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Decision on Cos Cob Synagogue Proposal on Hold

Lawyers given time to file briefs in arguments on the redesign of lot boundaries.

Decision on Cos Cob Synagogue Proposal on Hold

 

An 11th hour change in the Greenwich Reform Synagogue's proposal on how to configure the land it wants to use for a new facility, prompted the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission to delay its vote on the plan until Jan. 29.

Lawyer for the synagogue, Thomas Heagney, argued that a realignment of the boundaries of two properties the synagogue plans to use for a new temple, classrooms and other facilities on Orchard Street in Cos Cob was not a subdivision of the properties as argued by opposing residents' attorney Mario Coppola.

At the commission's meeting Tuesday night, the discussion lasted about 45 minutes before the lawyers agreed to submit their briefs by Jan. 18 and then have until Jan. 22 to submit rebuttals—all of which must be reviewed by the town's attorney. After that legal review, the commission will decide Jan. 29.

"What’s being proposed is to more than double the size of parcel at 92 (Orchard St.) but reducing the frontage which will allow more activity on rear portion of the lot with less room for ingress and egress," Coppola argued. "This according to Connecticut case law, allows that this is a subdivision, rather than a redesign of lot lines."

Heagney maintained, "Plain and simple we're starting with two lots and ending with two lots. You don’t have in town regulations a definition of what is a lot line revision." Citing West Hartford's regulations, Heagney said, "It is an adjustment or reallocation of (space)." He said that is what the synagogue is seeking.

The congregation wants to combine the contiguous lots and create a parcel where it wants to build a synagogue, classroom and meeting space, and parking for 100 cars, according to synagogue officials. The congregation purchased 96 Orchard in October.

92 Orchard St. is owned by former Greenwich Tax Collector Lou Caravella. His son Ron Caravella owns an adjacent parcel at 22 Osee Pl. which also would be combined to create the development lot.

Residents say the project would create more traffic in the heavily traveled neighborhood and set a precedent for developers to buy multiple parcels in a neighborhood to create a large project, regardless of the neighborhood character.

Resident Tom Dianis of 96 Valleywood Dr. told the commission, "I am the only property owner whose property abuts both 92 and 96 and it is distressing that I was not informed of any changes. Neither myself or other people whose property would be affected were not notified. ... We cannot fully trust what the applicant is saying."

Since selling its Stanwich Road campus last year, the 150-family congregtion now holds services at the First Congregational Church of Old Greenwich.

If the lot redesign is approved, the synagogue will then have to submit its proposal for its building plan.

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