The feedback from the question “affordable or transformational” has been thoughtful and consistent. Congregants favor the affordable route. But most also favor affordable with an option to grow later. Here are a few excerpted comments:
I am in favor of the affordable route for a new GRS . . .Experience leads me to strongly agree with you about going the affordable route. And it can probably be accomplished in a way that for minimal additional cost will allow for easy future expansion if and when justified. . . Affordable is the way to go, with perhaps a bit of aspiration built in. . . . My cousin is an architect, and his "claim to fame" is building in a modular style. In other words, build for what you need right now but provide spaces where it is easy to add on as needed . . . I believe we should build or buy a building that is both affordable and expandable . . .I do not think we should be put in a situation of being financially draining or in need of a great amount of fundraising from the congregation.
The maximum size we can build (both today and tomorrow) is a function of the land we buy. In Greenwich, size is governed by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) rule. Suffice it to say that the allowable FAR on any given lot is a function of the lot size and the zone in which it is located. We also need to be able to provide parking on the site, and current regulations require one parking space for every three seats in the Sanctuary. Andrew Loebelson, working with the site committee, has prepared estimates of the square footage we need under various membership scenarios. We’ve arrived at a view that the site must permit at least 20,000 sq. ft. to meet our needs today. More is better, and around 25,000 sq. ft. or above seems to be a level that permits the sort of future expansion that the feedback comments above reflect.
For financial geeks like me, in theory we are bundling two distinct transactions—a “ base purchase” of 20,000 sq. ft. of building allowable under FAR with adequate space for parking, and an “option” to build 5,000 or so sq. ft. more. Of course, the base purchase and option can’t actually be separated—it’s just one piece of ground—but still, we can think about it this way. Let’s say, all things being equal, we had a choice between sites. Do we buy the hypothetical three-acre site that allows 20,000 sq. ft., or do we spend 33% more and buy the four-acre site? That extra 33% is the cost of the option.
Back in the real world, the site committee has researched at least nine sites so far. The committee, led by Sandy Soule, has scoured the market for properties, and the criteria has evolved as follows:
- Location: Reasonably central, reasonably visible.
- On town sewer and water line: The sizeable septic tank and field that would be required by both town and state regulations raises a host of obstacles. While less important, the need for a well increases other costs and concerns.
- Adequate FAR: At least 20,000 sq. ft.; more is better.
- Room for parking. The town has specific requirements for the number of spaces in relation to the seating in the sanctuary.
- Minimal wetlands: Impacts the amount of land on the site actually usable for building and parking.
- Engineering: Practically speaking, is the site buildable? Can we place a building with a footprint in excess of 10,000 sq. ft. on it plus parking?
- Other regulatory concerns: These include traffic studies, the anticipated the reactions of the Planning and Zoning Board, and so on. In this regard we are advised by our very experienced real estate attorney.
- Cost: Can we afford it? Is the valuation reasonable? What is it worth to us?
The good news is that progress is being made, and the search is very much alive. As soon as a property is found that meets all of the criteria, we will make a bid. If accepted, it will then be brought forward to the Board and Congregation for approval. Hopefully, this will happen sooner than later, but it’s not a calendar-driven decision.
In other good news, Andrew Loebelson (thank you again, Andy) has completed negotiations for office space for GRS to bridge the period between November 2012 and the move to our new building. The offices are on the Post Road in Riverside, and besides accommodating Rabbi Sklarz’s office and the entire staff, there will be room for Board and committee meetings, choir practice, music lessons with Cantor Sabrina, and other activities. This secures the final bridge sites GRS required. For details on the other sites, please see my “Greetings” letter in the blog archives by clicking http://grs.org/presidents-blog/presidents-blog/
I appreciate your interest and feedback. As always, feel free to contact me at email@example.com with your question, comments, and input.
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- May 24, 2013 6:30 pmShabbat Service
- May 24, 2013 6:45 pmAnniversary Blessings
- May 27, 2013GRS Offices Closed Memorial Day
- May 28, 2013 6:45 pmB\'nai Mitzvah Rehearsal