At the May 10 Planning & Zoning commission there was discussion of the Boys & Girls Club plans to expand and renovate its facility.
But first they discussed the proposal from the Board of Selectmen to allow the Boys & Girls Club to use the “temporary” modular building in Horseneck Lot that was most recently been used by Neighbor to Neighbor for their food pantry while their new building was under construction. Prior to that it was used by the Byram Fire Station while their building was renovated.
“I understand with a session from the town planner, and from your meeting yesterday, that there are some concerns about the reuse of the facility,” said town administrator Ben Branyan. “The administration shares shat.”
First Selectman Fred Camillo agreed. “We don’t like the way it looks there, and we don’t want it to be there forever, but in retrospect, thank God we had it to help us out of a couple jams.”
“We do plan to seek funds to demolish the structure,” Camillo added. “We think there’s much better use for a surface parking lot than just parking cars.”
The First Selectman said because the modular building was built into the grade along the I95 on-ramp it had potential for a much better use.
Ms Alban said Planning & Zoning had studied the history of approvals for the building, and beginning in 2011 there was a condition that once the central fire house had its certificate of occupancy the building would be demolished. Still, the building was subsequently used by the Greenwich International Film Festival, the Byram Fire House, and Neighbor to Neighbor.
Alban said that during the pandemic when the food bank needed a home, P&Z considered the situation an emergency.
“When we did Neighbor to Neighbor, we rushed it through to be helpful because we saw the tremendous need for a food bank,” Alban said. “I know the lesson, Mr. Branyan, don’t bend over backward to help someone and stop following process because the next thing you know it comes back to bite you.”
She suggested to Camillo and Branyan that the application for MI for the club to use the modular building be left open until details of a site plan for the underutilized property are fleshed out and submitted to P&Z and to the RTM in August for the September meeting.
“I don’t believe we inconvenience the Boys & Girls Club if we wait until the September RTM meeting because I don’t believe they will have their permits by then,” Alban said. “Right now they are in the pre-application stage.”
“Let’s at least commit that we’re going to do something strategic with this property,” Alban said. “I’ve had it whispered to me that the skating rink people want it too. I know that the affordable housing people want it.”
Alban said that during the staff briefing the previous day the idea of including plans for Horseneck Lot in plans for the area including Island Beach Lot and Roger Sherman Baldwin Park.
“It definitely makes sense,” Camillo said.
“We all know the challenges of how hard it is of getting something really big accomplished, so maybe we do it in phases, but we’d love to see a strategic plan for this.”
The application for MI was left open.
Next, the Boys & Girls Club presented their non-binding pre-application for discussion. The Club’s plans include modernizing the facility’s outdated infrastructure. Their HVAC system is outdated and needs replacing. Mechanical systems need updating with more energy efficient solutions.
The also seek to add a new security system and vestibule on the main floor.
Plans also include the addition of new bathrooms and universal changing rooms.
The most visible parts of the project will be a new full size gymnasium extended out over the existing outdoor parking lot.
The turf field will be re-graded with tiers to create a sitting area described as an ampitheater that would overlook the turf field.
Cristina Vittoria, director of the club, said the new athletic center would fit regulation size facilities. They would also upgrade the pool locker rooms with the addition of universal and family changing rooms.
Ms Vittoria noted the club had seen an increase in the number of middle school and high school youth seeking a safe place “to hang out and be together,” and plans include doubling instructional space and a new, larger teen center.
Attorney Bruce Cohen representing said the club was looking to be closed for only one programmatic year and be under construction a bit longer than that. He said off site locations for programming include churches and possibly the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center.