GREENWICH — A previously denied apartment project in Old Greenwich roared back to life Tuesday night as the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a development for 143 Sound Beach Ave.
The commission denied the project, which drew a large public outcry, in November 2017 because of concerns that it lacked adequate parking and posed a life safety hazard. The project developers then sued the town.
And on Tuesday night, the commission approved a significantly scaled-down version of the project as part of a settlement between the town and developers.
“We have a pretty good compromise here,” commission member Nick Macri said before the vote, which was taken without any additional debate among the commissioners.
The number of apartment units was cut from the originally proposed 60 to 34, three of which will be set aside as moderate-income housing and an additional one as affordable housing.
The three-story apartment building, called Station House, will be constructed on the site of a business office complex, which will be torn down.
The commission said the revised design — with fewer units but the same planned 49 parking spaces —met with its approval. The changes also satisfied the previous concerns of the Greenwich Fire Department that the fire evacuation routes were inadequate and that there was not enough first responder access to the development.
…. The plan was cut from four floors to three, and the design was modified from a contemporary look to a more traditional design a “traditional brick style,” Macri said. He compared the apartment building design to that of the nearby Sound Beach fire house, Old Greenwich School and the Perrot Memorial Library.
…. Because the development includes affordable housing, the developers applied for approval under the 8-30g state law, which aims to increase affordable housing in Connecticut. The commission was limited in its denial under the law, which says denial can only come due to reasons of health, safety and other concerns deemed to be of greater importance than adding additional affordable housing to a community.
“The applicant filed the lawsuit, but at the same time the applicant offered to address the fire safety issues and therefore the commission agreed to enter into negotiations for a settlement and not proceed with the lawsuit,” the commission’s Acting Chair Margarita Alban said.
When the project first came forward in 2017, there was significant pushback from the community. But when it was approved Tuesday, only a few neighbors were present and they said few residents knew the item was on the commission’s agenda.
It was not on the original agenda, but it was listed as the first item on the revised agenda that was posted before the meeting on the town’s website.
Peter Orbanowski, who with his wife is the owner of the nearby Old Greenwich Tennis Academy, said they learned that the project was on the agenda only an hour before the meeting. He called it “a railroad job” because the agreement had been made as part of the settlement before the meeting even happened.
“No one in the public knew what was going on here,” he said. “Whether or not we agree with this, I have no idea because I really have no idea what this agreement is.”