Greenwich Synagogue Talks Put On Hold Until January

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Mario F. Coppola, an attorney representing an organization called Cos Cob Families Fighting For Residential Rights, addresses the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron
A crowd of Cos Cob residents listens to deliberations over a proposed synagogue on Orchard Street in Greenwich Town Hall on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron
Attorney Mario F. Coppola, right, hands a write-up of a case to members of the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission that supported his argument against changing lot lines on the proposed synagogue site. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron

GREENWICH, Conn. – The first step toward the construction of a proposed synagogue in Cos Cob was put on hold until January by the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday evening after heated deliberations in front of a crowd of almost 100 at Town Hall.

Mario F. Coppola, an attorney representing a group of Cos Cob residents that opposes the construction of the synagogue on Orchard Street, said in a presentation that the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission’s plan to allow the synagogue’s revision of lot lines would “make a mockery of subdivision law.”

Coppola’s 20-minute argument prompted Planning and Zoning Chair Donald Heller to ask Greenwich Reform Synagogue Attorney Thomas Heagney to extend the discussion on the lot lines until Jan. 31. Heagney agreed, and the commission will discuss the matter with town legal counsel.

Rep. Fred Camillo (R-Greenwich) also spoke in support of the Cos Cob residents opposed to the proposed synagogue.

“You guys have a tough call on this,” Camillo said to the commission. “But I really do think the facts are against this. These people are here tonight because the lot lines are the first step. And this step would lead to the next step, which would affect the integrity of this neighborhood and eventually other neighborhoods.”

The board reminded the crowd as the meeting began that the commission’s agenda only included discussion on the subdivision of lot lines and not a final site plan for the proposed synagogue. But Coppola, representing Cos Cob Families Fighting For Residential Rights, used the precedent of a previous state property law case and Greenwich’s own town property laws to call into question the legality of even changing the lot lines.

Nicole Crosby, a member of Cos Cob Families Fighting For Residential Rights, was pleased with the outcome.
“I was hoping for the extension, but I wasn’t expecting it,” Crosby said. “I’m very happy with the turnout and the lawyer’s presentation. So many of us live close to the site and would be impacted by it.”

Greenwich Reform Synagogue purchased a 38,000-square-foot lot at 92 Orchard St. for its proposed new facility. The lot line revision is an agreement reached with Lou Caravella, of 96 Orchard St., who neighbors the property, in order to accommodate the full 38,000 square feet. However, the Planning and Zoning Commission must first approve that lot line change for the project to go forward.

The current lot does not conform to Greenwich zoning laws, but is allowed to stay the shape it is because the lines were drawn before the modern law. However, Coppola argued that, if the lines were to change now, it would negate that exception.

Heagney, meanwhile, argued to the commission that the subdivision of lot lines was a fairly straightforward matter.

“Clearly there is a lot of interest in the community and we’ve heard their concerns,” Heagney said. “We’re going to address them.”

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