P&Z Watch: 8-30g for Riverside Flag Lot Appears as 5-Story Building “Jammed in with a shoehorn”

A pre-application for an 8-30g affordable housing development was presented at the last Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.

The building would be behind the People’s Bank near Sheephill and Neill Lane. The lot is currently being used as a parking lot and contractor’s yard.

The applicant is Frank Currivan, Jr, 1143 East Putnam Avenue, LLC.

The building would have 20 units on four stories.

But because parking would be at grade due to the high water table, the building would appear as five stories. The applicant said the height from grade to the first floor of the building was adequate to accommodate a UPS truck. There would be a two way driveway, and a one-way circulation in the ground level parking lot.

There would be five two-bedroom apartments on each floor.

The commission had some concerns about the lack of green space on the property and the number of curb cuts on Putnam Ave. Ms DeLuca suggested working with People’s Bank with the goal of decreasing curb cuts one and possibly adding trees.

Also, because of the high water table there was concern about how the drainage would function by taking what is now pervious and making it impervious.

P&Z chair Margarita Alban asked whether the applicant had considered using the town’s new 6-110 regulation for moderate income housing, which would allow a .75 FAR in the LB zone.

“You were not able to make, even though this would be moderate income as opposed to affordable, not acceptable to your client?” Alban asked.

She urged the applicant to consider using the 6-110 regulation because it allows for a greater opportunity for green space, though she acknowledged it was the applicant’s option.

“You are really jamming that building in here. It is jammed in with a shoehorn. That’s uncomfortable….This is not to me an ideal application.”

P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban

The applicant’s attorney, Tom Heagney, said it worked better to submit the application under Connecticut General Statute 8-30g.

“There is a significant body of research emerging regarding health outcomes, green space, trees and access to open space. I’m not sure the roof garden will sufficiently address those issues,” Alban said. “It is a major concern because there is a disparity in health outcomes in socioeconomic categories based on access to green space and trees.”

“The Western Connecticut Council of Governments has addressed this issue with the state legislature, and ask that it be considered as the task force that studies 8-30g moves ahead in the next year,” she added. “I’m just raising that flag for you.”

Heagney said it was not a requirement to provide green space, and added that that conflicted with the desire for affordable housing.

“One of the issues we have here in town is the cost of land to be able to make projects like this work,” he said. “That’s why we’re bringing this building in at the size and configuration that it has.”

The applicant submitted a roof plan to show recreation on the roof.

The roof plan rendering showed two stair towers for egress, air conditioning units, heating units, elevator and areas for recreation. In addition, each apartment would have a balcony.

The roof would deck would be accessible to all 20 units as communal space.

Commissioner Dennis Yeskey said that although it was not a requirement, it would be very helpful to have a three dimensional visual – something that shows the mass and height of the building in relation to the buildings around it.

“This building is behind another building, and in front of some houses. A two-dimensional building might work for a construction engineer, but for neighbors, and other people, I don’t think that’s how people view buildings,” Yeskey said. “Renderings can be manipulated from a point of view.”

After discussion and public comment, the pre-application was left open.

Rooftop rendering.

Liz Peldunas from the Riverside Association said it would be nice to know the altitude above sea level for the top of the building versus the People’s Bank in front of it.

She also asked about drainage.

“Most people in Riverside probably are unaware that lot even exists because of the flag driveway,” Peldunas said. “I know it to be relatively low lying. I presume there is a lot of water back there. I’m wondering what kind of mitigation there will be to make this a comfortable environment for families living on top of some pretty wet soil. Will their cars flood out in this at grade parking lot?”

“There is a high groundwater table there,” Heagney said.

Cynthia Ehlinger of Sheephill Rd said her home backed into the Red Maple Swamp that also backs onto 1143 East Putnam Ave.

“My concern is it looks like there is one parking spot per unit, but with two bedroom properties I’d think there would be people with more than one car. It doesn’t allow any visitation, and there is no on street parking,” she said. “I’m concerned about parking.”

Ms Alban said 8-30g had been on the State’s books since 1989 and will be studied in depth, but that she doubted parking standards would be edited to comply with municipal standards.

“This application is currently being filed under a state law which supersedes our local regulations and allows the applicant to ignore our parking standards. The parking number is not what’s allowed by Greenwich. it is simply what the applicant wishes to provide and is allowed to do by state law. For better or for worse, this state law is going to be studied in the next year or so.”

1143 East Putnam Ave is currently undeveloped. It is a flag lot behind People’s Bank in Riverside. See blue outline.