GFA wins P&Z approval for winter sports facilities
WESTPORT — The campus of Greens Farms Academy, the waterfront site of what once was a Vanderbilt estate, will be adding a winter athletics center to its inventory of sports facilities.
The private school at 35 Beachside Ave. won unanimous approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night to build the project in two phases.
GFA initially plans to construct a single-story, 8,000-square-foot building to house six squash courts. Phase two will add another 8,000-square-foot building for a field house, lockers and a concession.
John Fallon, the lawyer representing the school, said possible uses for the field house include accommodations for both the wrestling and fencing teams.
"We are relatively desperate, not that that’s your problem, it’s ours, to get this facility underway," he said.
However, a May 12 memorandum to the P&Z commissioners from the staff noted eight incomplete aspects of the application, including: final approval from the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection with regard to a 1,250-gallon septic tank for the project; final approval from the Department of Public Works Engineering for grading and drainage; copies of all necessary permits from the DPW, and final approval from the sediment and erosion control inspector.
P&Z Chairman Chip Stephens said he was perplexed why those tasks had not been completed prior to the public hearing.
"I’m a little bit concerned … I can understand you’re in a rush. What I’m concerned about is this has been an excellent presentation a lot of time, money and thought has gone into it, obviously you’re in a rush, but if you’re in a rush why aren’t these things ready?" he asked. "Why aren’t these plans from the DEEP ready?"
Fallon said school officials submitted the application to the DEEP "over two months ago." He said that a recent round of state layoffs caused by its budget woes have caused processing delats among some regulatory agencies.
"They had it for two months … without throwing the DEEP under the bus, we didn’t just come waltzing in here, we’re in a hurry … they’ve had it for over two months so that’s that," Fallon said.
"As far as the local situation goes, the application, and again in the same spirit that I mention the DEEP, the application and all the engineering plans have been on file for over two months and we did have meetings before we filed the application as much as six months ago," he added.
Fallon went on to assure the P&Z that once the relevant agencies complete their reviews any issues they cite will be addressed.
The commission accepted that explanation and approved the motion.
Fallon noted the Staples High School athletic director has approached GFA about partnering and using the GFA squash facilities, which he said school officials are amenable to.
Janet Hartwell, head of GFA, said that phase two of the project does not have a timeline yet since it is contingent on school fundraising.
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