Thursday, January 17, 2013
P&Z Hears Pre-Application for Geiger’s Site Development
By James Lomuscio
Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) tonight heard a pre-application for a site plan and zone changes to transform the time honored Geiger’s Garden Center at 1135 Post Road East into a commercial and residential complex.
Geiger’s Garden Center at 1135 Post Road East would become a mixed use commercial and residential development under proposed plans. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Presented by Melvin Barr, a local land use consultant representing owner Frank Geiger, the plan for the two-acre parcel on the corner of Morningside Drive North includes a 9,800-square-foot commercial structure replacing the garden center, plus three rear buildings comprising 14 housing units.
To make the project viable, Barr is seeking a zone change from a Business Preservation District (BPD) to a General Business District (GBD) on the Post Road and changing the Residential A zone in the rear of the property to a housing overlay zone.
The existing building is old, outdated and not up to code,” Barr said about the garden center.
Geiger’s main business is landscape architecture and landscaping, and it is currently using rear of the property to park its trucks, something P&Z member Ronald Corwin noted “is an eyesore” for residents along Morningside Drive North.
This is the second time Geiger’s has come before the P&Z with a redevelopment plan, Barr noted. He pointed out that last year’s proposal was for a much larger project—a 16,000-square-foot commercial building instead of 9,800 square feet. (See WestportNow July 18, 2011)
He also said the previous plan called for two housing units in the front.
“The scale is smaller,” said Barr, who presented an architect’s drawing of the planned Post Road building..
All P&Z members who spoke said they favored the new design.
“The rendering looks very nice,” said P&Z member Chip Stephens.
“I really like the rendering,” member Nora Jinishian said. ” ...I’d support it.”
“Presented properly, this does have a chance,” said Corwin. “This does preserve the scale of the property.”
Prior tot the meeting, P&Z Director Laurence Bradley noted that a pre-application is a “non-binding discussion” during which applicants have the opportunity for commission member input prior to submitting a formal application.
Comments: Comment Policy
The question that I don’t see answered here is, why is a zone change needed? Why can’t the developers work within the zone currently there, the BPD? The GBD allows for more it would seem. Yes, the project has been scaled down, but not enough to fit within what would be as of right currently. While the plans might well look good, ultimately why should the P&Z approve a change in zone? Who then would be next saying I want to build more too, give me the bigger zone as well.
Matthew—- as usual you are “right on the money” ! This community needs to think long and hard about the many implications of a zone change including the precedent that could be set. The BPD designation was established by a P&Z with foresight in the 1970’s to maintain scale and the unique overall feel of our along the Post Road. It is a primary reason the Post Road in Westport does not look llike many of the strips along Route 1 up through the Northeast corridor and helps to differentiate us from many of our surrounding communities.
However when my husband and I read this synopsis of last night’s meeting we both wondered if the reporter was at the same meeting we attended? In my opinion this Commission did not give a clear green light as the previous Commission had eighteen months ago to a development which was almost twice the size on the portion adjacent to the Post Road. The current Commission asked probing questions and I believe it is not an overstatement to say that I do not believe a prudent developer would take the meeting as a green light.
Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport