P&Z Commission Denies Controversial Subdivision on Ridgeview Ave

At the May 14  Greenwich Planning & Zoning meeting, the commission voted to deny an application from Catherine and Brett Staffieri to redivide 40 Ridgeview and 0 Ridgeview.

Specifically the homeowners sought to create a developable lot in the front of the property which features woods and a steep slope.

The second lot was proposed to be a rear lot with a 20-foot access strip where an existing house and pool would be retained and a cottage dating back to 1890 was planned for demolition.

They also proposed conservation easements on both lots – one for 5,319 sq ft and one for 5,680 sq ft – but the P&Z Commission and Conservation Dept said they would prefer the conservation easements be in the wooded area rather than in place of the cottage, asphalt and manicured lawn.

The property is in the RA-1 single family one-acre zone near the Echo Lane neighborhood where significant flooding occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Sept 2021.

Some residents have described that neighborhood as “the bottom of the bathtub.”

Several years ago the applicants purchased about .3 acres of land from a neighbor, increasing the size of their property to 2 acres. That additional land appears in yellow (top diagram) as 0 Ridgeview. In the second diagram the yellow area represents the proposed developable lot fronting on Ridgeview.

The applicant proposed a curb cut for an additional driveway, but the commission said a single shared access to the two lots would be preferable.

In addition to the location of the conservation easements and second driveway, concerns of the commission included that planting plan and both flooding and drainage.

Diagram presented by S.E. Minor & Co on May 14, 2024 to P&Z commission.


Existing house at 40 Ridgeview. Photo courtesy Assessor’s office at Greenwich Town Hall.

Cottage at 40 Ridgeview. Photo courtesy Assessor’s office at Greenwich Town Hall.



While neighbors were concerned about the drainage design, the applicant said the Dept of Public Works had approved the design.

They said it exceeded the town Drainage Manual’s requirements, accommodating a 100-year storm, while the requirement was to accommodate a 25-year storm.

“We are going above and beyond,” said Rob Sandolo, project engineer for S.E. Minor & Co.

Dennis Yeskey said that a May 10 staff report noted DPW had not endorsed the proposed drainage design and that runoff would overload existing drainage.

“What changed from May 10?” he asked.

Rachael Orsi from S.E. Minor & Co said there had been meetings and multiple conversations with the town engineer, and plans were revised, resulting in the DPW approval.

Mr. Sandolo said the earlier memo had not been signed but the May 10 memo was signed.

“Between those two memos nothing changed on our end,” he said.

“Maybe we need to go back to DPW,” Mr. Yeskey said. “Initially it was not acceptable and then it was acceptable. What has changed?”

“All we know right now is they have the sign off,” P&Z chair Margarita Alban said.

Town Planner Pat LaRow said an email from staff on May 10 said DPW engineer Juan Paredes had removed comments that had been resolved regarding the drainage design and that the design met standards for peak flow attenuation up to and including a 100-year storm.


The Conservation Dept submitted comments on Feb 28 expressing concerns about the two-driveway accesses and grading, saying it would result in almost all trees being cleared on the largely wooded site.

Then on May 9 the Conservation Dept wrote, “The proposed two-lot subdivision places the new residence over a very steep slope. The new driveway provided for the existing residence will unnecessarily disturb a wooded portion of the site. Together with the proposed new residence the extensive site grading will result with almost all trees to be cleared. The site supports a section of mature forest.”

As for the conservation easements, the Conservation Dept wrote that the easements would not preserve the environmentally significant areas.

“This effort focuses on screening between the neighbors, not on preserving the most environmentally valuable areas,” they wrote.

Conservation recommended the applicant consider moving the conservation easement to the wooded section of the property or restoring the proposed one with native vegetation.

Ms Orsi explained that a portion of a stone wall marking a previous lot line needed to be removed because it was in the way of re-grading for the proposed second driveway. She said the stones would be repurposed as a demarcation feature of the conservation easement area.

“I think this is kind of a novel idea,” saidP&Z commissioner Nick Macri.

“I’m less comfortable with the idea of re-purposing than my fellow commissioner,” said commissioner Mary Jenkins, adding that the stone wall was 100 years old.

Public Comment

Neighbors including Tim Busler, Tom Michaud, Jay Gibbons and Gordon Williams all said they were very concerned about flooding and had not been contacted by either the homeowners or S.E. Minor & Co.

Mr. Busler said the subdivision would worsen the existing bottleneck of water at the bottom of the hill.

He noted there were already plans in the works to rebuild the North Street bridge because of increased drainage coming downhill.

Mr. Busler said the storm water drainage report had not been reviewed or signed off by DPW.

“When this neighborhood was flooded, it was because of the drainage coming down Ridgeview,” Busler recalled. “And the grade on this property is severe…This is steeper than the grade of Ridgeview itself. It is coming right down there to create flooding which is what damaged many homes on Ridgebrook and Echo Lane, which are just 200 yards away and 50 feet beneath Mr. Staffieri’s house.”

Mr. Gibbons of 7 Parsonage Lane described the topography of the property as severe.

“There are a lot of machinations that have to happen to make it work,” he said.

“I am concerned about grading and being a bathtub between two higher properties,” he added. “There is a 100-year old woods and now there will be no privacy buffer between us and this driveway.”

Tom Michaud testified that for 19 years his family had lived at 45 Ridgeview, downhill from the proposed subdivision, and that water and drainage were an issue.

“I worked closely with my neighbors and with the town when we installed curbing on Ridgeview Avenue as well as extending the sewers. I can tell you, water management was an enormous issue before any of us even heard about this application,” he said. “We are extraordinarily nervous, being the downhill neighbor.”

“We are constantly working to manage water. Before this was even contemplated, we were on red alert,” Michaud added.

Michaud said during the Ida flooding, cars became trapped and emergency vehicles came to rescue people stranded in front of his home.

Gordon Williams, of 31 Ridgebrook, directly across from the existing driveway at 40 Ridgeview, echoed his neighbors’ concerns. He said for the first time in 20 years there was standing water in the pachysandra in his yard.

“I see the water shooting down from there,” he continued, adding that he and neighbors had initiated the installation of curbs on Ridgeview.

“Never once has the proposer of this project knocked on my door, and you can throw a rock underhand from the end of his driveway to my garage,” he said. “It’s extremely disappointing.”

Mr. Staffieri said he offered his sincere apologies to his neighbors for not knocking on their doors.

“This is very surprising to us. We though that for 13 years we had been very good neighbors in many ways, including substantially improving our house and property…that includes a brand new driveway and drainage system several years ago.”

“The flooding and drainage issue is by far the most significant concern of my neighbors. It was very difficult to see what happened to all the neighbors a couple years ago,” he said. “It was horrible to see you all displaced from your homes and dumpsters in the yards for up to a year in some cases.”

He said his understanding was that DPW had reviewed and approved the drainage report and that his project’s design would improve drainage by accommodating the standard of a 100-year storm rather than a 25-year storm.

He said if DPW had indeed approved the report, he believed his neighbors’ concerns were addressed.

Concerns of the Commission

The P&Z commission noted  the applicant had not provided evidence the existing structure complied with the FAR for the RA-1 zone.

Town Planner Pat LaRow said since FAR was within 10% of the maximum FAR, detailed calculations were required by P&Z.

The commission noted that during their March 5, 2024 meeting, they had requested the applicant eliminate one of the curb cuts, revise easement areas, and work with neighbors regarding flooding concerns.

The May 14 P&Z motion to deny, made by the P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban, and seconded by commissioner Peter Lowe, noted the applicant had not responded to those requests.

The motion also noted there were several complications and missing information relating to the subdivision regulations that talk about protecting the environment, preserving natural features of landscape, setting aside open space for recreational needs of future residents, and holding to a minimum the felling of trees.

Voting in favor of denying the application were Mr. Lowe, Ms Jenkins, Ms Alban and Mr. Yeskey.

Commissioner Nick Macri voted against denial.

“I believe that this actually does meet what we are looking for as a subdivision or re-subdivision. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is the FAR, and I think we can get that from the applicant,” Macri said.

While the application was denied, the applicant has the ability to revise their application should they decide to return to the commission.