Stop Work Order Issued for Controversial Cos Cob House Construction on Sinawoy

This week Facebook churned with comments on a photo posted of a house under construction at 26 Sinawoy Rd in Cos Cob.

The house, which is in the R7 single family zone, was last sold from John and Sharon Vecchiola to 775 Atlantic Street LLC on Oct 26, 20210 for $625,000.

The owner, 775 Atlantic Street LLC, is registered to James Garbarino, Riverside, CT.

The applicant is Casey O’Donnell, a land use attorney who previously worked as a zoning enforcement officer for the Town of Greenwich.

The application was approved at town hall without going before Planning & Zoning or the Architectural Review Commission. When a single family house replaces a single family house, appearances before those boards is not required.

That said the zoning permit was issued in error and a Stop Work order was issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer, Jodi Couture.

On Friday, Mr. Couture explained why the Stop Order was issued.

First, the Stop Work order was not issued for what appears to be tiny windows.

Mr. Couture said the building code has requirements for the size of windows of bedrooms, for example, but that the openings cut through the green house wrap are not likely their actual size.

Nor was the Stop Work order issued for the height of the first floor, which appears quite off from the ground. He explained that a first floor must be no more than 5 ft from the ground. In this case, it is within 1-inch of the maximum.

“They met requirements for that not to be considered a story. If it goes more than 5 ft above, then the lower level is a story,” Couture said, adding, “It could be there is ledge over there and they wanted to bring it up to get a full basement.”

Nor is the height of the house a violation.

Couture said the maximum height allowed is 35 feet, and that the new house is 34.9 feet high.

Why was the Stop Work issued?

Couture said there were two permits issued: one from the building dept and one from the zoning dept.

“A neighbor sent a photo, and that’s when we sent an email to the building department to revoke the zoning approval. The issue is with the zoning.”

Couture said the top floor does not meet the definition of a “half story.”

Part of the requirement is that the attic be less than 40% FAR of the second floor.

The other requirement has to do with the roofline intersecting with the second floor.

Couture said one of the town’s inspectors had focused on the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for the attic, which is only one factor.

“To be considered as a half story, it has to be under a hip, gable, or gambrel roof. That’s where we ran into the issue.”

“According to our definition, it cannot be considered a half story. That’s the ultimate issue right there – the stories,” Couture said.

“Think of a normal angled roof, where it comes down it touches the walls – the second floor intersects. If it has a common intersection, you get to exclude the attic FAR.”

“This construction does not have that common intersection,” Couture said.

Since the stop work order, the applicant has done two things. One is to appeal Mr. Couture’s decision to revoke the zoning approval, which resulted in the stop work order.

“If that doesn’t work out, they’re requesting a variance (from the Zoning Board of Appeals) for the number of stories,” he said.

Asked whether the applicant might be required to deconstruct the attic, Mr. Couture said that was a possibility.

“It’s possible the Zoning Board of Appeals could deny it and say, ‘You have to modify it.’

In that case the applicant could appeal the decision to Superior Court, though that would drag out the process over time. Couture said typically time delays are not beneficial for a construction project.

Couture said 26 Sinawoy is on the agenda of the Jan 12, 2022 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at 7:00pm on Zoom.

In the meantime, residents are posting comments on social media with concerns that if a variance is approved, it might set a precedent for three story homes in town.

See also:

Byram Residents Fed Up with Violations at Former Bank on North Water Street