Plan of Conservation and Development Future of town looks unclear
GREENWICH — Greenwich’s new Plan of Conservation and Development is coming together at a time of change in the town.
Various trends point to a potential future need for smaller, denser and more affordable homes closer to the town center and, if possible, transit connections.
Collected data supports projections that the school-age population in Greenwich will drop by nearly 7 percent between 2020 and 2030, while the population of those 65 and older is projected to grow by 1 percent, said Aleksandra Moch, environmental analyst for the town’s Conservation Commission.
But Greenwich’s current housing stock might not suit that shift, Moch said, with much of the town marked by larger homes with multiple bedrooms, which were built for Baby Boomers. They are not what millennials — or people who are downsizing — are looking for.
The cost of housing in Greenwich is another concern. Speaking last week at a public hearing on the POCD, Moch said the median home value is $1,169,900 — an increase of 69 percent since 2000.
And the situation could be more serious than suggested by the school enrollment projections, said Peter Berg, chair of the Representative Town Meeting’s Land Use Committee.
Speaking at the Thursday hearing, Berg cited a University of Connecticut study that indicated Greenwich’s population would drop 20 percent to 48,000 by 2040.
The POCD should “reconcile” school projections and the study to see which is the most accurate, Berg said.
“Obviously if our population drops by 20 percent, it’s going to have profound impact on the future of town and may well inform many different kinds of recommendations about residential development in this town in this 10-year period you’re planning toward,” Berg said of the discussions underway.
Director of Zoning Katie DeLuca said the UConn projections do not take into account economic policies in the country, individual decisions or other factors that could determine where someone moves.
Future housing needs and development were not the only topics brought up at the hearing.
A new Plan of Conservation and Development is written every 10 years. DeLuca said the goal is to get the new POCD to the town’s Representative Town Meeting in the spring of 2019. More public sessions will be coming in September or October.
Many of the speakers Thursday focused on issues of trees in town, with a number of voices speaking for more efforts to preserve and protect.
“Greenwich is at a turning point,” said Francia Alvarez, a member of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy and the RTM. “We already know the effects of clear-cutting and what construction damage has done to our neighborhoods and our environment. We continue to see significant tree loss along the adjacent metro I 95-Post Road corridor, yet we cannot always control the state and the clear-cutting that it does, so we have to focus on what we can protect in our town.”
Other speakers focused on improving the town permit process, moving power lines underground and using the POCD to create more affordable housing.
Others tackled broader issues with regard to the plan.
“It’s very confusing what the authority of the plan is,” RTM member John Eddy said. “The authority of the plan should be stated in the beginning of the plan so people of the town understand what it is, when it’s applicable, when it’s not applicable, when we can appeal to it and when is the commission obliged to follow it. It would save people a lot of time and money.”
That comment got the approval of Planning and Zoning Commission Secretary Margarita Alban, who said it was an issue the commission had been talking about earlier in the day.
“It’s got to be very clear what the POCD can and can’t do,” Alban said.
Others said the plan has to be made more specific, and RTM member Don Conway added, “You’ve got to add something in called teeth, enforcement teeth.”
Conway also said the town has to be more responsive to resident complaints about zoning and development issues.
Residents can find out more about the POCD at www.hlplanning.com/portals/greenwich/ and offer input through the website.
“People have been very generous with their time and the feedback has been excellent,” DeLuca said Friday. “However, we can never have enough input so we are always looking at different ways of getting more people engaged.”