The P&Z has two new proposals to punish homeowners and while both were originally scheduled to be discussed tonight, one of them has been shunted off to another, unspecified date, in what I suspect is a strategy of divide and conquer: force the citizens, most of whom have real jobs, unlike our P&Z meddlers, to come out twice, rather than once. Too much discord, too much heat for the staff to deal with in one evening.
The first rule change, the one that will still be “discussed” (in P&Z talk, that means “you squawk, we’ll ram it through anyway”) is the demand that homeowners pay for the town to hire consultants to represent the P&Z in combating the homeowner’s project. That’s a fun one, but there’s another, far more (well just as, anyway) egregious, and that’s to cut in half the allowable dollar amount that can be spent to repair a flood damaged home before being required to raze the structure or stick it up on stilts 20′ in the air. That one is no longer on tonight’s agenda.
There is another, somewhat related proposal currently before the zoning board that will not be discussed Tuesday night. This one could have a serious impact on the “substantial damage” clause. According to Planning and Zoning documents, in addition to homes that reach the 50 percent threshold, the new proposal would require homes that suffer two instances of flood-related damage costing 25 percent or more of the structure’s original value within a decade to be brought into FEMA compliance.
Detractors say it’s unfair to Old Greenwich homeowners; Planning and Zoning officials say more compliant homes make the community safer during extreme weather events.
That change will be discussed at a later date.
As an aside, I see that P&Z staffer and daughter of BET member John Blankley (and how did that happen?) Katie Blankley-DeLuca is still using the same tactic her boss Diana Fox does, misstating the scope of these rules. “If you have a million dollar home”, says Ms. Blankley, “you can still make renovations or improvements up to $500,000.” The restriction on spending is calculated on the value of the structure, not the land. There are many, many homes in Old Greenwich that are “worth” more than $1 million, so $500,000 must sound reassuring, but the value of most of those properties is in the land, not the 1950’s house sitting atop of it. Blankely knows this, knows that what she and her staff are proposing will limit, say, a $300,000 house to maybe a new kitchen and perhaps an updated bath, but she continues to use the $1 million figure. So does Diane Fox. I called her on it back at the last FEMA “discussion”, Fox acknowledged her error that night yet persists in using the million dollar example anyway. Duplicitous and deceitful? Our P&Z staff, our employees? Perish the thought.