Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses, #46 on Garden Center magazine's 2016 Top 100 list, finds itself in a legal dispute with the town of Greenwich, Conn., regarding zoning language that may prevent the grower-retailer from operating.
There is an ongoing petition movement on behalf of Sam Bridge, with the goal of changing Greenwich's zoning language to make a permanent allowance for the company, which has operated in Greenwich for more than 80 years.
Although Sam Bridge is located in a residential district, it has a zoning exception to run its business and has successfully co-existed with its neighbors for several decades – until a relatively new resident adjacent to the store property filed a complaint earlier this year.
“We’ve been at this location for 61 years and we’ve never had a single neighbor complain,” Marketing manager Maggie Bridge says. “This is the very first time this has ever happened.”
The Sam Bridge property includes a 100-foot surrounding buffer zone, mandated by its zoning permission, in order to not disturb nearby residences. However, one neighbor is still unhappy with the retailer’s day-to-day activity and special events.
“Between where our operation ends and [the neighbor's] property begins, there’s actually 100 feet of trees,” Bridge says. “There’s absolutely nothing there. His biggest complaint is noise, but we only make noise from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and it’s minimal at best.”
As a result of the neighbor’s ongoing complaints, a cease-and-desist letter was served to Sam Bridge by Greenwich’s Zoning Enforcement Officer in August of this year. The letter claimed Sam Bridge is effectively a landscaping business operating on a property permitted as a nursery. This is based on an outdated interpretation of the nursery business model, Maggie says.
“It’s based on a code that was written in the 1940s that only defined nurseries as being places where you grow and sell plants. It’s very broad and very ambiguous. At the end of the day though, our business model has remained unchanged,” she says. “We have always offered this service to people. We’ve been doing it for decades upon decades and it’s something my grandfather did, it’s something my father did. The only thing that’s changed is that customers don’t want to do it themselves anymore.”
Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses appealed the letter and gained permission to continue operations, but still must campaign to change Greenwich’s zoning language. A petition on behalf of the business on GoPetition.com has just under 5,000 signatures as of this writing.
“Right now we’re trying to gather as much support as possible so we can get the town to re-write the code and then pass it, so we’re able to continue operating as we always have,” Maggie says. “We have asked all of our friends, customers and neighbors to write in to the town and attend the meeting when they have and to sign our petition, too. It’s crazy but awesome at the same time. What’s really nice is to see all the comments people are writing and to know that we have had such a positive impact for so many years.”
Grateful for the support so far, Maggie hopes she and her family can put the zoning issue behind them and continue with what they’ve done best since the ball got rolling in 1930.
“We’re going to see what [the town is] going to do,” she says. “Unfortunately, they could have squashed it in the beginning and they didn’t, so it’s on them and we’ll just have to hope that they make the right decision and they change the code and we can get back to doing what we do.”
Garden Center magazine has emailed zoning officials from the town of Greenwich for comment and additional information. This article will be updated with their responses when they become available.
Photo courtesy of Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses