The future of Old Greenwich?

That’s what reader Doug Cram calls it, and it seems apt. He writes:

I thought this could be of interest to your readers…  house at south end of Heustead, built new about 10 years ago, is  now being raised above the level mandated by FEMA.  according to the project manager at the site this morning, it will be two feet above the 13 ft level mandated by FEMA and the owners, who used to walk up two stairs from the parking area, will need to trudge up 17 steps to get to the new first level.  by the way, i have no idea, nor have i been able to find a source for determining, what the 11 ft or 13 ft is measured from… mean low tide, mean high tide, mean high high tide, etc.   the project manager indicated that Heustead pavement is about 3 ft. at the front of the house, so the owners’ first floor will be 12 feet above the road.



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43 responses to “The future of Old Greenwich?

  1. Long Time Central Greenwich Resident

    It is like townhouse living in New York City. What do you do if you cannot climb the stairs because you have vision problems or some sort of other disability? What do you do if you break a leg? What about falling down the stairs when you are old? Is there age discrimination in these regulations, because the old will not be able to occupy their homes when raised 12 feet.

    Also, they are going to force the bathrooms at Greenwich Point to be on the second floor? On the assumption that someone may sneak into a closed Greenwich Point during a storm and get swept away? Or maybe on the assumption that the beach is used in the fall so heavily that two bathrooms on the second floor are part of “les musts”. Brilliant! Let everyone over the age of 65 break their hip to go to the bathroom at Greenwich Point.

    • AJ

      Interesting questions. It won’t be long before elevators and escalators will be required on every elevated house just in case a handicapped Jehova’s Witness wants to knock on your door — they shall not be denied.

      BTW, I remember back in the early seventies when I lived on York and seventy-fifth that the average brownstone on the upper east-side was around a quarter of a million dollars. And that was for really nice four story ones on tree lined streets with garages on the ground level. Back in ’66 I had a place on 75th and Broadway for only seventy-five a month. There were even fifty dollar a month apartments in that neighborhood back then, and ones for considerably less in certain parts of the lower east side. And those weren’t even rent control prices which were totally insane, when you could rent a palace for a pittance.

  2. Toonces

    wow – floating in the air. There’s another home – at end of Mortimer – very near the back side of Old clubhouse in shorelands that’s in the process of being raised. House is sitting atop about 10 feet of concrete “fill” (?). Will take a picture and send it to you tomorrow. I will not be standing in front!

  3. Anonymous

    Just curious why are they raising the house now, is it because it is being repaired from storm damage or are the owners just being proactive?

  4. AJ

    Foating in the air, Toonces? And that was quite the crash landing — I’m surprised you remembered that part.

    • Toonces

      That’s me! I’ve been taking lessons since the 1980’s though so I’m an excellent driver now. I swear.

  5. Sound Beacher

    O/T- You will find this comparison of taxes between Fairfield and Greenwich of interest.

  6. I’m in Davenport Iowa all week along the Mississippi (and thankfully about an hour away from the foot of snow that hit the region) but the Mississippi floods all the time here and although FEMA has made some noise, the residents along the river continue to sand bag and deal. Property on the river still is hot seller. I’ve not seen one house up on stilts. Granted, it isn’t the Atlantic that will come with tsunami strength into Old Greenwich but the Mississippi is pretty brutal and I’ve seen floods here that have made even Al Roker stand up and notice. My point, seems to me residents of OG are getting a raw deal and I can’t imagine the financial burden of raising a house, let alone the physical limitations it puts on its homeowners one raised (as Long Timer said). It’s pretty darn great here in Iowa. C’mon out!

  7. Anonymous

    stamford trump tower, here we come!

  8. pulled up in OG

    Looks kinda inconvenient.

  9. pulled up in OG

    “An up close and personal expose of 60 eyebrow-raising erections, all closely examined and photographed in full colour.”

  10. Riverside

    There is a State grant program whereby 75% of the cost of raising any building that is a person’s primary residence will be paid for by the State. It is important that people living in the affected flood zones know this, as the cost of raising an average-sized building, redoing utilities/ foundations, etc can be $150K or more, and if renovations have been done to a building since 1986 that exceed 50% of the value of the structure, NO ADDITIONAL WORK (even remodeling a bathroom) will be approved without “complying” with town regs, which means raising the building.

    • STILTS

      do u have a link to the information on the State Grant program ?

      • The only grant program I’m aware of has to do with damage cause by Hurricane Sandy. P&Z link here.

        • Riverside

          There is a grant program where the State will pay 75% of the cost to raise a house in the flood zone. The application needs to be coordinated with the town, and the town is currently trying to get the word out to residents about this (Denise Savageau has recently communicated about this to the Riverside and OG Associations and they are supposed to spread the word.)

          The grants are available independent of income or need, and anyone can get it, as long as it is for a primary residence. No restrictions either on the size of the house. So yes, all CT taxpayers are subsidizing this, and I am not endorsing this program but just trying to make everyone aware it is available.

          Contact Denise Savageau, Greenwich Conservation Director, for information.

    • BTW

      Interesting, where did you get this 75% program info from? Word is that FEMA will pay up to 30K to help in paying for raising, but obv that is approx 20% of the cost…Would like to find out more about that state grant

    • Just_looking

      Say it ain’t so. Am I really financially supporting choices made by others that are. It choices I would have made for myself?

    • Anon58

      Please explain to me why taxpayers have to subsidize the risk for those who live near the water.

      • Toonces

        Anon58 and Just_looking: Of course you are subsidising. You are also subsidising the federal program bailing out homeowners who bought more than they could afford with just 0% down. People who then took out 2nd mortgages on those homes to buy speculative 2nd homes or SUV’s and plasma TV’s. They’re underwater so government has to help these people! Which means they raise taxes of the responsible people to pay for the program. Don’t you know it is for the good of the people? So, my family (waited til we were sure we could put a large amount down and buying less that we can afford) is bailing them out. You are too. That is just one reason why the election of 2012 was so important. Anyone who voted for a Democrat (obama, malloy etc etc….) is not allowed to complain.

        • Anon58

          I guess what you’re saying is that if a Republican were in office, Hurricane Sandy would have made a right turn (no pun intended), gone out to sea, and we wouldn’t be dealing with any of these new mandates.

          • Well let’s face it: the only real hurricane to hit our coast in modern times was the hurricane of 1938, when that devil Roosevelt was in office. Coincidence? I think not.

        • Toonces

          Touche – of course you are right about that Anon58. A republican would have provided aid to coastal dwellers too. Laws on books require that. However i think the chance of changing those laws is significantly higher with a rebublican in office. Other people should not be subsdizing anyone’s choice to live on water (IMO). I don’t believe I should subsidize poor home buying choices period. Whether you have bought too much house, took too much out of your equity – whatever it is – take responsibility. You want to live in a flood zone – get your own insurance. if you can afford it that’s great – if you can’t, live some place dry

  11. Matt

    It all comes down to one very simple principle. Don’t build your house, or buy a house, on a flood plain. I don’t care whether you live in Old Greenwich, Mississippi, Iowa, the New Jersey shore or the Outer Banks. I get so tired of hearing people complain about how they lose everything every time there is a “50 year storm” (every 5 years) and then expect people like me who live on higher ground to help pay for it.

    In its natural state, large parts of Old Greenwich are a tidal area. Always have been, always will be. If you build on it, it will flood. Eventually. The government is sick of picking up the tab so now they are imposing strict rules. I don’t know why so many people find this shocking.

  12. dumpsterville

    town should raise all of town 13 feet with fill

    • GreenITCH

      Think we tried the whole ” fill ” thing with the HS and now we have a bit of a mess ….

  13. Anonymous

    can i get other people to pay for the fact that i live in an ugly zone? my neighbor’s house looks like ass.

    • Riverside Chick

      How does it look after a couple martinis??

      • Anonymous

        after 2 martini’s i get pretty goggle eyed–as in, torch goggles so i can burn the place to the f’ing ground. hey, maybe he needs to jack it up on cinderblocks, i’d be doing him a favor.

  14. Flash forward

    Remember when……
    Driving by a construction site the was a sign

    • Heck, when Old Greenwich and Cos Cob harbors were dredged, they gave away as much muck as they could and even provided the trucks to deliver it. There are a lot of houses in Riverside and Old Greenwich that are sitting high and dry because of such largess.
      What exactly they’re sitting on remains a mystery best left unsolved, I suspect.

  15. Old Green Warlock

    I’ve been pretty lost on all the back and forth about the flooding issues and how that will affect our neighborhoods. Is the thinking really that many houses in OG will wind up being raised over time to be above the new FEMA flood zone designations? Is this the result of Greenwich P&Z requirements (because of the caps on rennovations), requirements for being able to obtain affordable home insurance, homeowners’ desire to avoid future flooding regardless of how raising their house will affect the look of their neighborhood, or a combination of all of those? If the jacking up of houses is mostly driven by the new P&Z rules, are those rules permanent, or subject to appeal? or would new P&Z members be able to change them, and what is the process for replacing the current P&Z members? I would be grateful for someone pointing me to clear summaryif one exists (and apologies if that has already appeared in another post).Thank you!

    • shoeless

      My question deals with one of the already fucked up P$Z rules about total structure height. I believe the max height allowed for a single family residence is 35 feet. I don’t know many two stories with attics that are less than 22 feet high.

      • Someone asked Dian Fox about that at the FEMA reg “information” meeting and she punted, but implied that anyone seeking to raise his house who hits the height limit – that would be everyone – will have to apply for a variance. Add another six months to your project, and another $10 grand in lawyer’s fees.

  16. FRF

    You can’t win

    Unless you’re a lawyer.

  17. Shmoo

    The first floor elevation is measured from Mean Sea Level, which now means the North American Vertical Datum (NAVD 88) which replaced the former reference 10 years ago or so. (The previous reference was the 1929 National Geodetic Vertical Datum – NGVD 29). Mean Sea Level under NAVD 88 is 1.1 feet, or 13.2” higher than MSL was under NGVD 29 because the ocean has been rising.

    Greenwich must adhere to FEMA’s building codes in the flood plain (Special Hazard Flood Area) or lose flood insurance eligibility for its homeowners and access to FEMA funding when there is a disaster. FEMA currently mandates 13 feet above MSL and the Town of Greenwich tacks on another 1 foot for wiring etc. under the first floor, making for a total of 14 feet.

    On July 8, 2013, new FEMA-mandated standards go into effect – with the publication of the official FIRMs – Flood Insurance Rate Maps – and the new standard will be 16 feet above MSL (NAVD 88) in the AE flood zone (what most of our association is in). Interestingly, C’s new house is in AE16 so 16’ is required; T’s rehab across the street is in AE14 so the new floor elevation there is planned at 14.2 feet above MSL. (The numbers after the AE are sub-classifications).

    Lastly, as houses are moved higher to be FEMA “compliant”, they are exceeding the maximum height specified in our zoning regulations, which is measured from the elevation known as the “Grade Plane” of the property – sort of an average elevation of the property after filling, etc. P&ZBoA is currently overloaded with applications for height variances as a result.

    The height of the first floor above the surrounding ground or street level is irrelevant in the AE flood zone.

    Got it?

  18. Babylon Sister

    I have a friend who lives on the north shore of Oahu and his house is basically the same concept, except made of cinder block. He parks his cars under the house, which is raised with at least a story of ground clearance ( and has an enormous hydroponics setup down there too, which is an eyesore). Getting to his front door is like ascending the stairway to heaven. He does have a great view though.

    On the Heusted house it would probably look less ridiculous if you replace the stairs in front with a ladder. But not by much. I always liked that property… Sad to see it so oddly contorted.