ANGELO'S OPEN LETTER TO ZONING BOARD
(10/31/11)


To the Members of our Zoning Board:

For the applicant, Nagi Osta, the “Maple Ridge” project is, first and foremost, an issue of return on investment. And, in order to maximize his return on capital, you must approve some very significant changes to Stamford’s Master Plan for the Mid-Ridges.

Our community name, the Mid-Ridges, is merely a geographical identifier. We do not have a quaint, rustic name like Belltown, Springdale, Glenbrook, or Shippan. But we are, nonetheless, a community.

The residents of our community are also looking for a return on capital. But the return we seek is not measured merely in dollars. We foolishly put money into our homes—updating, improving, landscaping, and so on—knowing full well that the amount we invest will probably not come back in the form of a higher sale price. Why make such financially questionable decisions? Because these structures are more than houses—they are our homes. We are laying down, and investing in, our roots to our community. 

Our return on investment goes beyond mere homeowner’s equity. We invested in a lifestyle, a community, a sense of belonging and equality amongst other single-family homeowners. We don’t live on streets—we are part of neighborhoods. We watch each others’ children, we stand at school-bus stops to drop off and pick up our children and to talk amongst ourselves, particularly about topics affecting our neighborhood. We support each others’ businesses where possible. This is an interconnected community of single-family homeowners. Our homes may not be priced like those found in Wallacks Point, Shippan, Dolphin Cove, or Revonah Woods. But that does not make our homes and our community less valuable to the people who live here, who raise families here, and who die here.

We are not transients. I’ve lived here 38 years, and there are four residents within 200 meters who have lived here longer. We have new families and old hands. The common thread is single-family ownership and a great and caring atmosphere to raise a family.

The Zoning Board, by entertaining Mr. Osta’s “Maple Ridge” project, tells the community that our values are irrelevant. That the zoning regulations that we have all lived by don’t apply when someone wants to make a fast buck and is willing to hire a phalanx of attorneys and “experts” to sing the praises of a project that violates every common-sense zoning guideline.

I ask the Board not to sacrifice our homeowners’ equity—and our community’s equity—to bail out poor investment choices by an applicant. This is a single-family residential community. We have suffered no tsunami or massive flood destroying huge swaths of land that would necessitate an emergency variance because large numbers of people were displaced. I ask the Board to serve as a fair defender of community standards, not as facilitators of unnecessary and disruptive change.

Sincerely,

Angelo Gargagliano

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ZONING BOARD'S "BAIL-OUT" OF NAGI
(10/16/11)



A slightly different take.

Houston, Texas is, I believe, the last major metropolitan area without zoning laws.  An amusement park can be placed alongside a single family residence.  

The point is that zoning boards are created in most metropolitan areas to ensure logical, prudent, thoughtful growth within the bounds of community needs, limited facilities (i.e. sewer, fire houses, police support, schools etc.) and community conformity.

Too often, zoning boards see their responsibility first as allowing for growth. Growth is then the norm and thus variances are applied for and all to often embraced by the board.

Zoning boards would be better advised to view themselves as the last sentinel before litigation, protecting a community's demographic (i.e., single-family residential, industrial, commercial, etc.) from a wanton disregard of accepted standards. Very thoughtful deliberation should be given before considering, let alone acquiescing to, the motive of a petitioner whose profit-driven agenda runs counter to the affected community's desires, needs and simultaneously fundamental standard, that is, single-family, owner-occupied residences.

The zoning board should serve first as a shield to protect the community rather than as a facilitator of abhorrent change.

At the last hearing on the submission for the Maple Ridge Housing Project, I heard an attorney for the housing project [ed: John Leydon] say something to the effect that rental units were decided upon because the housing market was quite soft.

This admission means that rentals are now sought because the property owner made a bad bet.  Properties were purchased while real estate was up, and, now that real estate is down, they need a BAIL OUT in the form of changing the zoning regulations. Is the Zoning Board saying to our community that if the Board allows the variance, we the community must BAIL OUT the applicant for his poor decision? Must we pay with increased congestion? Must we pay with less green space? Must we pay with the very nature of single-family home ownership zoning regulations relegated to allowing housing projects within our small community? Must we pay with the proposed housing project population density so wildly disproportionate to our current community density standards?

I, as many within the community, have no problem with the applicant making a profit. We do object, however, if we must lower our modest zoning standards for that profit to be achieved.

With kind regards,

Angelo


______________________________________________



SEPARATING (RENTAL) FACT FROM FICTION
(NEW: 10/17/11)


Based upon counsel's presentation in favor of a variance at the last Zoning Board hearing for the housing project on Maple Ridge, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is a desperate need for rentals to meet a growing Stamford population. 

Let's look at the facts.

The population of Stamford in 1970 was 108,798.  In 2010, forty years later, the population had grown to 122,643. Put another way, the town's population grew by less than 14,000 people over FORTY YEARS.  Not, in my opinion, a major population explosion.  

Forty years ago, condominiums were virtually unknown. Today Stamford has thousands of condominiums. Cluster housing was also unknown, but today pockets of cluster housing are incorporated, successfully I think, in several of our residential areas. Forty years ago, there was more open space in Stamford. Zoning has created more individual housing opportunities by allowing larger land parcels to be subdivided while maintaining neighborhood integrity. Fieldstone Terrace (off Strawberry Hill / Newfield Ave.) comes to mind.

The point is that zoning did not remain static but addressed needs for change without violating community integrity

Before one swallows the assumption of a need for rentals, let's look at the record:





























                                       

I contacted 10 of the apartment complexes above, and ALL had rental units available. The vast majority of these complexes were constructed after 1970, and more than a few were constructed in the last decade.

The Zoning Board must guard against applicants seeking variances while professing altruistic societal needs in their mission statements when commercial desire for personal profit at the expense of the community is the real issue.

I trust that the Board will not allow itself to be manipulated at the expense of the community as a whole.

With kind regards,

Angelo


______________________________________________


ON NAGI'S LAWSUIT AGAINST THE ZONING BOARD
(NEW: 10/18/11)


Stamford Zoning Board
c/o Norman Cole

The Zoning Board decided properly and acted well within its legal authority in their earlier collective effort rejecting Nagi Osta's proposal to build ten apartments and a day care center on the very same sight he now proposes twenty-two units.

The board demonstrated courage and proper restraint by holding that community standards should not be trumped by a land speculator's efforts to change the rules when a poor investment is made.

However, the threat of an unfounded civil suit seems to have served to intimidate "OUR" Zoning Board. The Board readily agreed to review an alternate proposal by the applicant with more than double the number of units on the exact same sight.

The community hopes the board continues to exhibit the internal fortitude necessary to rightfully enforce the equitable and just regulations applicable to all.


With kind regards,

Angelo Gargagliano


______________________________________________


ANGELO’S FIRST LETTER TO THE ZONING BOARD:
(This was initially posted on our home page.)

Stamford Zoning Board
c/o Norman Cole

Dear Mr. Cole,

I've been a resident of this community for 38 years.  Most notices may touch, rightly so in my opinion, on traffic congestion, population density issues as well as sewage issues.  My thoughts are somewhat different.

The Zoning Board is responsible, in my estimation, for maintaining community integrity, logical and necessary development to said community and for imposing fair judicious standards.  The applicable phrase is judicious standards.  These are standards all within a community must adhere to.  Thus the changing of said standards must entail something so pressing and or significant for the community and or a greater geographic area that such standards must be modified, i.e. schools, hospital & or police substation, firehouse.

The zoning regulations are our standard.  When one party seeks a variance, despite legal arguments to the contrary, it is not because they have been and will continue to be good neighbors. The variance is sought to achieve a profit above and beyond what the existing standards allow.

I find no fault in Mr. Nagi Osta's pursuit of profit, but I at least recognize it for that. Unfortunately it appears as though the Zoning Board is being swayed by architects, attorneys, various traffic and sewage experts, and a multitude of artistic renderings of a future bucolic scene. 

Consider that this is a community of single-family residences. The proposed project consists of two-story apartments.  If the proposal was for cluster single family housing, this might have been received by me as a logical and prudent exception to the standard.  If the proposal were for condominiums using a density ratio comparable to a cluster housing alternative, this also would have been viewed differently.
  
However, the proposal is to add 22 apartments within an acre and a half plus establish a high traffic business within the confines of this complex. I live on the border of 1/2- and 1/4-acre zoning.  Houses to my rear are 1/4 acre and houses to my front are 1/2 acre.  The zoning board would never entertain allowing me to add six additional living units on my half acre, yet it seems fully prepared to allow 22 rental units and a children's nursery school on a property of only an acre and a half.

It is the entertainment of gross submissions for substantive zoning variances, such as Nagi Osta's Maple Ridge proposal, by the zoning board that leaves the community shocked, disappointed and wondering. Does the Zoning Board serve to protect, preserve and properly develop our communities, or does it surrender its standards at the first flash of a well-illustrated, even if off-the-wall, proposal and the rustle of greenbacks to be had?

I trust the board will exercise its considerable power to send a message that standards are for conformity, not for exceptions.

With kind regards,

Angelo Gargagliano

____________________________________________________



ANGELO ON DAY-CARE:


An observation, if I may. The new Bright Beginnings day-care center (across from and just north of Rippowam School), although right on High Ridge Road, will require drivers entering to make a 90-degree turn into a narrow driveway that leads to the facility. This will dramatically slow down traffic entering. What steps are planned to make the proposed Maple Ridge facility traffic-safe within the confines of the project?

Bright Beginnings has a six-foot-high vinyl fence surrounding the facility. This serves as a sound and dust barrier from High Ridge traffic. It also serves to ensure the children will have an out-of-doors confined space for their use. Will the proposed Maple Ridge facility have such an enclosed space for the nursery's use? If so, how much more of the one-and-one-half acres will be for other dedicated use (i.e. parking lot, building footprints, foot paths), rather than common green area? If there will be no enclosed space, are the children to be confined indoors all the time?

The vinyl fence also serves to screen the children from prying eyes of all kinds, including pedophile predators. Without such a screen at the proposed Maple Ridge facility, the children and their routine (arrivals & departures) would be visible and could be studied by any and all.

It should be on the record, in writing and orally at the next and each subsequent public hearing, that the proposed management plans and will maintain records to ensure that no units are leased to or will have "SEX OFFENDERS" as their occupants. This would serve to put Nagi and his legal team on notice that their proposal, although profit driven, entails responsibilities to protect the children that they plan to attract.

Perhaps the Zoning Board should also have on the record that this traffic density with small children entering and exiting a nursery is inherently unsafe.  The board should be on notice that they could be held individually and collectively liable for injury to any child as a result of changes in existing zoning regulations that put these children at risk.  

One needs only to drive down High Ridge Road to see the number of motorists exceeding 40 MPH, even with electronic warning signs flashing their speeds, in front of Rippowam Magnet School. People in a hurry to enter the proposed project, or those residing needing to leave quickly, will often exceed prudent speeds. This serves as a formula for an avoidable tragedy waiting to happen.

By getting this out, it puts Nagi on notice and more vulnerable should such a tragedy occur as a result of a lack of preparation and due diligence.  It will also provide the Zoning Board cover to turn the project down because very real areas of concern are not presented in the project's lovely illustrations and proposals.

____________________________________________________


MISC. AMMO FROM ANGELO’S ARSENAL:



If I may share some additional thoughts…. 

1)  Last year’s winter storms and very heavy snowfall left much of the area reeling.  What happens to the snow accumulated on those 98 parking spaces? Where will it be plowed to?

2)  A home near me has an "in-law"-only apartment. In-laws do not live there. The apartment, after a divorce, was rented to non-family members. The tenants are young ladies, and the daily apartment activity has become like a sorority on a Saturday night.  Boyfriends speed down the street with no consideration that many small children and handicapped elderly walk the roadway. Please note the Zoning Department has done nothing, to my knowledge, to correct this improper letting of the apartment.  

The point here is that counsel for Nagi has spoken of the demographic for proposed tenants in their project. The reality is that a signed lease is more important then demographics from a profit perspective. Hypothetical ideal tenants are just that, hypothetical.  Money talks, and leases will be granted to those immediately able to meet the asking rent.

3) One can walk about our neighborhood and see how most "homeowners" care for their property and keep clean their area of responsibility. Tenants and their "guests," such as those near me, discard cigarette butts, occasional bottles, cans, and snack-food bags all along the block. Homeowners generally keep up their property. Renters (many are younger) lack the personal financial obligation of homeowners and too often are not as attentive to the details of neatness as are others within the community.

Once zoning regulations are modified--such as allowing a change from single-family structures to accommodate multifamily rental units--it is like a ringing a bell. It can't be un-rung.

Angelo

______________________________________________________________________________________________________


This letter is from Michael Altamura, who lives in the Crystal Lake development near Nagi's Housing Project.



Dear Mr. Norman Cole,

My name is Michael Altamura, and, as a concerned citizen, I am highly disgusted to know that the idea of adding an apartment complex in my area is even being considered.

The traffic on High Ridge Rd. during the evening rush hour is bad enough northbound. Compound that with the traffic that this new apartment complex and daycare will create, and we will be left with a traffic nightmare. In the long run, the only person who stands to benefit will be Nagi himself. Housing values will dramatically decrease in the area, and the traffic produced will increase the risk of vehicle-related accidents exponentially, putting strain on the city to maintain more police patrols in the area. Not even the people living in the complex will benefit: the units are small and most likely will offer less of the "creature comforts" that other apartment complexes in the area offer.

America is a country built on the ideals of equality; equality regardless of race, religion and social status. Yet, by allowing Nagi to build his apartment complex here, you throw away those ideals and admit that a person with a higher economic standing has priority over others, essentially spitting in the faces of our founding fathers. In short, it would be beneficial for all if you to vote against the approval of Nagi's plan. By doing this, you reinforce the ideal that this is still a country "of the people and for the people," and not a country "of the people and for the rich."

Sincerely, 

Michael Altamura

______________________________________________________________________________________________________


Here is an open letter to Nagi from neighborhood resident Shilpa Kolli.
(Can Nagi be so blinded by greed that he will continue to ignore her impassioned plea?)


Dear Mr. Osta,

I have lived in my house in Stamford for as long as I can remember, and I love my neighborhood.  My parents decided to live in the Ridges because it has a quiet community feel, and that is how we all want it to stay. Our neighborhood is not, and will never be, synonymous with a housing development. Having an apartment complex and a day-care in a residential area is extremely disruptive and would cause numerous problems that my neighbors and I should never have to deal with. We all chose to live in Stamford and in this area in particular because we wanted to be able to come home to a quiet and low-key neighborhood.

Stamford is known for being a large city with a small-town feel. That small-town feel comes from neighborhoods such as mine, and building an apartment complex here would absolutely destroy that feeling. I would never go into your area of residence and propose to build a day-care center with a few apartments there, because that would just be rude and insensitive.  Please just take a minute to imagine how upset you would be if someone bought up the land across the street from your house and decided to just build a housing complex right there. I’m sure you would be extremely upset about it and would never allow it to happen. Please just open your eyes and see that we are tax-paying residents of this city as well, and we deserve to live in peace and quiet just as much as you do.

There is a reason that the Zoning Board rejected your plan the first time you proposed it – when it was half the size that it is now. You have doubled the size of your project and doubled our frustration that someone could just come in to our neighborhood and destroy the aura of peace, quiet, and family that we residents have fostered for so many years.  We live in a neighborhood of single-family homes, and I know that when I take a walk around my neighborhood, that is all I see. I want to keep it that way. Please go and spend your time and money somewhere else, because your housing development is not welcome here and will never be.

Shilpa Kolli

23 Shadow Ridge Road


______________________________________________________________________________________________________


Here's an email from the president of the Vine Meadow Condo Association. He has some good points regarding renters, businessmen, etc. 



October 10, 2011

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Richard ____, and I live at The Vine Meadow Condominium at 865 High Ridge Road. I have been the president of the association there since day one, so I am in a position to share accurate information about our facility. I am not always popular because I run a "tight" association and try hard to enforce the by-laws, or change them if that is the wish of the majority.

Yes, we purchased our unit for $509,000 about seven years ago. All of us then spent thousands to enlarge and re-design the parking lot in year one, to plant many more trees, to fix the sprinkling system, the outside lighting, etc. We also re-designed the lot so we could plow it more effectively and have a place for the snow. Now each unit has two parking spaces (spaces are assigned and, yes we do fine and tow violators as necessary) and one visitor spot.

Currently three units are rental units that are still owned by the developer, RMS Construction. One additional unit is rented out by an owner who could not sell the unit in time to purchase a house. (I would expect them to sell as soon as the market returns.) In general, I tend not to like renters. They do not share the common values, interest, courtesy, etc. that owners have.

RMS Construction had promised at the beginning that there would *only* owner-occupied units, yet they have kept and rented out three of the units. And so I think that individuals like Nagi and the owner of RMS Construction are quite similar, in that they are both businessmen (who, in general, cannot be trusted).

As for Nagi’s plan, the day-care should have a separate parking lot with a separate driveway. (Actually, why have a day care there at all?) As for the units, are they going to be apartments, or condos, or townhouses? Will Nagi manage them? Or will he hire a property manager? As for parking, I would suggest assigned spaces and an equal number of spaces per unit. I would strongly suggest only one driveway for the lot, as well.

I have learned so much over the last seven years. Yes, it is possible to have a quality facility, but you need quality owners with the common desire to maintain the facility as a quality place. No renters, no dogs, and a good set of by-laws with a well defined way to penalize those who do not want to live by those agreed-to by-laws is a good place to start.

I should probably come to the next public hearing.

Thanks,

Richard (last name withheld at writer’s request)

_________________________________________________



Here are two letters that resident Anthony Masciarelli sent to the Zoning Board, the first on 7/20/10 and the second yesterday (10/17/11). Again, local residents are against Nagi's proposal. But is the Zoning Board going to listen to us, or are they going to vote with Nagi's money?



ANTHONY MASCIARELLI 
31 Bradley Place
Stamford, Connecticut  06905
    
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 

Norman F. Cole; Principal Planner 
STAMFORD ZONING BOARD / Stamford Government Center
888 Washington Boulevard
Stamford, CT  06904-2152

Re:  PROCURMENT, LLC (808-826 High Ridge Road) / Application 210-17 

Dear Mr. Cole, 

I am writing to document my continued concerns regarding the above captioned application. Subsequent to my comments at the public hearing on 7/19/2010, I listened to the applicant’s response and the comments of the Board members. Aware that the site development plan was not under consideration, it was apparent that as proposed it will negatively impact Bradley Place. The following observations are expressed in the context of the applicant’s request to establish a new zone: 

• BUFFER ZONE: This is an obvious argument in support of the change, but the very same logic can be applied to ALL the single family properties along High Ridge Road. 

• PERMITTED USES: The Board started to focus on the “Day Care Use” aspect of the application, ignoring the fact that the RM-1 regulation specifically dictates “Family Day Care Homes.” (Refer to definition 22.c.) 

• SITE DEVELOPMENT: I am suspect that the applicant has a “hidden development agenda.”  Pending, the previous denial for a zone change the RM-1 effort is an alternate route to achieve the long term goal of commercial development.  If approved it is most probable that the applicant will then be seeking Zoning Board approval for the various uses listed in Appendix A, Land Use Schedule. 

• The applicant has canvassed the neighborhood seeking resident support, noting his community involvement and his desire to contribute to the installation of a new traffic light.  I commend his zeal and personall public relations effort.  He organized the favorable statements at the public hearing and graciously addressed the Board on the merits and goals of his project.  This PR effort, however, must not preclude a decision that is in the public interest.  Please share my comments and concerns with the Zoning Board members. 

Sincerely yours, 

Anthony Masciarelli, AIA 

___________________________________________________ 



ANTHONY MASCIARELLI 
31 Bradley Place
Stamford, Connecticut  06905

Monday, October 17, 2011 

(E-MAILED)
Members of the STAMFORD ZONING BOARD 
c/o Norman F. Cole; Principal Planner        ncole@ci.stamford.ct.us
Stamford Government Center / 888 Washington Boulevard
Stamford, CT  06904-2152

Re:  PROCURMENT, LLC (808-826 High Ridge Road) / Application 210-17 

Dear Mr. Cole, 

As you are aware this application is well over two years old and is still pending. First the CN zone change request which was denied, followed by the “alternate route” of a change to the RM-1 zone.  Using this option in the regulations, the applicant was thus able to take advantage of this secondary “mixed-use concept” and apply it to his assembled parcels. 

As the Zoning Board continues to consider the application I wish to reiterate my previous comments and concerns.  Sitting through several of the public hearings, it is my concern that the Board seems to be focused on details and not the “Big Picture.”  Hearing questions about the difference between ‘Hardie Plank and clapboard siding, as well as trim boards and Azek” indicates a lack of fundamental understanding of the Board’s responsibility in rendering a decision. There was not one comment or mention of the potential impact on the forced sanitary sewer main, or what effect the intensified development will have on High Ridge Road. 

The Planning Board’s recommendation of “Approval” seems to contradict the concepts advocated in the 2002 Stamford Master Plan. The Master Plan states that the residential areas of High Ridge Road have “the potential, and the need to become a true neighborhood-friendly boulevard with its own comprehensive landscape and streetscape identity.” Replacing existing residential areas with new commercial (mixed-use) areas only exacerbates the exiting confusion of High Ridge Road and is not in the public interest. 

Except for Mr. Nagi’s aggressive public relations campaign, (he even had a supporter for the zone change who wrote the Advocate from New Jersey!) the presentation and supporting arguments made at the hearings I attended could all be applicable to the next block along High Ridge Road, from Maplewood to Brandt.  The petitions submitted in support of the project by area residents, I am certain were signed in response to the “promise” of a traffic light at Bradley Place, which we now know is not happening. 

I strongly believe this development is not in the public interest, and, if approved, will be a precedent for the continued lineal development along High Ridge Road. As the condo development across the street was highlighted as a successful use of land, so will this RM-1 complex, if permitted, become an example for the next development proposed regardless of any negative community impact. If approved, High Ridge Road has the potential to become a boulevard of Day Care Centers; Churches, and Apartment Complexes with, no doubt, future sanitary sewer issues. 

Sincerely yours, 

Anthony Masciarelli, AIA 


95 Morgan St. 06905
26 Strawberry Hill Ave.
65 Prospect Street
1425 Bedford Street
1450 Washington Blvd
66 Glenbrook Rd.
112 Hoyt St. 06905
100 Prospect St.
One Canterbury Green
100 Morgan St. 06905
200 Broad St.
1455 Washington Blvd.
101 Summer St.
150 Southfield Ave
50 Forest St.
27 Greyrock Place
71 Strawberry Hill Ave
25 Forest St.
35 West Broad St.
77 Prospect St.
200 Henry St.
133A Connecticut Ave.
500 Bedford St.
1425 Bedford St.
1201 Washington Blvd.
14 Southwood Drive
11 Forest Street
111 Prospect St.                                           

Morgan Manor                                            
Carlton Plaza Apts                                     
65 Prospect Street                                      
Cornerstone at Bedford                             
Newbury Common                                    
Avalon Glen                                                  
Hoyt Bedford                                               
100 Prospect                                                
Canterbury Green                                       
The Fairfield                                                 
Avalon Grove                                                
Stamford Corners                                        
Park Square West                                        
Avalon on Stamford Harbor                      
Avalon at Greyrock Place                          
Biltmore Apts                                               
Fountain Terrace                                         The Classic                                                   
Mill River House                                         
Townhouse Apts.                                        
The Lofts at Yale and Towne                     
Rippowam Park Apts                                 Village at Stamford                                     
Hanover Hall                                               
The BLVD Apts.                                           Southwood Square                                     11 Forest St.                                                 111 Prospect St.           

MONEY FOR *NAGI'S* TRAFFIC LIGHT! 

CITY WANTED $100,000 OF *YOUR*

If you have any information that you'd like to see posted at www.stopnagi.com , just email it to info@stopnagi.com, and (provided it is verifiable, is not libelous, etc.) I will post it. This site is your FREE online voice to express your concerns about Nagi's housing project and day-care center.

One of our concerned residents, Angelo Gargagliano (who also happens to have written a novel), wrote several thought-provoking emails about Nagi's housing project and day-care center. I have published them below with his permission. These are the kinds of questions that some of our Zoning Board members should be asking Nagi, instead of inquiring about the kind of roofing shingles the project will use.

I had dedicated an entire web page to Angelo's missives until 2/1/12, when I had to move half of my home page there  (see "Rowdy Days!" in the black banner above) after the home page became too large to load in some web browsers.

(Sorry, Angelo!)

Your Email​