P&Z Watch: Brunswick Approved Unanimously for Early Education Center at 270 Lake Ave

This week Greenwich’s P&Z commission approved Brunswick’s plans for an early childhood education center at 270 Lake Ave, which previously home to Carmel Academy.

The campus has a history of school uses dating back to 1900 when the property became home to Rosemary Hall. Most recently it was owned by Carmel Academy.

Chabad Lubavitch had hoped to make the campus their permanent home after running their preschool and summer camp there for several years. But in January 2022 they withdrew their application, following months of pushback from neighbors in the Rock Ridge Association who voiced concerns during public hearings about amplified music and PA systems, traffic, special events and outdoor activities.

While Chabad vowed to re-submit a new application, that never happened.

For a time, Alan Breed, a resident of Rock Ridge Association and general partner of Rockridge Partners LP, became the tentative contract purchaser of the property.

In the intervening months, Chabad found a new home on Field Point Rd in the former First Lutheran Church across from Greenwich Town Hall and Brunswick School cast its gaze on the 16+ acre property.

Brunswick began with a pre-application to receive non-binding feedback from the P&Z commission in September 2022.

While existing school use approvals with a max enrollment of 450 run with the land, Brunswick came in with a proposal for far fewer students.

Initially Brunswick suggested a cap of 250 students, but after conversations with neighbors, attorney for the applicant Chip Haslun said head of School Thomas Philip and the board had felt that 150 would suit their purposes.

They said their modest enrollment reflected a built-in cap that reflected enrollment numbers in lower, middle and upper school that the preschoolers would rise to.

“We’re at where we want to be in the upper school. We couldn’t grow our younger divisions because it would negatively impact the other divisions,” said Tom Philip said in September 2022.

After closing the application in March, this week P&Z approved Brunswick’s application for a final site plan and special permit with minimal discussion and no public comment.

Per the approval, buildings 1, 7, 8, and 9 will be reconfigured to house faculty and 13, 14 and 15 will be renovated to accommodate early childhood education facilities.

The auditorium, gymnasium and chapel will be preserved, as they have significant historical significance.

Buildings 3, 4, 10, 11, 12 and 16 remain vacant and unchanged.

The applicant will make changes to the eastern arrival and dismissal parking area.

The existing outdoor swimming pool will be removed.

Some of the conditions of approval include that student enrollment has a cap of 150 students.

Hours of operation for Nursery School (7:30 am arrival to 5:30pm dismissal), pre-K (8:00am arrival and 2:45 dismissal; 12:00 noon on Fridays) and kindergarten (8:30am arrival and 3:15pm dismissal; 12:30 on Fridays).

There will be no evening or weekend classes, and the school term shall be mid-August and run through end of June, with no classes during summer recess.

As for transportation and parking, there will be no use of the southern Lake Ave driveway except to service buildings and no parking at Lake Avenue entrance at arrival an dismissal times.

Gymnasium on the campus at 270 Lake Ave.

All student arrival and dismissal shall be by private car or van, not to exceed two vans via, the northerly Lake Ave entrance.

Bus use is prohibited. Cars transporting faculty are not to exceed 50 using both northerly Lake Ave and Ridgeway Drive, and a uniformed police officer shall be present on site to assist with Lake Ave arrival and dismissal.

As for external uses, camp uses are prohibited.

Site uses, other than early childhood education and staff housing, are prohibited.

External use of the chapel shall be limited to 12 times per calendar year.

Organized interscholastic athletics on site are prohibited.

Prior to any change of use or or further development of the site, the application must return to P&Z.

The vote in favor was unanimous, with Alban, Macri, Welles, Lowe and Levy voting.