The Planning & Zoning commission voted in favor of improvements for two intersections on Greenwich Ave: Havemeyer/ Arch and Fawcett/Grigg.
Despite cautions against removing some lawn in front of the Havemeyer property from four residents, the Greenwich Tree Conservancy, and one passionate P&Z commissioner, Peter Levy, the vote on Sept 8 was 4-1 in favor of both the MI and site plans.
DPW deputy commissioner Jim Michel insisted that any perception of a loss of green space was misplaced.
He said the Havemeyer intersection will have a net zero increase in greenspace because even though a large swatch of the Havemeyer lawn was being paved over to better align the intersection. He noted the portion of lawn being paved was within the town’s right of way and would be offset by the creation of a large traffic island between the roadway and proposed right turn slip lane.
He added that bump outs and green areas around the Fawcett and Grigg intersection would result in a net gain of 2,000+ green space.
Mr. Levy said Mr. Michel’s explanation did not satisfy him.
“You’re creating a sea of asphalt,” he said.
Ms Alban reminded everyone that the Town’s traffic consultant, BETA Group, had given positive feedback in their peer review, including an endorsement of the re-alignment of Havemeyer/Arch by shifting of the roadway into the town right of way on the Havemeyer lawn.
BETA Group specifically endorsed the right turn slip lane, noting its purpose was not to accommodate higher speeds for right turners.
Instead, the slip lane is a stop controlled movement and vehicles will need to travel slowly to make the sharp turn on the approach to the stop bar.
Mr. Michel said the intersection re-design with the large triangular island intentionally mirrored the triangular and Beaux Arts geometry of plaza outside the former Post Office.
Still Mr. Levy said the proposal created a very large continuous area of asphalt.
“It just doesn’t fit the character of the town. This is the kind of development you would find in White Plains, not Greenwich.”
Mr. Michel noted that the large green triangular island was important because it would shorten the distance of the existing crosswalk.
“We tried to focus back on this triangle here and eliminate what was being called the random, oddball, island pieces, or random pieces of greenspace, or for lack of better terminology, ‘the engineering design,'” Mr. Michel replied.
Revised rendering of Havemeyer/Arch intersection with Greenwich Ave features an at-grade island with a different textured pattern, presented at the Sept 8, 2022 P&Z meeting.
Mr. Levy had voiced his objections during the previous day’s staff briefing, saying there were alternate solutions to removing lawn at Havemeyer.
Mr. Michel said that back in the 1960s, when I-95 was constructed, the town created a right of way along Arch Street for potential future expansion.
“This is not a nice little country diversion crossing Greenwich Ave. This is a mess. Trying to create two lanes so you can go up and down Arch St to get to Havemeyer is very very awkward, and it ruins the feeling and the symmetry, and the idea of this nice big lawn at the Board of Ed. I think it’s so wrongheaded. I’m just gobsmacked by the whole thing.”
“This extra turn-off to make a right to go back down Greenwich Avenue is very problematic and I think is wrongheaded,” he added.
“But it’s a technical solution to vehicles not being able to navigate the acute angle at the intersection. Specifically trucks,” Commissioner Nick Macri said. “You get a truck that comes up trying to turn the corner to go south on Greenwich Avenue. “…The slip lane offers a situation where the radius is much larger, so it’s easier for a truck or another car to navigate that.”
Ms Alban again referred to the BETA Group’s comments.
“They’re not related to DPW, or to the Board of Selectmen, or to anybody’s politics. They’re just our consultant.”
“My concern is the downtown and preserving the feeling there, and this doesn’t. It does not!” Levy added.
Ms DeLuca said main challenge had been to abide by the historic geometry of the intersection, as well as the the relationship between buildings, monuments and greenspace. For this reason the Greenscape committee reviewed the plan and came up with the proposed site plan.
“The reconfiguration of the roadway is unfortunate in how it takes away greenscape and adds asphalt. You don’t need to do all this work,” Levy added.
Mr. Macri said the solution addressed the fact that pedestrians get stuck in the middle of the vast crosswalk. He noted the Avenue evolved from a dirt path for horse-and-buggy, to one with a trolley, from two-way to a one way roadway.
“There are alternate solutions that are less of an impact on the whole place and much simpler,” Levy said.
Ms Alban pointed out that the Grigg/Fawcett intersection ranked as 7th most accident prone spot in all that WestCOG (Western Connecticut Council of Governments). “That’s saying a lot when you consider that WestCOG incudes Stamford.”
There was discussion about whether proposed dining patio outside Meli-Melo and Hinoki were equitable to other restaurants, especially considering the permanent seasonal dining nodes might not be permanent.
“I continue to be uncomfortable with giving one restaurant a dining patio,” said P&Z chair Margarita Alban.
She said once work was done it would be complicated to ask DPW to go back and change it.
“We’ve had concerns about equity. I would like to see that space in front of Meli-Melo turned into green space,” she added.
Commissioner Nick Macri agreed.
“When we get to it later, it’s 25 years later,” he said.
“To me the more area that can be planted the better,” Macri said.
Macri suggested putting in green space with a bench instead of a dining patio.
Mr. Lowe also talked about fairness.
“During Covid we loosened up a lot of things to enable restaurants to survive. In doing so, we sort of let loose a situation where you have some restaurants in town who are able to take advantage of the lessening of restrictions during Covid, and others who didn’t have that option.”
Mr. Levy suggested restoring parking spaces in front of Meli-Melo.
Ms Alban reminded him that the reason for the patio in the first space was because of concerns of people backing out of parking spaces into pedestrians crossing behind them.
Mr. Michel advocated for the patios, noting that nodes become permanent, “Then we’ve created a non-equity issue for this specific property and that’s why the placement of (the patios) is there.”
He said construction on the intersections wouldn’t start until next summer anyway. “We can make modifications to this plan – whether it be patio or green space very easily up to and during construction.”
“I think the counter argument to that is that it’s creating an equity issue on this because nobody else has a patio,” Ms DeLuca said, adding that the situation was similar to the loading dock in the town right of way on Edgewood for Porsche.
“If you recall that situation there is now site plan approval for something that happens in the town right of way,” DeLuca said. “It has to be crafted very carefully.”
During Wednesday’s briefing, DeLuca had mentioned that P&Z staff had kept track of “huge” number restaurant violations and that five restaurants were in danger of losing their dining nodes.
This week, DeLuca provided those details. P&Z now has a new list of about 75 restaurants mostly with seating violations (more seats than permitted) and approximately 21 of them never received approval.
The following restaurants were issued violation notices in May.
|Greenwich Flavor by Myrna’s||148 Mason Street|
|Coast||203 East Putnam Avenue|
|Glory Days||69 East Putnam Avenue|
|Fjord Fish||158 East Putnam Avenue|
|Greenwich Cheese Company||154 East Putnam Avenue|
|Fairfield Pizza||1 Strickland Road|
|Green & Tonic – Cos Cob||7 Strickland Road|
|The Chicken Coop||364 West Putnam Avenue|
|Moon||130 East Putnam Avenue|
|CFCF – Riverside||1162 East Putnam Avenue|
|CFCF – Greenwich||118 Greenwich Avenue|
|Aux Delices – Riverside||1075 East Putnam Avenue|
|Glenville Pizza||243 Glenville Road|
|Gregory’s Coffee||342 Greenwich Avenue|
|CFCF – Grigg Street||6 Grigg Street|
|Grigg Street Pizza||1 Grigg Street|
|Steam||374 Greenwich Avenue|
|Mac Duffs||99 Railroad Avenue|
|Myx Kitchen||19 West Elm Street|
|Myx Fitness||19 West Elm Street||not a restaurant use|
|Doppio||41 East Elm Street|
|Something Natural||189 Greenwich Avenue|
|Raphael’s Bakery||146 Mason Street|
|Cos Cobber||31 East Putnam Avenue|
|Tomatillo||65 East Putnam Avenue|
|Joey B’s||118 River Road Extension|
|Louie’s||136 River Road Extension||applied – not approved; tent|
|The Drawing Room||220 East Putnam Avenue|
|Gofer Ice Cream – Cos Cob||551 East Putnam Avenue|
|Balducci’s||1050 East Putnam Avenue|
|Tony’s at the J House||1114 East Putnam Avenue|
|Valbella’s||1309 East Putnam Avenue|
|Soba Sushi||1345 East Putnam Avenue|
|Cups & Cones||235 Sound Beach Avenue|
|Beach House Café||220 Sound Beach Avenue|
|ReNapoli||216 Sound Beach Avenue|
|Sweet Pea’s Baking||212 Sound Beach Avenue|
|Little Pub||531 East Putnam Avenue||applied – not approved|
|Le Fat Poodle||20 Arcadia Road||applied – not approved|
|Elm Street Oyster House||11 West Elm Street||applied – not approved|
|Aux Delices – Greenwich||3 West Elm Street||applied – not approved|
|Le Penguin||61 Lewis Street||applied – not approved|
|Orienta||55 Lewis Street||applied – not approved|
|Ruby and Bella’s||265 Greenwich Avenue||applied – not approved|
|La Fenice||315 Greenwich Avenue||applied – not approved|
|Bistro V||339 Greenwich Avenue||applied – not approved|
|Meli-Melo||362 Greenwich Avenue||applied – not approved|
|South Bay||403 Greenwich Avenue||applied – not approved|
|Polpo||554 Old Post Road #3||applied – not approved|
|Garelick and Herb||48 West Putnam Avenue|
|Rosina’s||230 Mill Street|
|EBB Tide Seafood||112 South Water Street||Food truck?|
|Famous Greek Kitchen||10 North Water Street|
|Express Pizza – Greco’s Bella Cucina||160 Hamilton Avenue|
|Canoe||280 Railroad Avenue|
|L’Escale||500 Steamboat Road|
|Tengda||21 Field Point Road|
Matt Popp responded to Mr. Levy’s comment on asphalt extending into the lawn outside Havemeyer.
“It’s probably about 42 ft into that greenscape. That’s a significant loss of landscape area and greenspace. All the other greenspace areas are small, isolated areas. That’s not meaningful.”
He added that he was disappointed there was no landscape plan, and said he was concerned about sight lines.
He described the isolated green spaces as a tossed salad design.
Also he questioned why the stop bars at Arch Street weren’t perpendicular to the traffic flow. “I’ve never seen stop bars that are angled. That becomes a safety factor.”
Mr. Popp asked whether a retaining wall along Arch might be necessary given the grade change.
First Selectman Fred Camillo questioned Mr. Popp’s suggestion about significant loss of greenspace and Mr. Michel confirmed that overall there would be a net gain of 2,000+ sq ft.
Camillo said he strongly supported the plans, for both safety and aesthetics.
Historic Significance and Protecting Mature Trees
Francia Alvarez from the Greenwich Tree Conservancy expressed concern about disruption of roots of historic trees on the Havemeyer lawn.
She talked about the intersection’s historic significance to the town.
Alvarez said the Havemeyer School was donated to the town in 1892 by Henry O. Havemeyer, and landscaped in 1950.
“This was the birth of our Greenwich town green. Thanks to the Greenwich Historical Society we see all the students gathered for their photo in 1901.”
There was a World War I rally in 1918 on this town green.
“In 1988 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a municipal center historic district,” she added, noting that the intersection featured the town hall, Greenwich Common, Havemeyer School, post office, and monuments to soldiers who lost their lives.
She was worried about the roots of Copper Beech trees on the Havemeyer lawn and noted that a Copper Beech in Greenwich Common had died after its roots were disturbed. The work not only includes paving of the town right of way in the lawn, but also utilities including storm drain and catch basins would be added in addition to a fire hydrant needing to be relocated.
Director of the Tree Conservancy, JoAnn Messina echoed concerns about preserving green space.
“As many of you recall, 15 years ago we had discussions about repurposing the Havemeyer building to a cultural center. A big part of that was to increase the New England town green. A large part of that was to bring together the lawn in front of the senior center and the lawn in front of the lawn at Havemeyer building and make this our New England Town Green. This is clearly going to change that.”
Messina said the town tree warden was concerned about where new curbing would be located in relation to the trees.
Alex Popp said that while about 2,000 sq ft of green space would be added in total, “The green space being lost was significantly more valuable than all the islands put together.”
Louisa Stone said moving Arch Street over into the Havemeyer lawn was a bad idea and that she didn’t think the change in grade had been addressed.
“There’s an elevation difference between Arch Street now and where it would be up toward the Beech Trees. Mr. Michel said we’ll raise the road so there won’t be need for a wall.”
“I don’t see how the commission can approve this as a final site plan,” Stone added. “We don’t have grading. It’s all shown as though it was a flat place, and it’s not flat. This is a problem.”
Mr. Michel said DPW did not believe a retaining wall would be necessary, but if they determined if one was necessary they would return to the commission.
The commissioners talked about whether to close or possibly defer the application, but Mr. Michel urged them commission not to defer.
“The DPW’s concern was that the approval process was to address a conceptual plan and move that plan forward before the town invests a significant amount of finances in doing full blown design, to make sure the town’s funds are not improperly spent,” he said.
The commission considered a motion with the following conditions:
• DPW will work with the Greenscape Committee on the final landscape plan
• DPW will return to P&Z commission if a retaining wall becomes necessary.
• That the driveway at Senior/Arts Center be configured in a way to prevent exiting vehicles from driving across the crosswalk.
• That proposed sidewalk by Grigg Street not feature a dining patio (outside Meli Melo), but rather feature a green space with a bench.
• That if there is any impact on deeded open space outside the town’s right of way, DPW come back to the commission.
Mr. Levy introduced his own conditions.
“There is no simple solution to this. There are ramifications for everything being done here that radiate and create a lot of issues,” Levy said.
“The town green should not be impacted and should remain virtually as it is. I suggest the diagonal parking on Arch Street be modified with either parallel parking or fewer spaces in order to ease the traffic flow there,” Levy said. “It would be important to add other parking spaces along Greenwich Avenue. I don’t think it’s necessary to take away all the spaces. I think there’s a space here and there that could be put back.”
Ms DeLuca said the realigning of the intersection was the first priority of the project. “The only way to align it is to go into the Havemeyer property,” she said.
“I think it might be a bridge too far,” Levy said.
“He’s basically completely revising the project,” Alban said.
DeLuca said Mr. Levy’s suggestion would involve an entirely new site plan.
The commission voted on the site plan with conditions outlined above.
4-1 on the Municipal Improvement (Nick Macri, Dennis Yeskey, Peter Lowe and Margarita Alban in favor; Peter Levy opposed)
4-1 on the Site Plan, (Nick Macri, Dennis Yeskey, Peter Lowe and Margarita Alban in favor; Peter Levy opposed)