Debate continues over waterfront development
GREENWICH — A proposed change in zoning regulations that would allow more development along part of Greenwich’s waterfront drew fire at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s latest meeting.
Restaurants, retail food establishments, seasonal farm stands, offices and multifamily dwellings would be allowed along the waterfront in Byram, Steamboat Road in downtown Greenwich and River Road in Cos Cob under the proposal. Certain conditions, including creating public access and preserving the waterfront, would still be required, along with commission approval.
Town Director of Planning and Zoning Katie DeLuca said special permits would be granted only if a development “doesn’t conflict with the water dependent uses” that are already in place, particularly with existing businesses such as marinas, boat repair shops or boat storage.
The proposal could be reworded before a vote by the commission, which would be in the fall at the earliest. Several speakers worried Tuesday night about the impact on existing businesses when it comes to public access.
Tav Passarelli, owner of Ebb Tide Boat Rentals Inc. in Byram, told the commission that a pocket park would be preferable to a “full promenade” along the water. “So if I wanted to develop my property perhaps there could be a designated area on my site that would allow someone to sit on the property, a bench or two, and not have to be concerned about why people are walking through, particularly if it’s residential or is a restaurant,” he said.
Sheldon Kahn, owner of Interstate Lumber in Byram, though, said he has problems with the existing pocket parks and waterfront access.
“It just can’t be open all the time,” Kahn said. “There’s equipment and all kinds of things in the boatyard and at the lumberyard: We have equipment and wood, there’s boats and fuel. At the pocket park between my lumberyard and (Catalano and Sons), it’s a horror show of who hangs out there and how it’s used. ... And it gets worse and worse.”
Attorney Mario Coppola, representing the Drenckhan Boat Basin, expressed his concern that private property could be seized to create easements.
“(My clients) are concerned about this text amendment because of what it may take away from their family property,” Coppola said. “They’re not opposed necessarily to the entire text amendment. They’re not opposed to the addition of new uses. They were concerned about the issue of whether the requirements would apply to them if they were to expand their (business).”
Commission Secretary Margarita Alban responded. “The objective is to give flexibility to property owners and, at the same time, give enhanced public access where possible,” she said. “Point taken that we have to figure out how to accomplish that.”
Town resident Richard Margenot also spoke in support of the business owners.
“The town has changed,” Margenot said. “But we don’t have a lot of marinas, and I’d like to see my friends do things with their property, maybe add a little restaurant or add apartments, without having to take up all of their waterfront which they need for their business.”