Feedback mixed on Cos Cob plan

FI-greenwich-town-sealCos Cob residents are cautiously backing most proposals in a new Cos Cob Neighborhood Plan — but with some disagreements on the information the consultant gathered for the report.

The final draft of the plan was discussed at the Jan. 14 meeting of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Peter Berg, the Cos Cob Association president and a member of District 8 on the Representative Town Meeting, which covers Cos Cob, said he is questioning the study in light of what he called a “fundamental” error in the population number cited in the plan.

In an email to the Post, Mr. Berg said the error reflects a lack of knowledge of Cos Cob’s importance to the town.

“The error in population is fundamental. It undermines confidence in the consultant and every other fact of the plan,” he wrote. “The plan needs to acknowledge that Cos Cob is the only one of the larger villages in Greenwich that has had continuously growing population and is now the population center of Greenwich.”

According to the study, which relied on U.S. census information, the population of Cos Cob increased from 8,373 in 1980 to 8,747 in 2010. However, the study said that the population peaked at 8,401 residents in 1990 and Mr. Berg said that the only time the population of Cos Cob has dropped was in 1644 when the Dutch killed at least 500 Native Americans in Cos Cob.

The study began in March of last year and included two public meetings, one on March 14, hosted by the Cos Cob Association, and the second on June 13, hosted by the town. Those meetings attracted about 25 and 50 people respectively. In addition, an online public survey was held. According to the Manhattan-based consultants BFJ Planning, 688 complete responses were filed with the online survey.

Town Planner Diane Fox said the public has 30 days — dating from the Jan. 14 public meeting —  to send in comments to the commission.

Among the recommendations in the plan are to install a left-hand turn on to Sinawoy Road from Route 1’s eastbound lanes. As part of that, the consultants recommend expanding a green area island at the intersection. They also recommend changing the current angled parking located in front of the post office, Bank of America and CVS into parallel parking to help accommodate the increased green area, or remove the parking altogether.

A fellow Cos Cob RTM member, Christine Edwards, said she disagrees with this recommendation and said the current situation is one that residents favor.

“It allows people to do their banking and other activities, including going to the post office that doesn’t have a back entrance like CVS,” she said.

Mr. Berg said that recommendation conflicts with the goal of making Cos Cob more pedestrian-friendly as he joins with Ms. Edwards in opposing that proposed change. Mr. Berg also disagrees with the report’s comments on the Cos Cob Library.

“The treatment of the library in this plan is perplexing,” Mr. Berg wrote. “The survey conducted by the consultants found that as many residents oppose expansion as support it. That’s a finding that conflicts with the Greenwich Library’s own survey and this survey’s finding that residents want more gathering spaces.”

She also agrees with Mr. Berg’s contention that the Cos Cob Library was given short shrift in the report. Ms. Edwards said the community has a smaller library compared to Byram and Old Greenwich, even though she said Cos Cob’s population is growing.

The report also calls for more diverse and affordable housing as it deals with demographic change. The report notes, “While the neighborhood’s income has increased overall in recent years, not all residents have shared in that growth, and indications are that many residents are cost-burdened with respect to housing.”

It also noted that Cos Cob’s percentage of elderly residents is increasing, as in society at large. That fact, along with other demographic changes, will require more and different types of housing, the report said.

“If Cos Cob had a greater supply of moderately priced alternatives to single-family homes — such as condos, town homes and apartments — it could effectively target several key demographics: seniors, young professionals and young families. This would allow the community to serve its longstanding members while attracting age groups that it is currently lacking,” the report states.

Among the other recommendations in the report is more flood control actions and examining dredging Mill Pond. Mr. Berg said the community backs those.

Among the other recommendations are a village district for Cos Cob, which the consultants say gives the community a greater choice of land uses but also the ability to control the design of buildings, structures and landscapes.

The plan also recommended changes to improve the visibility of Cos Cob to people driving into it as well as improving the street appearance of “the hub,” the area in Cos Cob on Post Road where the fire station, library and retail establishments are located. The plan calls for similarly designed “street furniture,” including lighting fixtures, signage and benches to help the hub “appear to be a more unified place and improve pedestrian circulation.”

Ms. Fox said the town is working on changes to the plan that could be back before the P&Z Commission at its Feb. 20 meeting.

“It’s up to the commission to make the changes,” Ms. Fox said about the final decisions on the plan.

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