of seniors with limited mobility. King Street is also home to private schools and Harvest Time Church with 1,000 people in services over the weekend. Tesei said that past Gateway Lane there is the former American Can property with many corporate offices on the border of Armonk.
With the green light from P&Z on Tuesday, the next hurdle for the project comes on Monday night when the Representative Town Meeting votes on the municipal budget.
The RTM Finance Committee voted to take the funds out of the budget, and the Budget Overview Committee have signaled a wish to remove the funds.