P&Z Watch: Compromise Reached in Cos Cob after Historic Overlay Violation

At the last P&Z meeting the commission approved a plan for renovations on the facade of 133 East Putnam Ave in Cos Cob, where a violation of a 2013 Historic Overlay agreement was issued this summer.

The applicant had come before the commission twice previously without resolution.

Over the summer the town issued a stop work order on the building’s facade after bricks were removed, new picture windows and transoms installed and a second entrance door added on the historic facade.

P&Z chair Margarita Alban had said the village of Cos Cob was characterized by multi-pane windows and described the building as “quintessential Cos Cob” and that the development across the street at the property currently home to M&T bank was told to mirror the look of 133 East Putnam Ave.

A nine-page P&Z decision letter from 2013 noted that in exchange for an easement and “perpetual preservation” of the historic facade, the applicant could convert an existing legally non-conforming warehouse dating to 1973 into a dance studio, and to use first floor space of the historic brick building for office and jobbing.

Work being done on the historic facade of 133 East Putnam Ave in Cos Cob. Original bricks removed after P&Z requested that applicant stop work. Saturday, July 17, 2021. Contributed photo
Rendering of picture windows with “prairie style” border of divided light panes.

The applicant’s architect Rudy Ridberg presented some options for a compromise that kept the new windows essentially where they were.

Mr. Ridberg said the two new picture windows were ideal for people to see into the retail space, but because the commission was looking for more muntins he had designed options to add them.

Muntins are the vertical dividers that separate glass panes in a window.

“One is a little too big, one is a little too small. We’re hoping one is just right,” said attorney Tom Heagney on behalf of his client, Griffith Harris.

Nick Macri said he was confused why there were two addresses in the renderings of the building facade, 135 and 133. “It’s still just one address for the building,” he said.

After a discussion about what was appropriate, the commissioners agreed that the “prairie style” windows with a border of divided lights was preferable.

Commissioner Nick Macri disagreed. He said he would prefer an option in which the picture windows were fully treated with divided light panes.

Rendering of picture windows fully gridded with divided light.

“I would think in my opinion that the two picture windows should be fully gridded out with the muntins,” Macri said.

Ridberg said he had seen a photo of the building in the 1940s when the building was a service station with two garage doors and a car ramp into the building, but he couldn’t locate the photo.

P&Z chair Margarita Alban said, “Once you have this change, you’re right back into HO and whatever is approved by HDC gets approved in perpetuity and everybody signs in blood.”

Ms Alban said she was also concerned about the addition of the address 135 East Putnam Ave.

“What our approval letter says is that specifically you are creating 133 for the HO,” she added. “The tenant doesn’t get to change this.”

Ms Alban said any tenant’s signage would have to be consistent with the HO. “No neon, no whatever,” she said.

“We landed in a good place,” said town planned Katie DeLuca in an interview following the meeting.

The applicant will work with the Architectural Review Committee on tenant signage and lighting rather than appearing before the commission again.

Ms Alban said the applicant should be issued an HO decision letter by staff at P&Z to create a record for the HDC.

She also said the commission would be scheduling a workshop with the Historic District Commission to synchronize better in future.

“They didn’t know about the conditions of the HO,” Alban said. “We need to make sure that in the future everyone is on the same page.”

See also:

P&Z Watch: Potential Historic Overlay Violation in Cos Cob Puts 2013 Agreement in Limbo
July 26, 2021

Part of the applicant’s presentation featured historic photo of Cos Cob in undated photo.
The building at 133 East Putnam Ave in Cos Cob before renovations.