It was hard enough to get a handle on the proposed Greenwich dealership expansion plans in the first place.
The Planning & Zoning Commission’s review of a by to build a new, 24-bay service center on Old Track Road to replace its current service center at 19 Railroad Ave. has become more complex now that Old Track Properties LLC has submitted an application for 61,000 square foot moderate income housing facility with ground floor retail and accompanying parking garage at 16 Old Track Rd./33 Spring St.
Several commissioners raised concerns about the traffic impact on Old Track Road resulting from the proposed 17,000 square foot service center when the plan was first presented in a pre-application hearing on Oct. 25.
Now, with the additional applications for the mixed-use development, plus the recently constructed (and heavily used) Equinox health club on Old Track Road, also owned by Old Track Properties, the commission will have an even trickier time analyzing the potential traffic impact on the road and surrounding residential neighborhood.
During the commission meeting on Dec. 13, when all three applications were discussed, commissioner Richard Maitland requested that Old Track Properties, which owns the road, submit a separate application just for improvements to the roadway, the specifications for which will be determined jointly by the Planning & Zoning Department and the Department of Public Works.
“We’re dealing here with a private road,” Maitland said. “And sadly, [information about it] has come to us in bits and pieces — so we don’t have a full understanding of this road. Therefore I think it would be appropriate for the applicant to submit, as a new application, ‘The Road,’ starting at Old Field Point Road and coming all the way down Old Track Road.”
Maitland said in addition to road width he had specific concerns regarding drainage and on the street parking.
“We need to know what that this road is [going to be] from start to finish — we need to resolve this thing holistically,” he said, adding that the DPW is requesting different widths depending on the use being proposed. “I am requesting that you file that with us as a separate application.”
Attorney John Tesei, representing Old Track Properties, said he didn’t think his client would have a problem with filing a separate application for the road improvements.
“I agree with you fully that when it comes to this road, it applies to [the Lexus] application and the other applications” Tesei said, adding that he would be willing to meet with DPW engineer Scott Marucci and DPW Commissioner Amy Siebert “to get consistency” on “the engineering issues” for the design of the new road.
The commission will likely resume its review of the Lexus of Greenwich and old Track Properties’ applications later this month or in early February. It is also likely to resume its review of a by to expand its service facility at 217 W. Putnam Ave. to 30 bays and to convert its currently-under-renovation, mixed-use facility at 261 W. Putnam to showroom only.
Each of the dealership expansion plans has who live in the abutting residential neighborhoods — and even some who live in between, as the two dealerships are less than a mile from each other: Thomas Conelias, RTM District 3, who lives on Edgewood Avenue, “square in between the Lexus dealer and the Mercedes dealer,” said he is seeing an increase in car carriers using his street in order to make deliveries to dealerships on West Putnam.
“I have big tractor trailer trucks coming up Edgewood now, crossing to the Post Road,” Conelias said during the Dec. 13 meeting. “My concern is that if you approve both [the] Lexus and Mercedes [plans], what is going to happen to my neighborhood? We’re going to have New York traffic getting off [I-95 Exit 2], down in Byram, coming up past Hamilton Avenue School and cutting across Edgewood Avenue, which is probably the only road where the trucks can go through. Even if I fight to get my neighborhood as a ‘no truck’ zone, where are they going to go?”
Numerous residents who spoke at public hearings on Oct. 25 and Dec. 13 expressed concern that the dealerships are trying to become regional service centers that draw customers from throughout the tri-state area, thus increasing traffic on local town roads at the expense of residents who stand little to gain from such expansions.
“Lexus of Greenwich advertises itself on the Internet as a service center for the entire tri-state region — this isn’t a local Greenwich enterprise,” said Mike Warner, RTM District 3, speaking on behalf of about six neighbors who are opposed to the expansion plan. “They’re telling us that this new facility will reduce local traffic by reducing the number of trips between facilities, by consolidating their operations, but that doesn’t change the fact that this will be drawing people into town from New York and beyond.”
Warner said he read a recent industry study stating that Lexus sales nationally are forecast to increase 12 percent per year over the next several years. He says with that many more Lexus vehicles on the road, it is likely the regional service center will draw even more traffic from out of town. He pointed out that the first page of the town's Plan of Conservation and Development says Greenwich is to remain as a “well maintained residential community,” and that its commercial and retail developments are to be kept in scale with the town’s needs.
“We’ve heard testimony that 60 percent of Lexus of Greenwich’s customers are from out of town and we can only expect a higher percentage as [sales increase],” Warner said, adding that if the expansion is approved it will affect traffic at I-95 Exit 2 “in a big way.” He pointed out that the route “takes people past Hamilton Avenue School and a YMCA daycare center. Everyone from points south is going to use Exit 2 and it could be a potential safety issue for our children.”
Peter Berg, chairman of the RTM Land Use Committee, said, “the issue of ‘regional’ is significant — we want to be a residential town — and we want the commercial in scale with the needs of the residents.”
Originally, Lexus of Greenwich had applied for a larger, 30-bay facility, however after initial review by the commission and concerns regarding the building size, the plan was scaled back to 24 bays.
When asked by Maitland during the Oct. 25 meeting why Lexus was pushing for as many bays as possible, Tesei explained that the dealership is trying to consolidate all of its customer service in one location.
Currently customer service is spread between two facilities, he said: the current, 12-bay service center at 19 Railroad Ave. and another 11-bay service center in Port Chester. Some customers, Tesei said, drop their cars off at the Port Chester facility, while others are drop their cars off at Railroad Avenue and then dealership personnel shuttle the cars to and from the Port Chester facility.
Should the plan be approved, Lexus would convert the current service center at 19 Railroad Ave. into all showroom space and consolidate all of its customer service at the new service center on Old Track Road. This, Tesei said, would reduce traffic on Greenwich roads by eliminating the need to shuttle cars back and forth.
The 11-bay Port Chester facility would then be designated for new and used “vehicle prep” (i.e. preparing cars for display and delivery to customers), Tesei explained. This work, he said, is currently done at the Lexus of Greenwich facility at 30 Old Field Point Rd. By shifting that service over to the Port Chester facility, where the new and used cars are delivered via transport, traffic on Greenwich neighborhood roads would be further reduced, he said.