P&Z Watch: Contract for the Purchase of 5 Brookridge is Off

The contract for the purchase of 5 Brookridge is off.

Over the past year ‘5 Brookridge’ has become shorthand for the 86-unit, 5 story residential development proposed to P&Z by Joe Pecora under the state affordable housing statute.

A contract for the sale of the property, which gave buyers standing to pursue the 8-30g application, has been terminated and the owner, 515 E Putnam LLC, Chris Franco managing member, will not pursue the buyer’s application.

A letter dated June 17 from the attorney for 515 E Putnam LLC, James Moriarty of Zeisler & Zeisler, to Katie DeLuca, Greenwich’s Director of Planning and Zoning, said his client requested that the application be withdrawn.

A request to Joe Pecora for comment was not immediately returned.

Neighbor Tara Restieri commented that while she supported affordable housing, “Whatever the reason for withdrawing this application at Brookridge Drive, it does emphasize that the need for local oversight to protect the health, safety, environment and infrastructure of our town.”

Trees were cleared from 5 Brookridge in early November 2021. Photo: Leslie Yager
5 Brookridge has distinctive Tudor elements.
The parcel at 5 Brookridge is 1.7 acres in the R20 zone, where currently the land is improved by a single family house, circa 1900. Pictured December 2018, before clear cutting.
Rendering of five story 8-30g development proposed for 5 Brookridge at the corner of Rte 1.

The application was controversial even before a pre application was submitted to P&Z when the 1.7 acre property was clear cut by the applicant of about 200 trees, including a mature Beech, Oak and Black Walnut.

When the application did have a public hearing, neighbors said the location by the intersection of Indian Field Rd and Route 1, and a block from Greenwich High School, would be unsafe from a traffic and pedestrian perspective.

A group of neighbors hired attorney Mario Coppola from of Berchem Moses PC to take legal action against the project.

Homeowners in the Milbrook Association on the south side of Putnam Ave retained Eric Brower.

Attorney Bruce Cohen, representing the applicants, reminded the P&Z commission that 8-30g in effect trumps local zoning regulations.

Indeed, the bar is high before health and safety concerns outweigh the need for affordable housing, but neighbors gave input.

Don Hamilton described the intersection as one of the most dangerous in town. He said getting out of the building onto East Putnam Ave would force cars would be queue all the way to Fairfield Rd and ultimately Brookridge would have to become a one way street.

Mr. Coppola said inadequate parking would result in illegally parked cars parked on Brookridge, impeding safe passage for cars and emergency vehicles.

As time went on, a perplexing question developed over the sewer connection.

The property is not currently connected to town sewers, the question of whether the town would allow the applicant to connect to town sewers had yet to be answered.

As far back as January, P&Z chair Margarita Alban described the issue of the sewer connection as the elephant in the room.

The applicant asked P&Z for their blessing on the sewer issue so they could go to the Commissioner of DPW, Amy Siebert for approval, but the commission said they were waiting to hear from the Commissioner first.

“This project must be connected to the town sewer system to proceed. If it is not, then the project just won’t take place,” attorney for the applicant Bruce Cohen said in March.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Chris Franco said that at the moment he had no plans for the property.

“The contract has just been terminated,” he said. “And we have to take stock and see where we’re going.”

Prior to the contract with Pecora, Mr. Franco in 2018 received unanimous support of the Historic District Commission for a Historic Overlay for “Milbrook Crossing,” a development that would keep several historic properties along East Putnam Ave and develop them into multi family residential units, including six units at 5 Brookridge.

The project ran into issues with Wetlands and dragged on for quite some time before being declined by that agency. Mr. Franco did not appeal or submit a new application.

He owned 5 Brookridge, but not the other three properties down the hill, which had the historic flooding issues that were so problematic to the Wetlands agency.

Since 5 Brookridge does not have a history of flooding, a logical question would be whether Mr. Franco might seek an HO for sewer, retain the historic main house, and create six to eight units at 5 Brookridge.

In addition to declining to comment on his plans for the property, he declined to comment when asked about refunding the purchaser’s deposit.

The purchase price was $2,750,000 and a 10% deposit would be $275,000.

Signature of one of the vendees, Antony East from FTRE Real Estate LLC in Greenwich Land Records. The deposit for the sale of 5 Brookridge was $275,000.