P&Z Watch: Controversial 8-30g Affordable Housing Application in Cos Cob is Approved

On Tuesday night the P&Z commission approved a controversial 8-30g application in Cos Cob at 4 Orchard Street, right next to Cos Cob School. Neighbors had tuned into a series of public hearings to say they were concerned for the safety of children walking to school and for the traffic that will funnel through the already confusing and busy 5-way intersection with East Putnam Ave.

The push for affordable housing is not new, but the push for “Affordable housing” with a Capital A has recently been in the news after the proposal of multiple pieces of legislation.

The legislation would nudge towns toward achieving 10% of their housing as “Affordable” per the State, though Greenwich was already seeing an increase in the number of 8-30g applications.

For the developer of 4 Orchard, Joe Pecora, this will be his third 8-30g project.

The commission had praised Pecora for the 4 Orchard proposal, noting that the development is close to the bus, in a walkable area, blended in with the residential streetscape, and was relatively modest in scope with just 15 units of which five (one third) will be “Affordable” under 8-30g.

Pecora will replace an existing florist shop, greenhouse and dwelling with 15 units, using modular construction.

4 Orchard Street in Cos Cob is currently home to Greenwich Florist. The site includes a dwelling, greenhouse, storage shed and garage. Photo: Leslie Yager

The site was already zoned for commercial use, and the P&Z chair Margarita Alban had previously noted that the proposed 15 units would create less intensive traffic than a fully active commercial use.

And, the developer and his attorney Bruce Cohen had noted that the property might otherwise have been sold to another nursery/garden center/florist operation such as McArdle’s or Sam Bridge, which would certainly generated significant more traffic.

In her debrief Wednesday, P&Z director Katie DeLuca said the applicant had done a great job resolving outstanding issues and questions since the previous meeting, including sewer dept, fire dept and landscaping issues.

The approval had one condition, which was that the applicant must wrap up his “Affordability plan,” which details how the affordable units would be managed. That will be hashed out before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued.

While the 4 Orchard project has the green light from the Town, there was not a single neighbor speaking in favor of it.

Numerous residents spoke about the tricky intersection just feet from the development’s entrance.

The 5-way intersection features school crosswalks for children and an awkward island that is confusing to unfamiliar drivers. One neighbor referred to it as “the wild west” and the “4th of July.”

There was a suggestion that the Dept of Public Works look at possibly improving the intersection.

For anyone who is yet to have 8-30g on their radar, Connecticut Towns that are not in compliance lose their zoning control when an Affordable Housing development is proposed under 8-30g, with rare exceptions concerning health and safety.

Greenwich has 1,371 units, which is 5.3% out of the 10% required under 8-30g.

Greenwich would have to add about 1,200 units to meet the State requirement.

Several pieces of legislation have been proposed recently in recent weeks in Hartford that have both the intention of creating de facto affordable housing by changing zoning to higher density, and to create Affordable housing as defined by 8-30g by imposing a tax on towns that are not in compliance.

Senate Bill 172 would establish a state-wide tax on commercial and residential property to encourage Affordable housing as defined by 8-30g. The tax has a “sliding scale” which reflects how far a town is from the required 10%.

Another bill, SB 804, an Act Concerning Inclusion in Certain Communities sprung from a platform developed by a non profit coalition called DeSegregate CT, founded by Sara Bronin. It was proposed by Senator Saud Anwar, a Democrat representing the 3rd District, which includes the towns of East Hartford, South Windsor, East Windsor and Ellington.

Another bill has to do with allowing greater density near train stations. Senator Martin Looney proposed SB 554, An Act Concerning Municipal Zoning and Public Transit would require towns to permit a greater density of housing within a 1/2 mile of a public transit station than otherwise permitted by the town.

Learn more:

United Way Forum Highlights the Affordable Housing Squeeze in Greenwich

Jan 31, 2021

A Window into the Crafting of DeSegregate CT State Zoning Legislation

Jan 25, 2021

Forum on Affordable Housing Focuses on Local Control, Property Rights and Unintended Consequences of Future State Legislation

Jan 21, 2021

P&Z Considers 21-Unit 8-30g Development on Hollow Wood in Flood Zone

Jan 2021

P&Z Watch: 8-30g Pre-Application for 15 Unit Development Next to Cos Cob School in Site of Flower Shop


4 Orchard Street.. final site plan and special permit approval to demolish existing legally non-conforming structures and construct a 15-unit multifamily set-aside development pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 8-30g on a 28,180 square foot property in the R-7 zone

24 regular parking spaces are proposed plus one ADA

30% of the proposed 15 rental units, or 5 units, would be restricted affordable housing units.

Two (2) of the units would be deed restricted for 40 years to families earning 80% or less of the State median income, and three (3) of the units would be restricted to those earning 60% or less of either the State median income. The commission notes that the proposed configuration enables HUE points for the town.

The Commission further notes that all first floor one-bedroom units will be built as accessible type B developments. The applicant has been advised to ensure accessible paths to these units.

The Commission notes the following

SEWER – Due to concerns about inflow and infiltration in the area, the sewer division required on December 9, 2020 that the applicant provide existing and proposed sanitary sewer flows. Sewer Division has also confirmed to pnz staff that regardless “it will be able to issue sewer permits for the proposed development.”

Traffic The Commission notes conclusions by the applicant’s traffic consultant, supported by the Town traffic consultant of an unsatisfactory level of service at the intersection of Orchard Street and Rte 1. Both also concur that the proposed development will have minimal impact on the existing LOS. The Commission also requested the applicant to provide data regarding potential safety risks to children entering or leaving the Cos Cob School. The information provided indicates this proposal will not have an adverse impact.

ENGINEERING – In its comments of 11/13/20, the engineering division approved the project with respect to site planning and stormwater management. It further commented that the applicant address the concerns raised by the Town’s traffic consultant regarding parking.

BETA Per its 11/12/20 memorandum, the traffic consultant judged the parking proposal as reasonable but requested the applicant consider developing a plan to manage usage. The commission has concurred in this and encourages the applicant to evaluate assigned parking and/or incentives to reduce car dependence

ARC – Commented 12.2.20 indicating that the project does not return- forward to P&Z with recommendations.

Screening: The applicant has proposed screening planting on the Cos Cob School site adjacent to the property. The applicant will work with the Board of Education to complete this proposal. The applicant has also offered to build a screening fence on the other side of the property which may not be necessary should the neighbor choose to construct instead

HOUSING SPECIALIST – A draft affordability plan has been submitted for review and must be approved prior to zoning permit.

GFD – In a memo dated 11.15.20 the fire department stated “Overall, the proposed project does not show any obvious life safety concerns and HAS FIRE MARSHAL APPROVAL to proceed through P&Z approval process. NOTE: This is NOT an official plan review for a building permit. The Fire Marshal plan review will be conducted when a building permit application is received.”

The applicant has adjusted the proposed site plan to address.

IWWA issued a green sheet dated 8/13/20

Conservation As green space on the site is currently 20%, the applicant should pursue any additional opportunities for play areas and planting, particularly of native species. However, the commission also notes that the provision of patios and porches provides residents with outdoor space opportunities.