WITHDRAWN: Church-Sherwood P&Z 8-30g Application in Historic Fourth Ward

On Wednesday afternoon P&Z director Katie DeLuca’s office received a letter from Chip Haslun, attorney for applicants, Church Sherwood LLC (registered to James P Cabrera) saying they were withdrawing their applications for final site plan and special permit for a set aside development of 192 units under the State’s affordable housing statute 8-30g on Church Street and Sherwood Place.

“We appreciate the time the Commission and Commission staff, as well as other town departments, have devoted to this matter,” Haslun wrote.

Church Sherwood rendering view from motor court.
Rendering of Church-Sherwood viewed from Church Street.
Left to right: 47 Church (white with mansard roof), 43 Church (blue) and 39 Church Street (white), where the proposed 8-30g will be located. Sept 10, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

The letter was copied to attorneys representing opponents of the development: Mario Coppola, an attorney representing the Town & Country Condo Association (20 Church Street), as well as four individual residents of the building, and Andrea Sisca, an attorney representing residents at Sherwood Green, condos to the north of the proposed development.

The proposal was for a 7-story 192-unit development submitted under the state’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g. Under that statute 30% of the units would be set aside as affordable per the state’s definition.

In April, the Church Sherwood project architect David Minno, told the P&Z commission that amenities including pickle ball and fire pits on the roof were designed with the “empty nester market” in mind.

Also proposed were 23,000 sq ft of proposed indoor residential amenity and lobby space, and 7,000 sq ft of outdoor courtyard amenity space. Other active and passive amenities included a swimming pool with lounge chairs, casual seating, grilling areas and private terraces.

Some of the contentious issues for the application stemmed from it being in the midst of the historic 4th Ward.

The houses to be demolished included: located at 35, 39, 43, & 47 Church Street, 32, 36, & 42 Sherwood Place and 1, 2, 3, 4 Putnam Court.

Eleven properties would be torn down in the 4th Ward, which became a National Register Historic District in the year 2000. Nine of the 11 structures are on the list of contributing structures.

The applicant hired attorneys from Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford: Mary Jo Andrews, who has extensive experience with “SHPO” (the State Historic Preservation Office, and the state’s Historic Preservation Council, and Matthew Ranelli, an 8-30g expert, both of whom argued that demolition of the historic houses that are listed on properties listed on the National Register was not “unreasonable destruction of historic structures and landmarks of the state,” which is a benchmark of CT Gen Stat § 22a-19a.

Neighbors were incensed by the applicant’s assertion that demolishing the historic houses that were originally home to working class people was logical because the affordable units in the development would give a new generation of people a similar affordable opportunity in Greenwich.

“To hear people say they’re building this building in the spirit of how the neighborhood originally started, to me is a bunch of bunk because the building looks like a fortress,” said Dean Gamanos, resident of the Fourth Ward.

From Church Street a colonnaded carriageway with tall glass windows looking into the main lobby spaces leads to a motor court with a European feeling.The motorcourt, which would have access to Sherwood via Putnam Court, would be for pick up and drop off, as well as package deliveries from FedEx, UPS and Amazon.

Nick Abbott, a Greenwich native and recent Harvard Law School graduate, who is an officer with Desegregate CT, said the new development would revive the neighborhood’s diversity rather than preserve a “relic of the past” that served as a “symbol of historic diversity.”

Another issue involved the owners of 27 Sherwood, the Greenwich Women’s Exchange, who claim that they have a longstanding easement on Putnam Court and the development would violate their private property rights.

They said because of the easement, volunteers at their non profit gift shop, along with customers, park along one side of that short street. The Exchange has owned the property since 1937.

“The incorporation of Putnam Court into this project for ingress, egress, deliveries and firetruck access, benefiting properties not entitled to use Putnam Court, would be taking and/or curtailing of the Exchange’s deeded property right,” said Veronica Schmitz, president of the Exchange. “Such incorporation is unlawful as well as unconstitutional.”

When last we left off our reporting in April, the next step was for SHPO, who had confirmed the buildings contribute to the historic district, to put the project on the agenda of the Historic Preservation Council, who would hear presentations from the developer and those opposed to the demolitions.

Meanwhile the P&Z commission had scheduled a public hearing on June 30 to focus on the Church Sherwood application.

The meeting is canceled.

Church-Sherwood is not the first large 8-30g development to fall through, though it could be resubmitted in future.

5 Brookridge

Just last week, plans for a five-story 86-unit 8-30g development at 5 Brookridge evaporated after the contract for the sale of the property fell through.

The contract purchasers were Joe Pecora and FTRE Real Estate LLC.

In that instance, the contract for the sale of the property gave buyers standing to pursue the 8-30g application. When the contract fell through, the property owner, 515 E Putnam LLC, managing member Chris Franco said he would not pursue the buyer’s application.

Before the contract fell through, that application reached the point where the blessing of the DPW commissioner and P&Z were needed to connect the development to the town’s sewers. The property is outside the town sewer boundary. Dozens of neighbors in the Brookridge neighborhood had united to hire attorney Mario Coppola to represent them in fighting the development. Also, homeowners in the Milbrook Association had hired Eric Brower for representation.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the entire June 30 P&Z meeting is canceled.