P&Z Feedback on Oak Ridge 8-30g: How is this good for the town?

A highlight of Wednesday’s Greenwich Planning & Zoning commission meeting was an 8-30g application for a 31 unit apartment building on a Oak Ridge Street, which runs between  West Putnam Ave and Old Field Point Rd.

Newfield Properties LLC wants to demolish two multi family houses and build a 46,000+ square foot 3-story building at 25 and 27 Oak Ridge Street.

Pictured: 25 Oak Ridge Street, Feb 23, 2024.

The applicant has worked with Greenwich’s affordable housing trust fund, and 7 units in the building would be offered at 80% of the Area Median Income and deed restricted for 40 years. The properties are in the R6 zone, which allows no more than a two-family home. However, 8-30g exempts developers from local zoning except in instances of public health and safety.

The proposed building involves a substantial increase in impervious surface, and the proposed basement parking for 40+ vehicles includes 2 ADA spaces.

Soil tests show shallow ledge crossing through the center of the site. Five trees would be removed, and the area of vegetative cover will decrease dramatically.

P&Z chair Margarita Alban said her feedback was based on P&Z staff reports, and both Sewer Division and DPW Engineering comments, which noted issues with the Horseneck Sewer Line and concerns that the site experiences flooding.

Both 25 and 27 Oak Ridge Street connect to the Horseneck Sewer line, which during certain flow conditions experiences sanitary sewer overflows, which the Sewer Division noted as a risk to public health and safety.

“Looking at the site plan and how extensive the build is, and how the parking goes out beyond and underneath the patio…it is denser than what we have,” Ms Alban said. “And 31 units on 1/3 of an acre is dense.”

Applicant’s rendering of proposed 31 unit, 3-story apartment building proposed to replace two multi-family houses on Oak Ridge Street.

At the P&Z commission meeting via zoom, attorney John Tesei, center square, represented Newfield Properties LLC, along with owner’s representative Joe Pecora to the right of Tesei.

 “I would very much like to see the applicant make a greater effort for affordability,” Alban added.

She said the existing houses were likely already de facto affordable, and that with only 7 units of 31 proposed building to be affordable at 80% of AMI, it was questionable whether the proposal advanced affordability.

“I’d love you to do something more than what is being offered,” she said. “I don’t see enough inclusion here. You sent us a legal opinion, but at the end of the day – the intent of the law – we should be looking for affordability, and I don’t feel that the balance has been struck.”

Alban said that the two existing houses have a combined 15 bedrooms that were likely rented at rates tenants earning the town moderate income, or possibly even 80% of AMI could afford.

“I feel like we’re losing something in terms of accessibility for residents who cannot afford full market rate,” Alban said. “My largest request of you is to please reconsider this ratio. Can you give us more affordability?”

Attorney Tesei said that except for Greenwich Communities (formerly the Housing Authority), when a developer comes to a town where land is very expensive like Greenwich, “…they look to create a project that will justify what they paid for it, or what it’s worth on the open market – and that’s basically what we have here.”

Per the Assessor’s office at Greenwich Town Hall, 25 Oak Ridge Street sold from Sutton Real Estate LLC to Newfield Properties LLC on May 4, 2023 for $1,100,000. Next door, 27 Oak Ridge Street sold in February of 2020 from Dragon 27 Oak Ridge LLC to Newfield Properties LLC for $1,062,888.

According to the Secretary of the State website, Newfield Properties LLC is registered to Elidon Amiti of Stamford.

“I would like you to consider higher affordability,” Alban repeated. “You are stretching what the infrastructure in this specific location can (accommodate) because of the sewer and flooding issues.”

Tesei suggested that adding affordability would require more units overall.

The commissioners noted they were not allowed to consider what might or might not be profitable to the applicant.

“You’d like us to consider more affordable units. Does that mean you’re willing to be flexible?” Tesei asked.

“You are limited by sewer and drainage issues,” Alban said, adding, “It bothers me enormously – the environmental justice issue because there is so little outdoor area.”

“I’m seeing such a tight development. What should give hints of green space, there is a little patio and it’s sitting on top of a parking garage,” Alban continued. “That’s pretty much it. You have low affordability, you have no outside space, and you’re basically building to the edges.”

Mr. Pecora said the owners had originally wanted to pursue a five-story building, but he had convinced them to reduce it to four stories.

“After analyzing what they wanted to do, I convinced them to work with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and reduce it to three stories which is in keeping with the neighborhood,” Pecora said. “And so we squeezed as many affordable units as we could in that three-story building to make a viable project and comply with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

“We have to find our way as a group,” Alban said. “It’s why the Affordable Housing task force includes developers – to create greater inclusion while keeping the architectural scale of the town.”

Commissioner Peter Levy was more blunt.

“I’m scratching my head trying to understand how this is good for the town,” Levy said.

“The way that addresses the neighborhood seems to be more thumb-your-nose than to be part of the neighborhood,” Levy continued, adding that he’d like the applicant to have a dialogue with the neighbors.

“It doesn’t seem to fit in at all,” he said.

Ms Alban said the commission would seek a legal opinion regarding the bedroom count mix, since the affordable units would be one-bedrooms and the 23 two-bedroom units would be market rate.

Ms Aban asked about an existing arrangement with Enterprise Rental Car Company who today rent 11 spaces from Newfield Properties on a month-to-month basis, with no written agreement.

Mr. Pecora said once the project was built, the car rental company would “either park on their own site or figure it out.”

Ms Alban questioned traffic consultant John Canning’s traffic counts comparing existing to proposed, noting that his traffic counts included trips from the spaces rented by Enterprise.

Mr. Canning said there would be no change in Level of Service (LOS) and referred to “a minimal impact.”

As the conversation ended, Alban touched on the trade-offs for the town.

“We’re looking at how do we advance inclusion in our town while preserving our architectural scale.”

The proposed development will encompass an area of over 80% of the site. Redevelopment of the site would increase impervious coverage by an additional 8,257 square feet. The applicant’s drainage summary report notes that these properties “continuously flooded during storm events.”


See also:

P&Z Watch: Pecora’s 10-Unit 8-30g Approved at 237 Pemberwick Rd

Feb 13, 2024