P&Z Watch: Church/Sherwood 8-30g, Lewis St Restaurant/Market/Bakery Top Oct 13 Agenda

This week’s Planning & Zoning meeting will be on Wednesday beginning at 5:00pm on Zoom. (Typically P&Z meets on Tuesdays, but since Monday is the Columbus Day holiday the meeting was moved forward one day).

Church/Sherwood 8-30g

The agenda kicks off with the controversial seven-story, 192-unit residential development on Church Street in downtown Greenwich.

The proposal is a pre-application, and representatives for Eagle Ventures and SJP Properties will have about 20 minutes to present to the commission for feedback.

A rendering of the proposed 8-30g residential development on Church Street.

The application is being submitted under the state’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g, so 30% of the 192 units would be designated “Affordable.”

All of Connecticut’s 169 towns are required to have 10% of their housing “Affordable” per a state formula, and Greenwich has hovered around 5% for many years.

Until Greenwich achieves the requisite 10% which translates to a whopping additional 1,200+ Affordable units, developers are exempt from local zoning regulations by applying under 8-30g, with rare exceptions of health and safety.

While many towns in the quiet corner of Connecticut, for example, have never had a single 8-30g application, because the cost of land and existing housing are relatively low, Greenwich is another story.

In fact, the statute has been invoked here with increasing frequency because land values are so high and land to develop is scarce.

As required by 8-30g, the development will designate 30% of the residential units as Affordable.

Ironically, perhaps, many of the historic houses set to be torn down to make way for this development have been divided into apartments, providing de facto or “naturally occurring” affordable housing, but those apartments don’t count toward the town’s official inventory of Affordable housing, per the state statute.

39 Church Street, next to Townhouse Restaurant. Sept 10, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

The P&Z meeting materials include five letters from residents objecting to the development, mostly on the grounds that Church and Sherwood are both narrow streets and are major cut throughs from Rte 1 to Greenwich Hospital and the Merritt Parkway.

“Not sure if you have spent any time on Church St but it acts more like a one way street than anything. One UPS/Amazon delivery truck and everything is at a standstill,” wrote Francine Gingras on Oct 4.

Gingras said that by her estimate there are about 20 low cost rentals on Church Street and another 20 on Sherwood Place.

“…so if the point is to create lower cost affordable rentals, they already exist here…” Gingras added.

Former P&Z director Diane Fox, who is part of the Greenwich Historical Society’s Greenwich Preservation Network wrote to the P&Z commissioners and current director Katie DeLuca saying her group strongly opposed the applications.

47, 43 and 39 Church Street

For starters, she wrote that the properties are within the Fourth Ward National Register Historic District, and several of these structures are proposed to be demolished.

“This Fourth Ward reflects one of the earliest periods of settlement of lower and middle income residents in Greenwich. Demolition of key historic/architectural structures removes a great history of this part of the Town of Greenwich,” Fox wrote, adding that with only six National Historic Districts in Greenwich, the application would set a dangerous precedent for the remainder of the Fourth Ward and the other historic districts in town and across the state.

“We are fully aware of the state statute section 8-30g and the statement that only ‘public health and safety issues’ can be raised as defining why applications can be denied. We are saying historic preservation issues are just as important to preserve a town as is public health and safety issues,” Fox wrote, adding that the statute refers to ‘other matters which the Commission may legally consider.’

State Statute 8-30g states as follows:
“the decision is necessary to protect substantial Public interests in health, safety or other matters which the commission may legally consider … such public interests clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing; and such public interests cannot be protected by reasonable changes to the affordable housing development

Fox concluded by saying that for more than a century the Fourth Ward has been a model of affordable housing and that the intent purpose of the 8-30g statute was not to replace affordable single-, two-, and three-family housing units with a seven story residential building where the majority of units would be expensive.

See also: Pre-Application Submitted to Greenwich P&Z for 192-Unit 8-30g Development on Church Street in Downtown
Sept 12, 2021

192-Unit Affordable Housing Development Would Raze Restaurant, Historic Houses
Sept 15, 2021

8 & 10 Lewis Street, Also known as 6 Liberty Way

A second interesting application on the agenda (item #5) would redevelop the building where Sophia’s Costume Shop has operated for 40 years and New York Sports Club previously operated. The applicants are MH Cohen Realty LLC, who owns the mixed use building, and KYMA Greenwich, who is the prospective tenant. They seek to convert portions of the building into a retail bakery, market and restaurant.

Rendering of proposed restaurant/bakery/market at Lewis Street (and Liberty Way) where Sophia’s Costumes operates and New York Sports Club formerly operated.

The health club, which is now closed, was legally non conforming. That is significant. Health clubs are no longer allowed on first floors.

The health club, which is now closed, was legally non conforming. That is significant. Health clubs are no longer allowed on first floors.

KYMA wants to operate a bakery and market on the first floor and a restaurant on the first and second floor of the former sports club. The second floor restaurant would have an entrance on Lewis Street.

When this application initially went before P&Z on March 16, restaurants were not allowed on second floors in the vicinity of Greenwich Avenue, with the exception of a few that are grandfathered in, including Ginger Man, Douro and Lobster Craft.

Since then, the commission approved a proposal for the empty Ralph Lauren building that would allow a second floor restaurant, with conditions. The building must have no more than two floors and there can be no rooftop dining. Also, the restaurant’s ground and second floors must be served by a single onsite, central kitchen.

When they changed the regulation to allow second floor dining, the commission noted a key principle of the POCD was to maintain the economic vitality of the Town’s commercial centers such as Greenwich Ave.

(See: Approved Text Amendment Means Empty Ralph Lauren Building Eligible for Second Floor Restaurant Use August 15, 2021)

A factor to consider in the Lewis Street/Liberty Way application is parking.

Because the building is exempt from parking requirements (it is adjacent to a municipal lot) the commission previously told the applicant they would have to show their parking needs were no higher than if the sports club was operating at capacity.

Per KYMA’s application the restaurant would have a maximum of 300 seats, with 247 seats in the restaurant, 12 seats in the bakery, and 12 seats in the market. There would be an outdoor seating area though the number of seating is yet to be determined.

The applicant did a parking equivalency study showing that the previous uses of health club and retail would have required a total of 130 spaces (40 for retail and 90 for the gym). The proposed use of retail, retail bakery and market and restaurant would be 169 spaces (23 for retail, 37 for bakery and market and 109 for the restaurant).

Click here for the Oct 13, 5:00pm agenda and link to Zoom.