Residents blast Old Greenwich rotary plan

April 4, 2018 GMT

GREENWICH — Old Greenwich residents continue to voice concerns about the new roundabout proposed for Sound Beach Avenue as part of a project to replace the nearby bridge over Cider Mill Brook.

The Department of Public Works application to fix and raise the bridge to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards includes making road improvements nearby — such as raising the road and rebuilding the rotary in front of Perrot Memorial Library so it complies with federal and state highway regulations.

Residents came out in droves Tuesday night to ask the Planning and Zoning Commission to reject plans for the rotary as they currently are. Some asked if the town could refuse state money and fix the traffic circle its own way — making it smaller and dodging federal highway standards. Others wanted to designate Sound Beach Avenue a “scenic road” to protect the character of the intersection that residents say deters motorists from speeding and calms traffic.


“There’s no doubt there needs to be a reexamination of the intersection and at least the repair of what’s there,” said Realtor and Greenwich Land Company President Paul Pugliese. “I do get the feeling though that this is a solution looking for a problem and a project looking to fill a project, and I think we should take it very seriously that these are our tax dollars to begin with.

“That particular intersection should fit within the ‘scenic road’ designation in the building zone regulations,” Pugliese said. “That is an iconic area with First Congregational Church, the park and the library. It really is the entryway to Old Greenwich; there really aren’t as many places in town as beautiful.”

Residents said the new rotary as planned would be massive and destroy the character of the spot.

“We use this roundabout all the time,” said Riverside resident Lucy Krasnor. “We’ve never had a problem with it and we think (the new roundabout) is so out of scale and so out of proportion that it will dwarf the lovely Perrot Library.

“It will be a terrible gateway to Old Greenwich,” she said.

Planning and Zoning Commissioners asked DPW Deputy Commissioner Jim Michel if there were any way the proposed traffic circle could be smaller than 100 feet in diameter, to which he said no.

“I heard that there’s a concern about encouraging extra trucks to enter into the village and in this intersection,” Michel said. “The vehicles are already there. We are looking to make this a safer intersection.”

DPW’s plan is to build a structure that can safely accommodate the approximately 15,000 vehicles that drive through the roundabout daily, a figure that comes from a 2012 traffic study.

Because tractor trailers and larger vehicles like buses make up two percent of that number — about 600 Michel said — the diameter of the new roundabout needs to give them adequate room to maneuver.


Many Old Greenwich residents and P&Z commissioners did not believe the numbers were so high, though, and part of the continued research on the project will be fact-checking the 2012 data.

“Do you believe the state will not fund the raising of the bridge if we don’t also do the traffic circle?” asked P&Z Secretary Margarita Alban.

Michel said that although the project’s funding is not entirely dependent on the roundabout, it would be a wise idea to replace it because as a nonconforming structure it is a liability. If a serious accident were to occur there — although none has to date, he said — the town would need to explain why the unsafe design was never updated, he said.

Commission Chairman Richard Maitland wanted to know if raising the bridge was necessary at all, since it’s the reason the street would be raised at the intersection, creating the need for a new roundabout.

“The thing is, obviously the raising of the bridge is what is conditioning the whole rest of the project, because there’s no way to get back to a reasonable grade within a reasonable distance,” he said. “It is important to know if it needs to be raised the amount it needs to be raised because if the answer to that question is yes than the rest of the project falls behind that.”

Because the bridge is over tidally influenced waters, Michel said raising it is unavoidable.

“We feel confident that the elevation is the lowest we should be going,” he said. “Our opinion is we should probably be going a couple feet above that. We would recommend to a homeowner if they were building their home to do two or three feet higher than the FEMA Elevation level.

”During (Superstorm) Sandy ... DPW and the Fire Department (said) that this intersection was under water,” said Michel. “In the beginning of March this year, March 2 was that Friday — storm water was right up to the edge of the road at this location. I won’t say it was on the road, but Binney Park was well under water.”

Riverside resident Rita Baker, like many others that night, said flooding has never been a issue for her during the 33 years she’s lived on Forest Avenue.

“If Sound Beach is raised 2.5 feet and the water cannot cross the street, where will it go?” she said. “Into the basement of the Perrot, or the basement of my 140-year-old house, which is bone dry now and in a FEMA flood zone?”

Although most residents disagreed that the area is unsafe or at flood risk, one said she got into an accident at the roundabout when a motorcycle sideswiped her.

“I’m here to beg you to approve this project,” said Arline Lomazzo, who has lived in Riverside for 53 years. “That is not a safe intersection. When you have to stop your car next to that, what I call ‘flower pot,’ you are sitting there waiting for the cars to go by. That’s dangerous. If that were a real rotary, there would not be a car there dead-stopped. It’s not a rotary. Granted, it’s beautiful, but when this new one is in there will be flowers as well.”

Michel said the project is still in early phases and that community feedback will be used to develop the plan farther.

It has been in the works since 2012 with public meetings ramping up since the beginning of the year.

“We need more information,” said Maitland, who requested sketches of the different options for the rotary.

“One of the unique things about the town of Greenwich is we have the municipal improvement process,” said Michel. “It’s intended to put these projects in front of the residents, Board of Selectmen, P and Z, to get feedback early in the process.

“The project will require permits from DEEP, a Wetlands permit, require coming back to you,” he said. “Those are all processes that we have to go through before this project gets constructed.”

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