New rules open waterfront to commercial development
GREENWICH — Zoning changes approved for Greenwich’s waterfront could pave the way for more restaurants, offices and multifamily dwellings along the shore.
After years of work on the regulations, the Planning and Zoning Commission has approved new language that allows additional development as long as the waterfront is preserved and public access is provided.
The changes, part of the 2009 Plan of Conservation and Development, have been in the works since 2016. The commission passed them unanimously.
“This is going to set public access design standards and continue to expand opportunities for water-dependent, land-use activities at public access points on the coast,” said town Director of Planning and Zoning Katie DeLuca.
On Monday, DeLuca pointed to several adjustments made to the proposal to satisfy parties who spoke during hearings or weighed in during the process. Those changes included more specific definitions about what would be allowed.
There were also changes made for potential restaurants on the waterfront, mandating full meals be served and limiting late hours. Additionally, boat slips would have to be required so people could dock and go to the restaurants.
“It all came down to finding the correct balance point,” DeLuca said. “(We had to determine) how much non-water-dependent uses should be permitted in order to achieve the desired outcome, which is a vibrant waterfront business zone improved with water dependent uses inclusive of an active and well-maintained public access walkway. The regulations in place for the last 35 years or so were not producing that desired outcome.”
Earlier drafts had the right concept, but “there was too much flexibility and not enough predictability,” she said.
The approved draft set a priority system for how waterfront property can be used: starting with water-dependent uses such as marinas; going to water-related ones such as rowing clubs and, finally, water-enhanced uses, which will include restaurants and residential and office space.
“It also set parameters for how much of the property can be used for water-enhanced uses,” DeLuca said.
The adjustments received the endorsement of the town Harbor Management Commission, which had been concerned the new regulations would lead to overdevelopment on the waterfront. Bruce Angiolillo, chair of the commission, said members had been concerned about earlier drafts failing to adequately protect and encourage water-dependent uses on the waterfront. But by restoring language that assured “…the limited waterfront areas are reserved to the uses uniquely suited for (the waterfront) and not pre-empted by uses which can be more appropriately located elsewhere” their concerns were addressed, Angiolillo said.
He added the HMC was pleased to see clear language that requires developers of water-enhanced uses to receive special permits, and demonstrate that all other water-dependent and water-related options had been exhausted.
DeLuca said the language is consistent with the town’s Harbor Management Plan and with regulations from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Additionally, DeLuca said no objections were raised by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, of which Greenwich is a member.
“The collaboration between the public at large, the property owners, the Harbor Management Commission, the state regulating bodies and the Planning and Zoning Office was a great example of how when we work together to express our individual viewpoints, we will eventually find the right balance,” DeLuca said. “I think we did that with this regulation.”
The new language goes into effect Wednesday. Any applications to develop the waterfront will still need approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as all other applicable town land-use boards and commissions.