Artist rendering of the proposed development at 155 Greenwood Avenue in downtown Bethel. The next Planning and Zoning hearing about the project is scheduled for November 24th.
59 Bethel residents attended a virtual Planning and Zoning hearing on October 27th to review plans presented for the addition of 18 residential units and up to 10 new retail spaces, including a pedestrian walk and remodeling an existing historic building but only a fraction of the required parking for the 5 building complex proposed for 155 Greenwood Avenue. Of the 15 speakers, only one spoke in favor of the proposal. All others expressed concerns about insufficient parking as the proposal calls for only 16 parking spots for 18 residential units and none for commercial space as opposed to the estimated 57 spaces called for by existing Town regulations.
Opposition ran across the local political spectrum, with Democrat and former First Selectwoman Alice Hutchinson and current Board of Finance member and Chair of the local Independent Party Cynthia McCorkindale both opposing the reduced parking as proposed.
Beyond parking, a number of speakers raised concerns that the proposal calls for, and may in fact require, matching development by the adjoining Wells Fargo parcel that would be required to meet setback requirements and walkway designs as shown. Attorney Peter Olsen, representing the developer admitted that Wells Fargo has not discussed the project or even spoken with him or his client.
When asked by Planning and Zoning Chair Patricia Rist,"Has there been any communication with Wells Fargo at all?" Attorney Olsen quipped "Many people have tried over the years and nobody has succeeded." Questions were also raised about the proposed changes to the existing building which dates back to 1880.
Chair Rist, who is also President of the Bethel Historical Society, stated "What you see on the outside is nothing spectacular in terms of architecture, on the inside it's been totally torn apart, and created into physicians offices so there is nothing there on the inside that is worth saving."
155 Greenwood Avenue, however, is listed with the National Register of Historic Places, and was singled out as one of the historically significant buildings downtown in the town’s 1999 application to create a Downtown Historic District. As such it is entitled to special preservation consideration. The newly forming Bethel Preservation Society is considering challenges to prevent any further changes to the character of the building.
The most recently published zoning regulations also require a special permit for construction of multiple buildings on a lot located in the Village District, which has not been requested. The current proposal calls for adding 4 new buildings and modifications to the existing one.
The next hearing date for the project has been set for November 24th.