Synagogue wins wetlands approval
Feb. 06--Backers of the Greenwich Reform Synagogue's plan to build a new house of worship in Cos Cob are celebrating another hurdle cleared for the controversial project. The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency this week unanimously approved the project, clearing up long-running concerns over how the synagogue would handle drainage and flooding issues on its low-lying property.
The step forward in the permitting process, however, comes soon after a judge ruled that a group of neighbors opposing the project could continue with a legal challenge against an earlier zoning approval.
The GRS submitted a final site plan for the 12,300-square-foot facility to the IWWA in late August.
All seven members of the wetlands agency signed off on the plan on Monday, agreeing the blueprints exceed minimum water detention and storm drainage requirements for extreme storm events. While the town only required the building be compliant with drainage minimums for a 25-year storm -- a storm with a 4 percent chance of occurring each year, GRS representatives said they went a step farther, meeting standards for a 50-year storm -- much stronger, but twice as rare.
Among the additions to the GRS plan was a roof garden capable of absorbing and treating runoff rainwater.
"We're proud of the plan that we put together, because we believe that it protects the wetlands both on and off the site and responsibly develops the property," said GRS Board Chairman Robert Birnbaum in a statement. "It reflects our commitment to being good neighbors and our concern for the environment."
But not everyone is convinced about that commitment. While the town abides by GRS' plan and some neighbors, synagogue leaders say, support the project, others have backed legal action against it. The neighborly opposition fears the new house of worship, which includes some 48 parking spots for the 150-member congregation, would radically change the character and safety of the largely residential area.
Opponents of the project won a victory last month when a state Superior Court judge ruled against a town motion to have the their lawsuit dismissed.
The lawsuit challenges a Planning and Zoning decision to approve splitting an Orchard Street property in two. The property is one of three parcels Greenwich Reform Synagogue has staked out for its planned facility. The residents' lawsuit argues the split should have been treated as a subdivision rather than a lot-line revision.
The distinction is important because a subdivision application must meet a different set of standards for approval than a lot-line revision application. If the property split had instead been considered a subdivision, as the opponents of the synagogue argue it should have been, it could have made it more difficult for the synagogue to move forward with its building plans.
Mario Coppola, the attorney for the neighbors, did not return a call requesting comment.
The synagogue, as proposed, will be two-and-a-half stories and house several worship areas, classrooms and offices.
(c)2014 The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.)
Visit The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.) at www.stamfordadvocate.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.