Land swap gets Board’s OK

Major League Baseball’s official trading deadline is set for Friday afternoon but the Greenwich Board of Selectmen made a trade of its own last week and it didn’t involve any players to be named later.

Instead the selectmen unanimously approved a trade of land between the town and a private developer. As per the agreement with Putnam, 600 Acquisition, LLC, the town received three parcels of land along Holly Hill Road in exchange for 1.6352 acres of land at 600 West Putnam Avenue and Holly Hill Lane that the company will now use as part of an overall planned renovation of the building there and the construction of a parking garage. The selectmen had been deliberating the swap for more than a month and finally made the deal at their Aug. 23 meeting.

The clock had been ticking on the deal. The developer needs to have the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) sign off on the work being done on the property, which had already been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, but in order to have the body consider the proposal at its Sept. 17 meeting the item had to be on the meeting’s agenda by Aug. 24.

That left the developer only a day to finalize the submission to the RTM’s call, but it was plenty of time for Christopher Bristol, who has represented Putnam, 600 Acquisition, LLC before the town, to get it done.

“Third time’s the charm,” Mr. Bristol said with a chuckle during his brief remarks to the selectmen before they granted the approval as part of his third appearance before them.

The selectmen had previously indicated they had no issue with the development, but they did not decide the matter at their Aug. 9 meeting because they wanted to investigate whether the deal was a fair one. Ultimately the selectmen received assurance from Town Planner Diane Fox that the swap was an equal deal for both parties since the town was not using the West Putnam property and the developer would be able to do something with it while paying for improvements that would benefit the town.

This property had previously been considered for development for a car dealership that ended up never being built. Putnam, 600 Acquisition, LLC was not involved with that deal and ended up purchasing the property on West Putnam Avenue after it fell apart. An exact reason for the original deal, which was approved in 2004, not going through was never put forth, but a lawsuit filed over the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval was cited as one factor.

Town Assessor Lauren Elliott also addressed the selectmen, telling them that the value of the land being given up versus what was being received by the town was essentially a wash, with no party getting more land of value than the other.

“These parcels really have no utility to anyone except to the parties involved,” Ms. Elliott said. “This exchange is basically of equal value. My opinion is this is an equal exchange with both parties getting equal benefit.”

Selectman David Theis told Mr. Bristol that the board had not intended to hold up the process for his client. They had just wanted to make sure the town got equal value for the land it was giving up because the RTM would be asking that question going forward.

Mr. Theis said he believed the promised improvements will now make it easier for people to get to the Holly Hill Resource Recovery Facility, where residents bring trash and recyclables. Putnam, 600 Acquisition, LLC has pledged to widen and straighten the right of way on Holly Hill Road, allowing for a sidewalk to be installed and curb improvements to be made. He asked if this could potentially lead to increased traffic issues there, but Mr. Bristol said their analysis was that the plan would end up creating better traffic circulation.

“That’s another practical benefit to this,” Mr. Bristol said.

Ms. Fox also said the improvements would benefit the town as well as bring clarity to questions of liability on the land parcels in question.

“The swap makes a lot of sense,” Ms. Fox said.

To expedite the process of getting on to the RTM call, First Selectman Peter Tesei offered Mr. Bristol any help he needed in preparing the item for consideration by the body.

“We have to make sure to get this to them in a clear and forthright manner,” Mr. Tesei said.

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