The Planning & Zoning commission has scheduled a meeting dedicated to discussion of a pre-application from Greenwich American Inc, who had originally proposed 456 units of residential housing in 41 buildings, but since it was introduced over a year ago, reduced the proposal to 309 units in 55 buildings.
The development would be on a 154.5-acre parcel, currently occupied by an office park at 1 American Lane. While the property has 586,295 square feet of office space, much of the land is undeveloped.
The applicant wants to create an overlay zone. Today, the property is in the BEX-50 Zone, which allows offices, cultural and wildlife reservations in natural park areas and cemeteries as of right.
Representatives from North Castle NY, have participated in the pre-application process. That town would be impacted by the development because the property is separated from the rest of Greenwich by I-684 and cannot be accessed from the rest of the Greenwich without crossing into New York.
The pre-application has already been discussed at four meetings, the last of which was on Dec 20, 2022.
At that meeting, attorney Tom Heagney for the applicant said there had been a very productive meeting, organized by outgoing P&Z director/town planner Katie DeLuca, that included all town departments – engineering, police, fire and health, as well as NYC DEEP, village of North Castle, and NY Dept of Transportation. Topics of discussion included traffic, adequacy of water, proper sewerage, fire schools, drainage, wetlands and potential impacts to the airport.
He said there were two suggestions made during the July P&Z 2022 meeting: to explore working with Housing Trust Fund, and to explore changes to the design and number of units to create a more open feel.
The commission had balked at the applicant’s use of the expression “starter house.”
“When you talked about starter homes we had a vision of little back yards, little houses, and Havemeyer Park where someone could start a family and have a yard,” said P&Z chair Margarita Alban at the July meeting. “I’d like you to not advance architecturally at all right now. I, personally would like you to not advance, until you look at a lower density – at least something not being attached, not being as high.”
“It looks like the proverbial 8 lbs in the 5 lb sack,” Alban added. “I realize it’s a big property, but it’s not what I had in mind.”
Also, at the July meeting, commissioner Arn Welles said a development, with hundreds of units, would add a burden to Greenwich’s requirement to have 10% of its entire housing stock deemed affordable. (The state of Connecticut requires that 10% of every municipality’s housing stock meet the state definition of affordable.)
On Dec 20 Heageney said the Housing Trust Fund had been forthcoming and there had been discussions of a possible fee in lieu arrangement. Chair of the trust fund Bob Barolak said he did not anticipate commenting or voting on the application.
“Our initial proposal was a fee in lieu rather than building affordable housing on the site, with an equivalent of $55,000 a unit. That was our starting point,” Heagney said. “We came to the realization that the number we were proposing needed to be substantially greater.”
Heagney said the possible fee had increased to $250,000, and that would result in millions of dollars being added to the Housing Trust Fund, which could potentially be used by Greenwich Communities (Greenwich’s housing authority).
“One of the projects we talked about with them was Quarry Knoll, which is an old place. I helped paint it when I was in high school…And it’s only 50 units on a very large piece of property. That cries out for new development,” Heagney said. “It’s a great location and has a lot of good road network around it. Greenwich Communities could make a very significant dent and contribution to the affordable housing availability in town.”
As for density and layout, he said reducing the 456-unit proposal in 41 buildings to 309 units in 55 buildings would result in a more open feel.
“It makes for a smaller community and cluster of units, rather than a long, lineal-type buildings,” Heagney said.
Commissioner Dennis Yeskey said the project was very exciting, huge and unique to Greenwich, and merited a separate meeting dedicated exclusively discussion of the pre-application.
“This is a gigantic project, a huge investment. It’s not like a single building. We need to take a studied look at it before you spend a lot of money coming up with an application,” Yeskey said. “There could be many many options to this thing that we haven’t thought about. I don’t make this suggestion very often.”
Ms Alban said the direction the application was going in was fantastic, but she reminded the commission that the proposal was still a pre-application.
“We can rabbit hole all we want when he comes in with the real application. We can do traffic and parking and all the issues. It’s a very long process we have ahead of us still. This is in the pre-application, what we want is conceptual overview before they have done detailed plans. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we do this. They’re supposed to be ‘back-of-the-envelope’ now.”
“Nothing we say at the pre-application goes into the public record for this application or is binding on this commission,” Ms Alban said, noting that rules for pre-applications originate from a state statute.
The meeting to dedicated to discussion of the American Lane proposal is set for January 11, 2023 at 4:00pm. It is exclusively via Zoom:
Use the link below to view, listen, and/or participate in this meeting: https://greenwichct.zoom.us/j/88901521350?pwd=Ri9JakFwTXNoc1BLeUhlZE0vMjRGUT09Password: 0518864
You may listen, and/or participate in this meeting by calling the following:
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Webinar ID: 889 0152 1350
P&Z Hones Feedback on Proposed 456 Units at 1 American Lane July 6, 2022
456 Starter Homes and Townhomes Proposed for 154.5-Acre Lot in Northwest Corner of Greenwich March 7, 2022