P&Z Watch: GCDS Field Improvements Approved with Numerous Conditions

After multiple public hearings before the Planning & Zoning commission, Greenwich Country Day School received approval for their playing field improvements to support their new campus on Stanwich Rd.

Previously, hearings were marked by neighbor opposition in the area of Fairfield Rd and Cardinal Road. Residents there complained about Greenwich High School students parking at the skating club, speeding on the dead end and a loss of privacy.

Lisa Bishop, a Fairfield Rd resident, said public high school parents had even started coming to Cardinal Road to park and wait for their students.

Joe Boldt, a 37-year resident at the other corner of Cardinal Rd, said he feared degradation of the neighborhood, describing his street as “a sleepy little lane” none months of the year.

P&Z repeatedly said they would prefer that students from the GCDS high school campus on Stanwich Rd use field facilities on that campus rather than add to existing heavy traffic by shuttling back and forth to the Cardinal Road fields.

The school’s attorney Bruce Cohen said GCDS had no plans to build a new stadium at their new Stanwich Rd campus.

In January, the school had sought to upgrade two grass playing fields to synthetic turf, and construct a field house with boys and girls locker rooms, visiting team locker rooms, training room and toilets underneath spectator seating for 478, plus portable bleachers that seat 200 and public toilet rooms on one side of building.

But last month the school took the proposal down several notches, coming before P&Z with a proposal for a “soft opening” for field improvements and temporary bleachers.

On Wednesday night, most of P&Z’s site plan conditions had to do with who could use the facility and how the monitoring of traffic would work over time.

The site plan approval included multiple conditions including an agreement to establish a Cardinal Road Traffic and Parking Monitoring Committee to start after the Certificate of Occupancy is issued.

The committee will include the school’s traffic engineer, a representative from GCDS, a representative from the skating club, and someone from the residential neighborhood.

GCDS will submit an updated event, traffic and management plan.

GCDS will return to P&Z if at any time a field lighting system is proposed for a practice or playing field.

The applicant agreed to implement more intensive monitoring and enforcement protocols on an ongoing basis for the authorized use of Cardinal Road including:

  • Using school staff to patrol Cardinal Rd and its fields on a regular basis.
  • Installing gating mechanisms to prohibit access to its parking lots when the fields are not in use.
  • Contacting a towing company to remove unauthorized vehicles found to be parked illegally on the road or in the school’s parking lots.
  • Install signage at key points to identify the road as private and indicate illegally parked cars will be towed.

The school had already provided a mutual easement agreement signed by both the skating club and GCDS to formalize their parking agreement with the skating club, which was a condition.

GCDS staff will install gated access when the field is not in use.

The school will use existing toilet facilities and not use skating club toilet facilities.

Portable bleachers will be used on a temporary basis.

School will require students to change for sports at their originating campus.

Applicant agreed to remove invasive species along Greenwich Creek and agreed to work with the Wetlands Agency and Conservation Commission on a long term plan to keep invasive species from returning.

Applicant agreed it would be possible to install speed reduction structures, including speed humps, should the neighbors find speeding continues to be a problem, but only if DPW authorizes the installation.

Applicant will install seven trees and 15 new shrubs for additional screening between 65 Fairfield Ave back yard and Cardinal Rd.

Also, the applicant agreed to require third party users of the Cardinal Road and fields (such as the Boys & Girls Club) to drop off and pick up at the Old Church Road campus.

“The enhanced athletic fields on Cardinal Road are an important addition to the school’s current facilities, which include an Athletic Center at the Old Church Road campus, two turf fields at the Stanwich Road campus, and a state-of-the-art fitness center, which is currently under construction and will open in the fall of 2021 as part of the Upper School expansion,” GCDS said in a release Wednesday night, adding that the 2020-2021 season marks the school’s first year in both the FAA (Fairchester Athletic Association) and NEPSAC (New England Preparatory School Athletic Council).

“As we begin our second year of high school athletics, there is already tremendous momentum,” said Tim Helstein, GCDS Athletic Director in the release. “GCDS has joined the FAA and NEPSAC conferences to compete at the highest level. The challenges of the past few months have reminded us of the important value of sports—and the ways sports can bring us together as a community. Our extraordinary coaches continue to build their programs and inspire our student-athletes. We are excited about what is ahead for GCDS athletics. The two planned NCAA-size turf fields are crucial to the strength of our program as we look forward to high level competition and showing our Tiger Pride.”

Peter Lowe, Victoria Goss, Nick Macri, Dave Hardman and Margarita Alban all voted yes, making the vote 5-0.

See also:

GCDS Proposes ‘Soft Opening’ for Turf Field and Temporary Bleachers

Aug 1, 2020

P&Z Balks at Proposed GCDS Stadium; Traffic Is Main Concern

Jan 29, 2020

New rendering of proposed GCDS multi purpose field off Fairfield Rd. The previously proposed field house with team rooms and toilet facilities is gone. The proposed bleachers would be temporary.