Committee looks at POCD

Years after the initial plan was approved by the Representative Town Meeting and months after the committee reports were turned in with recommendations, tangible progress from the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) is on its way.

The POCD’s Implementation Committee, under the leadership of First Selectman Peter Tesei, recently met to begin to turn the recommendations and suggestions of the four separate POCD committees into actual action. Mr. Tesei, who serves as chairman of the committee, gave a report at the July 12 Board of Selectmen meeting and said that progress is being made. The committee’s last meeting was June 28 and at that time Mr. Tesei said the action items included in the four separate reports from POCD committees were looked at to determine what it could begin to move on.

The four committee reports looked at housing, transportation, the downtown area and town properties in Greenwich. The full POCD, which is done every 10 years, was received and approved in 2009 and since then the four committees had been working to develop specific recommendations which would then be given to the Implementation Committee for action.

Mr. Tesei said last week that in terms of housing the committee was now looking to establish a non-government group that would be known as a Community Development Partnership that would work with the town and private business to create a fund that would be used for non-market rate housing in town.

Mr. Tesei also offered the idea of modifying and modernizing town zoning regulations to allow for more room to maneuver in developing affordable housing in town. Mr. Tesei has long opposed the idea of creating new housing complexes and instead has pushed for a more spread out approach with affordable units available throughout the town.

“There’s a lot of work to do but the fact remains that progress is being made through the various channels,” Mr. Tesei said.

One area that Mr. Tesei said was being looked at to improve the central business district focused on the green area in back of the Havemeyer Building. That green includes open space as well as a baseball field, a playground and a path with benches under the shade. Mr. Tesei said he wants to improve accessibility to it and that he is “counting on” the town’s Department of Public Works and private agencies like Greenwich Green and Clean and other citizen groups to lay out a plan to do it.

“It’s not going to be something that requires a lot of money,” Mr. Tesei said. “It’s probably going to need a lot more sweat equity and what it will do is open the green up and make it more pedestrian friendly and accessible to citizens to use as a town green.”

He later told the Post that this item was a “personal favorite” of his and he wanted to move it along quickly. Members of the Implementation Committee were set to meet with Parks and Trees and Greenwich Green and Clean officials this past Wednesday, after deadline for this week’s edition.

Mr. Tesei noted that the area behind the Havemeyer Building has long been a concern of the first selectman’s office. He talked about how former First Selectman Ruth Sims, who passed away in June, had first designated the area as parkland to prevent it from being developed and how, more recently, the area had been discussed as a potential location for a Greenwich Avenue parking garage. Mr. Tesei said development like that would “impede the overall aesthetic of what is there” and that it was important to maintain the residential nature of the streets that connect to Greenwich Avenue so it’s not just for commercial use.

He said an example of this was the recent groundbreaking for a new Webster Bank on Mason Street. An older home will now be turned into a multi-use facility with the bank on the ground floor and an apartment on top. Mr. Tesei said even if the bank doesn’t succeed, there would continue to be an apartment there, retaining the character of the original building with a mixed commercial and residential use.

The Town Properties Committee recommended looking an examination of town owned land to see if its being used to its maximum potential. He added that they were in the “very exploratory stages” of looking at the property on Arch Street currently being used by the town’s Parks and Trees Division as a possible location for a new Senior Center, which people have long campaigned for and is a part of the POCD’s recommendations. Mr. Tesei said this would be a chance potentially to make good use of the waterfront property owned by the town and “make it more inviting” to residents.

Mr. Tesei stressed that this was a discussion that was just beginning so “no one should get too excited about infringement upon their territory.” He said there were a lot of things to be determined, such as where Parks and Trees could be moved and what kind of a structure could actually fit on the property.

“A lot of these discussions are taking place,” Mr. Tesei said. “People have great ideas and we’re talking them through.”

One area that was not covered in the July 12 update was the recommendations for transportation. Mr. Tesei told the Post in an interview this week that the Implementation Committee hadn’t had the chance to discuss that report yet but would at its next meeting, which will likely be in early September. However one of the key recommendations in the report of the Transportation Committee will have to overcome Mr. Tesei’s skepticism.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to have a Parking and Transportation Committee,” Mr. Tesei said. “We currently have the Board of Selectmen to deal with parking and traffic matters. It would create more work for staff to have to present something to a committee and then come to the selectmen who have the ultimate authority on issues like that. I think we’ve shown that as a board we will strive to get all the information and even go out into the field to consider matters dealing with traffic and parking in town. We don’t want to dilute what the selectmen’s role is here. We don’t want people to have to present something twice when instead they can come right to the group that’s going to make the ultimate decision.”

Mr. Tesei said this, along with the close to 100 other action items in the reports, will be looked at by the committee. The Implementation Committee includes former and current members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation as well as representatives from the RTM and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Mr. Tesei said he wanted the committee to meet quarterly but it hadn’t made sense to meet in the first quarter since they were still receiving the reports from the four POCD committees that had worked two years to put together their recommendations.

“I’m pretty satisfied with the pace we’re on now,” Mr. Tesei told the Post. “It’s a process where you can get impatient because you want to see progress get made but we have to be respectful of the process and include people in it while also making sure to get things done. You want to see the fruits of the labor of so many people that volunteered to work on this. We need to keep the momentum going.”


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