Public Feedback on Ferris Landing: Scale it Down, Keep the Trees

On Tuesday residents gave feedback to Greenwich Communities (formerly the Housing Authority) on “Ferris Landing,” a 48-unit, all affordable, residential development proposed on 2.7 acres in Cos Cob.

The property features a town-owned surface parking lot for the Cos Cob train station.

Much of the development would be over that parking lot, and include a second level of parking for residents, plus two stories of residential units. But the building and parking would push into a wooded area and embankment along I95.

A lease for the property would have to be approved by both the Selectmen and the RTM.

Residents gave directed questions to the panel which included Greenwich Communities board chair Sam Romeo and Tony Johnson, the CEO.

Mr. Romeo explained that every unit Greenwich Communities builds counts toward the state 8-30g requirement that 10% of housing stock in every municipality be affordable.

He noted that private developers add to the overall housing stock and designate only only a percentage of their units as affordable, resulting in what he described as a hamster wheel.

Today Greenwich has about 5.7% of its housing designated affordable per the state formula.

Mr. Romeo brought up the Benedict Court development that was approved by P&Z on May 14 for 120-units in six stories two weeks ago. (Though to be fair, at 40% affordable – 48 units – at 80% of Area Median Income, that percentage is significantly higher than other 8-30g projects).

Romeo said the goal was to take “the hammer out of the hands” of private developers.

Romeo talked about the goal of Greenwich achieving a moratorium on 8-3g.

“We want to put the hammer back in the hands of Planning & Zoning and give them the power to say no to a massive project.”

Nevertheless when James Walsh from Cos Cob asked if Greenwich Communities planned to bring the development forward as an 8-30g application.

“Yes,” Mr. Romeo said.

Mr. Walsh asked why. He said every new Greenwich Communities project achieves points toward a moratorium, and that most residents were not in favor of the project coming in through “the back door of 8-30g to bypass Planning & Zoning.”

“You’re a developer,” Romeo said.

“I’m not a developer. I’ve never developed a piece of property in my life. I didn’t build a house. I barely paint the wall,” Walsh said.

Mr. Walsh said the grounds for P&Z to deny an 8-30g project were limited to issues of public health and safety.

“They’re not going to be able to tweak this project as much as they would if it was brought forward as a normal project,” he said.

“They already have,” Romeo said.

“They haven’t even seen the project,” Walsh said, noting that so far Ferris Landing was only discussed as a non-binding pre-application.

“If this was an 8-30g project, the way a developer does it, they bulldoze it through P&Z,” Mr. Johnson said. “They wouldn’t be sitting here (at a public input session.)”

Greenwich Communities vice chair Jim Boutelle said that since the development is proposed for town land, there was a chance a lease might not be approved by the Selectmen or RTM.

“If a large contingent of Greenwich came out and said, ‘No, we don’t want this project at this location, reject the lease,’ it will be rejected by the RTM,” Boutelle said.

Mr. Walsh said he anticipated Ferris Landing would be replicated at other train stations in town.

“You’re going to want to get it right here,” he said.

Later in the session, Mr. Romeo said he did not want the project to be submitted under 8-30g.

“Folks, you’ve got one big thing here tonight. Sam is committed that we’re not moving forward with this as an 8-30g project,” Boutelle said, adding that the decision would ultimately be made by the entire board of directors.

“Sam is now confirming that if the initial paperwork said 8-30g, it is not 8-30g,” Boutelle said.

Building #2 would cut into the wooded area between the parking lot and I95.


Much of the feedback from residents was that the development was simply too big.

A section of the wooded buffer and embankment along I95 would be removed to fit building 2. This was also a concern of the P&Z commission.

Dr. Shubha Phansalkar from Butler Street said, “You knock off those trees, you change the terrain, you change the topography, you change the geography. I want to know is the developer and town liable for damage to our foundations, to our basements?”

Jan Merrill, Cos Cob’s representative to the I-95 renovation project, said removing the trees would increase noise.

“I have learned all about sound and highways, and I know you can hear the highway from Butler Street and I can on Loughlin Ave. I also have learned that if you were to build the project as is – if you don’t scale it back –  if you take out the rock structure and take out the trees, the (remaining trees) don’t belong to the town. We all know they belong to the highway.”

I-95 northbound near exit 5 after tree removal by the DOT in 2019. Photo: Leslie Yager

She said if the trees were to be removed from town property to fit the proposed buildings, all that would be left is a strip of trees in the state right of way.

“I want to preserve the tree canopy, and those trees – you can pretty much count on the highway cutting those trees down at some point.”

Mr. Romeo said he and Mr. Johnson took that to heart. “I think we’re on the same page.”

Anne Tobacco of Strickland Rd was also concerned about removing the rock and trees that separate the parking lot from I-95. She described the topography as a “natural retaining wall for the runoff from I-95.”

“Where is that water going to go?” she asked. “Is it going to come into my property and jeopardize my home?”

Also, she said removing rock and trees would increase noise and air pollution.

Jennifer Lozina said, “The plan is beautiful. I think it is too big.”

Emily Kunschner of Sachem Road said, “Scale it back.”

Ms Kunschner said she had a petition signed by 321 people who live in the neighborhood who were not in favor in the proposed design.

She asked Greenwich Communities to commit to fewer than 48 units.

“Yes, if it works financially,” Mr. Johnson said.

Susan Rattray from Strickland Road described the project as “overkill.”

“I think what you’re trying to do is too many units in too small a space,” she said. “I think half the size or three-quarters of the size would be a thoughtful idea. The ones that are backing right up to the thruway are not things I would want any employee to live in.”

She added that there were also  issues with speeding cars and a lack of sidewalks.

Flooding on Strickland. Jan 2024


Several people shared concerns that a portion of the property is in a flood zone, and sometimes Strickland is closed.

“Strickland road, when it’s closed it’s closed. When it’s flooded nothing can get through,” Romeo said, adding that it would be possible to access Ferris Landing from Butler.

“Greenwich Communities and officials are over-zealous and are trying to get their 10% mandated affordable housing at any cost: safety, environment, traffic, you don’t care,” said Arlene of 100 Strickland,” Arlene said.

Peter Quigley, who described himself as a student of the town’s watersheds, said, “For 60 years since the Flood and Erosion Control Board in 1956, flooding is getting worse. This is the wrong location…you are adjacent to a FEMA flood zone.”

“This is a health, safety and wetlands FEMA zone issue that bypasses 8-30g,” Quigley said, referring to the high standard that much be reached for denial of an 8-30g that is otherwise exempt from local zoning regulations.

Adele Rota from Glenville, near where a 10-unit 8-30g was approved at 237 Pemberwick Road in February, urged the Cos Cob residents to support the project.

“I think I’m in the minority at this meeting,” she said, turning to face the audience. “Glenville has been under attack by individual developers. The same as central Greenwich and they’re going to be coming to your neighborhoods as well.”

“We have to fight Hartford…8-30g is our enemy. We’re not each other’s enemy,” she said calling private 8-30g developers phonies.

“This is a good plan,” Rota said.

After Cos Cob residents complained that Ms Rota had turned to face the audience rather than the panelists, Mr. Romeo warned them.

“They’re coming to all our neighborhoods. They’re going to be  the R12, R2, the R1,” Romeo said. “She’s right. Hartford is our enemy. We don’t want to fight. Every neighborhood is at risk. The state put a plague on us!”

John Lucarelli said he loved the project and the town would get money from the lease, though later Greenwich Communities said the lease would be for $1.00.

“Make no mistake, we’re at war, 8-30g is here, it’s destroying neighborhoods,” he said. “This is the only group that’s advocating for us.”

“I know there’s always a boogeyman, and I always hear there’s ‘the drainage,’ and it’s a problem all through town,” Lucarelli said.

Potential Moratorium on 8-30g

Asked about his focus on achieving a moratorium, Mr. Johnson said, “You think you’re fighting our project. This is not our project. This is the town’s project. It’s the town’s land. It’s us trying to give the town a way to work toward a moratorium so they can work toward a plan or change the law that gets them out of this development morass. It’s terrible. Don’t believe this is your neighborhood and you’re going to be safe, because you’re not.”

“I usually can be very forceful trying to use 8-30g to push a project along. I’m not pushing this at all. You guys decide what you can do,” he continued. “And if you don’t, you’re telling the state we don’t care, so keep 8-30g on the books and give us something else on top of that, and put a cherry on top of it.”

“This is a parking lot. The lowest use of land from a land use standpoint,” Mr. Johnson said.

“We’re open to ideas. We didn’t reject the idea of a smaller project,” Mr. Johnson said.

After about 2-1/2 hours everyone who wished to speak had their time at the mic and the meeting was adjourned.

See also:

Feedback on 48-Unit “Ferris Landing” in Cos Cob Focus on Flooding, Loss of Green Space January 2024

Details Emerge as Greenwich Communities Eyes Air Rights on Underused Commuter Lot in Cos Cob September 2023

P&Z Watch: Greenwich Communities Proposal for Cos Cob Parking Lot – “Inward Facing and Closed Off” November 2023

Greenwich Communities Seeks Air Rights MI for 48-Unit Strickland Rd Development Sept 27, 2023