P&Z Watch: Temporary Fire Station is a “Quonset Hut” in the Gateway to Greenwich

A pre application before the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday was from Greenwich’s Dept of Public Works to convert the “temporary fire station” in Horseneck parking lot to a permanent building for DPW’s small engine shop.

The engine shop is responsible for the maintenance and repair of lawnmowers, leaf blowers and trimmers and snow blowers, and is housed in the Parks & Trees building on Arch Street by Greenwich Harbor.

In the bigger picture, moving the small engine shop off the waterfront would open up views.

Temporary building at Horseneck Lot has two parts: an apparatus building on the left and a dormitory building at right. Photo: Leslie Yager
Operations in the 1950s era Town of Greenwich Parks & Rec Dept building would be moved to the temporary building in Horseneck Lot currently being used by Byram Fire Station personnel while their station is reconstructed.

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo has made it a priority to redevelop Roger Sherman Baldwin Park and make it both more accessible to residents and take advantage of water views. An RFP was issued by the Town in April for a mixed use development in the Island Beach Parking lot at 121 Arch Street.

The commission was concerned about the proposal because the building has always been intended to be temporary and is unattractive. If it were to become permanent it would have to comply with all zoning regulations.

That begged the question, why not tear it down and build a permanent and attractive building.

The commission said both sides of I-95 at exit 3 and the Greenwich train station serve as the gateway to Greenwich.

“In 2011 and 2017 we repeatedly got you to swear that you would remove this temporary building and you are now requesting to keep it,” said Commission chair Margarita Alban. “The reason we wanted you to get rid of the building is you plopped something that looks like a Quonset hut in the middle of a parking lot, with no landscaping and no site improvements. You are now proposing to do a beautification of Roger Sherman Baldwin Park and leave this thing behind.”

“We’ve been asking you for 10 years to get rid of it,” Alban said. “It doesn’t meet regulations. But as long as you can get it to meet building code for perpetuity and make it look better, we’ll try to work with you.”

“I’m sorry, it’s unattractive. It’s right where everyone comes off the train and sees Greenwich, goes to the farmers market. It’s a visible piece of Greenwich. We can improve Roger Sherman Baldwin, but the first thing people see is this Quanset hut.”

Alban asked Al Monelli, the town’s Superintendent of Building Construction & Maintenance, whether the town would compromise.

“Get the building to meet zoning regulations completely, give us landscaping, give us a facade that’s appealing and conforms with coastal standards. Would you consider doing that?” she asked.

Monelli said beautification was possible, including landscaping, fencing, a new facade and changing windows.

Alban also requested shade trees planted in wells.

“There’s no point in my mind to spend money on Roger Sherman when you’re going to have something that ugly as its gateway,” Alban said, suggesting Monelli go before the Architectural Review Committee for feedback.

Mr. Monelli said the dormitory building was not sub par. It was stick built, not modular construction and that it was only sub par aesthetically.

“It’s going to cost you money,” Alban said.

Mr. Monelli said there was a Catch-22. There was neither funding in the budget for Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, nor for the aesthetic improvements for the buildings in Horseneck Lot. In fact, Monelli said there wasn’t even money in the budget for demolition.

“If you said no tonight, we’d have to put money in the budget for demolition which would take place in July,” he said.

Monelli said Neighbor to Neighbor might still be interested in using the building temporarily for food distribution while their new building at Christ Church on Putnam Ave is being completed.

To do that, Monelli would have to return to P&Z and ask for a continuance on the temporary use.

“We’d give the use for Neighbor to Neighbor, but after that, you would have to terminate and find the money to demolish,” Alban said.

In Horseneck lot, there are actually two connected buildings – a dormitory building, which does conform with flood plain standards, and an apparatus building which does not. Monelli said that like the fire station, vehicles need to have access at grade level.

The item was left open and Mr. Monelli has options to work with.

Temporary building at Horseneck Lot has two parts: an apparatus building on the left and a dormitory building at right. Photo: Leslie Yager

See also:

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