Neighbors fear squeeze of expanding marina

‘Not enough,’ board member says of Safe Harbor offer of 4-acre easement

Posted 3/28/24

As a practice, city planners write an opinion as a guide for the Planning Board on most applications for major land development/subdivisions.

An approval was drafted for Safe Harbor Greenwich …

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Neighbors fear squeeze of expanding marina

‘Not enough,’ board member says of Safe Harbor offer of 4-acre easement


As a practice, city planners write an opinion as a guide for the Planning Board on most applications for major land development/subdivisions.

An approval was drafted for Safe Harbor Greenwich Bay’s proposal to erect a 15,000 square-foot boat workshop at the marina on Wharf Road. The draft was included in the packet for the Planning Board meeting on March 13. The proposed approval contained provisions that Safe Harbor would need to agree on before gaining master plan approval and moving on to City Council approval for a zone change, as a portion of the property is zoned residential. Many of the conditions to the approval were recommendations Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur made following the initial hearing on the Safe Harbor request in November.

But now, after listening to neighborhood concerns for a second time, the planning department is in the process of drafting a denial of the application when the hearing continues to April 10 at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Sawtooth Annex in Apponaug.

About 30 area residents turned out to the hearing with most of them concerned over encroachment of the marina into the residential neighborhood. Board members were sympathetic.

Brandon Main, who bought his house in 2008, has witnessed the transition of the Wharf Road marinas with their sale to Safe Harbor. Safe Harbor has bought multiple Warwick marinas and is by far the largest owner of Warwick’s marinas.

As Main puts it, the company is “turning quahog boats into yachts.” He doesn’t fault Safe Harbor, saying “from a business point of view every business should have growth.” On the other hand, he looks at the area and sees how it has grown into a cohesive and self supporting neighborhood. He doesn’t include Safe Harbor.

Apart from the development “not being conducive to the neighborhood” he accuses the staff of not been personable. He cites how the marina hired security over the July 4th holiday to restrict traffic and in the process denied access to a longtime resident until police intervened. He doesn’t place all the blame on Safe Harbor.

“They just kind of do what they want,” he said of marina owners. “Brewers (which sold to Safe Harbor) did a lot of clearing.” The clearing extended into residentially zoned lots which were part of the property.

“They’re making money on residential lots,” he said.

He points out when the cove was populated by smaller marinas and “we had a problem, we would talk to the marina. Now that they have sold off, they’re not neighborly.”

That’s hardly the image portrayed by Safe Harbor.

In a March 1 letter addressed to City Planner Tom Kravitz, attorney Christine Dieter, a partner at Hinckley Allen who represents Safe Harbor, outlined improvements made to the property since its acquisition by Safe Harbor and measures it would take should the board grant the application. The letter reads in part that Safe Harbor will place a conservation easement on its property to “cover nearly four acres and include a substantial portion of the wetlands on Safe Harbor’s property south of Wharf Road. Additionally, the conservation easement will include all of Lots 301-303 abutting Glenco Road, converting these three buildable residential lots into a conservation area. The proposed conservation easement will provide greater protection to these vegetated areas than has existed at any prior time.”

Dieter goes on to write, “Safe Harbor restored and improved access along the public right of way leading from Wharf Road to Warwick Cove. Safe Harbor also has engaged an environmental consultant to develop a coastal buffer management plan for the southeastern strip of the property abutting Warwick Cove. The plan will provide for the removal of invasive species, restoration of native coastal buffer, and proper maintenance of the coastal buffer going forward.”

Following the November hearing, Ladouceur worked with planners on conditions should the board grant master plan approval and recommend a change in zone to the city council. He came up with ten recommendations, which include: that proposed conservation easements be rezoned open space; that evergreens or a fence be installed along Wharf Road and Glenco to prevent any boat storage encroachment from the yard; that the paper street Flora not be included in the conservation easement; that only a section from the from the open space be abandoned; that Safe Harbor install a fence or gate to restore the full width of Wharf Road; that the full width of Warf Road be considered public access allowing for kayak and other small boat launching.

Also, that two public parking spaces be identified; that at least two public benches be installed at the access; that at the access the marina provide at no charge to the city a 36 foot wide slip to accommodate a fire boat and that the yard workshop adhere to all AE flood zone building codes.

In an interview Sunday, Ladouceur also recommended the workshop be located to the middle rather than the back of the lot to distance it from residences.

Main remembers the days when a good portion of the property was covered by vegetation, rather than being used for boat storage.

If built, Main would look down on the proposed 35 foot high workshop. He feels the workshop is out of proportion to the neighborhood. His house is 17 feet high. Also, he notes marinas are customarily busy in the spring as boats are readied for launching and then again in the fall when hauled for the winter. In this case he imagines the workshop will be busy year round.

Then there is the issue of rising water that during storms has climbed over marina sea walls flooding the parking lot and boat storage areas. Main questions what impact the building would have on the flooding of area residents.

If the board was to approve the application, Planning Board member Kevin Flynn questioned if the company would be agreeable to extending the conservation area by about a third of an acre to provide the neighborhood from further encroachment by the marina.  Dieter didn’t think her client would agree to the extension. In that case, Flynn made it clear he would be voting against the application.

Christine Dieter did not respond to a request for comment.

Planners have since started drafting a denial of the application when it is heard April 10.

marina, harbors


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