Mike Finkbeiner o tannenbaums on last night’s P& Z session

No boats, no house, no nothing, and no compensation

No boats, no house, no nothing, and no compensation

He addresses the Audi decision (discussed in an earlier post,) but also criticizes a ruling that essentially renders an entire property useless. It’s an exercise in eminent domain, without compensation.

….Ole’s is an historic boatyard, built out over public trust land (meaning it has water under the docks.)

If you remove the water dependent boatyard use, the state says you must remove the docks and allow the banks to revert to nature. Residential docks are limited to 100 sq.ft. Ole’s has 1000’s.

But the Town zone is residential single family.  But there is not enough actual land to make a decent lot.

Therefore, in the end, it’s abandon the historic use and lose the land, the history, the water access and a usable lot.

Zoning by itself fails when there is no effective plan in place to guide and decide the Commission.

But bravo to Heller and Alban for insisting that the duck must both waddle and quack. Now back to the drawing board.

Mike Finkbeiner lives in Greenwich . He is a professional forester and licensed sand surveyor at the company he founded, EarthImage.net

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Mike Finkbeiner o tannenbaums on last night’s P& Z session

  1. I am honored, as the former Island Surveyor in this blog space, to be identified as a “sand surveyor.” After listening to P&Z for 5 hours, I thought I would scream if I heard the word “opine” one more time. Now you have pushed me over the edge.

    • Hey, don’t blame me, blame the paper I took the quote from. On the other hand, you’re the expert on waterfront uses, so doesn’t that make you a “sand surveyor”? You might want to change your business card to include it.

  2. Anonymous

    So much for this “expert.” Whoever bought this place was well aware of the issues and paid a steep discount on account of them. The owner can change it residential and ditch the docks, or use it for commercial purposes and keep them. If the land is useless without the docks for residential purposes than the owner made a bad choice to buy. How this is a total deprivation of property boggles the mind.

  3. Ghost of the FAR Czar

    Even more interesting was the “bait & switch” on the docks. Owner was asked directly by PZAB what was happening with the existing docks and testified that the docks would be for personal use. Gets most of his variances for the residential conversion. Now all of a sudden the P&Z application has a commercial facility for up to 8 boats? John Tesei didn’t think that might somehow cause a problem?

  4. My inner forester tells me that “opine” is for trees, and the 5 hours of my life I can never get back was mostly blather,blather,blah,blah.

    But to the credit of quality builder/designer Chris Franco and his engineer/surveyor, Anthony L. D’Andrea, PE, who is dual-licensed (and duel-licensed according to CALS, the surveyor’s association), an expensive and thoughtful effort was put forth to resolve these policy conflicts.

    The serious question alluded to by my “duck must both waddle and quack” remark had to do with when is a boatyard a boatyard? Does the renting out of specifically eight kayak/canoe/rowing-shell spaces to a closed group of friends constitute a commercial use that justifies the State’s policy for water access and water-dependent use.

    By way of honest disclosure on my part, Dmitri Vlasov, rowing coach and former tenant there, and I together looked at making the property work, post-Sandy. My part would have been development of autonomous water survey craft (5 ft model boats with professional survey hardware on board.) Dmitri was actually a licensed vendor of rowing hardware in addition to training and coaching. So the marine retail use would have continued. And while the neighborhood would have opposed an actual rowing club, which is impossible due to creek siltation, the low-level use of up to eight rowing clients at a time would have been consistent with neighborhood goals.

    The hearing also glossed over the office-use tenancy of Susan Cohen, landscape architect and wife of land-use attorney Bruce Cohen. She was not a water dependent tenant.

    A hat-tip is also offered to the verbal skill of land-use attorney, John Tesei.
    He deflected a long litany of relevant neighbor commentary by saying, “Well enough of the entertainment portion of tonight’s program. Now let’s get to the news and the weather.” The brilliance of this remark was the subliminal erasure of actual community input to the process, with “Now here’s the news you can use.”

    • Neighbor

      Regarding Susan Cohen, she’s also illegally occupying part of the second floor in an office, as was cited by a neighbor at the hearing. The second floor was changed in 1996 and expanded to be residential only, with the then-owner represented at P & Z by….. are you ready….. lawyer Bruce Cohen. But maybe Bruce forgot this when he put his wife in there after Erik moved to Maine?

      • Anon

        I know the owner and he told me he hasn’t taken rent from her since he bought it 6 months ago. He’s asked her to leave several times, since the town has cited the zoning violation, but she said she will only vacate if he gives her $50K. Sounds like Susan Cohen is a squatter!

  5. Anonymous

    What was the Franco application about ?

    • He wants to build himself a single family residence. After Ole’s Boat Yard failed, Catalano’s tried to run a marina, and effort that failed when the DEP forced them to remove all docks resting (at low tide) on the mudflats, claiming that the docks were hurting hermit crabs. That made the operation untenable, and so the only real use was residential. But to abandon the waterfront use, all docks had to be removed. Funny enough, if the town hadn’t condemned and taken land from Ole’s to build the rotary there, years ago, there would be enough land to build a house.

      • Anon

        Chris, regarding the Franco property you’re correct. There is a certificate of permission (COP) for the seawall and boardwalk that was issued in 2011, based on the fact that they had been there for 70 years. You’ll be interested to know that the DEEP just told the owners 3 weeks ago that the COP will be voided if the property goes to full residential, and that the bulkhead and boardwalks will need to be removed if the property goes to full residential, which is what it is zoned for and what was proposed here. That was the only reason that the owners amended their application – to maintain some limited amount of commercial for the continuance of the COP – it was not a “bait and switch” as the poster above said, which actually makes no sense since they want their home there.

        The crazy thing is that the town also opposes removing the historic bulkhead and boardwalks. To do that would undermine the historic site, and could potentially undermine the integrity of Riverside Avenue where it comes within a few feet of a portion of the north bulkhead. Also, if that site eroded into the creek at that choke point, you could interrupt to historic (at least for the past 70 years) in flow and out flow of the creek.

      • AJ

        I think you must mean fiddler crabs, not hermit crabs because a hermit crab is free roaming and its home is its shell. The fiddler crabs burrow into the sides of the marsh in the creek right down to the mudflats but not in the mud; at the Cos Cob docks they also bury into the sea floor that is exposed at low tide which is a much sandier mud as is also the case at the Byram Beach docks. Fiddler crabs do not burrow into the actual mudflats in the creek: it’s much too soft and gooey.

        So, the crabs being affected by docks on the mudflats argument is a false one. The old false initial premise trick: you can not harm something that does not exist.

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  7. anon

    How much did the new owner pay for Ole’s?