Police Commission: Let’s Take a Second Look at Parking Changes That Cost Elm Street 13 Spaces

Members of the Police Commission said Wednesday night that they’re willing to take a second look at a decision they made last summer to comply with a seldom-observed state law, leading to the elimination of 13 parking spaces on Elm Street. 

Prompted by a local attorney’s assertion that there appears to be a relevant 1950 opinion letter from the state attorney general and an appellate court case that could empower the town to find relief from the statute, commissioners said during their regular meeting that they would ask for a formal opinion from municipal counsel. New Canaan lost 13 spaces on Elm Street after a resident put town officials on formal notice about the town’s lack of compliance with a state law requiring a 25-foot buffer between crosswalks and parking spaces. Though local officials at the time asked transportation consultants and the state about what New Canaan might to do find a way out from under the restriction, no path to exemption materialized, and the Police Commission—the town’s on-street parking authority—voted 3-0 at its July 18 meeting to change Elm Street’s parking configuration. 

Merchants in the heart of New Canaan bemoaned the loss of parking. 

A guest at this week’s Commission meeting, Richard Stewart, said the change has upset him. Saying he’s seen a high number of vacant storefronts on Elm, Stewart told the Commission, “I know they are all under attack from Amazon and the Internet but in New Canaan that is such a vital thing for our town—we don’t have like Darien has a waterfront, we have the 100-acre cent er of town with the retail space and everybody comes in and it becomes a friendlier town.”

According to Stewart, an opinion issued by the Connecticut attorney general in 1950, one year after the statute in question took effect, could give municipalities the ability to pass an ordinance that allows them to get out from under the 25-foot rule. Stewart said he would investigate the option which while it “doesn’t have the power of law, still has power.”

He added that he found an appellate court case where a man fighting a $90 parking ticket was told by the court that he would have the ability to be exempted from the parking rule but that his city didn’t have an exemption on its own books, “so let’s make sure our town does that.”

Stewart said he would return at the Commission’s April 17 meeting with the information.

Officials Uphold $25 Parking Ticket for Confused Darien Couple

The Parking Commission last week upheld a $25 ticket for a Darien couple that pulled into a space at one municipal lot downtown and then tried to pay at another. Lindy and Len Fox told the commissioners during their March 14 meeting that on the morning of Jan. 31 (a Thursday), they pulled into a space in front of the former Outback Teen Center and then walked up the hill to pay for their parking at the meter machine where the wife, Lindy, typically parks and pays when she visits New Canaan. Yet that day, what locals call the “Park Street Lot” was full, the Foxes said, and that’s why they ended up parking in the “Playhouse Lot.”

“So I put my card in, it would not take it,” Len Fox told the Commission during his appeal hearing, held at Town Hall. “Some lady comes over, and she uses the other one, because there are two [pay machines] together and she said, ‘My card is working here.

Town To Tap State Officials for Traffic Study on Dangerous Stretch of Route 123

Town officials say they’re tapping state officials to conduct a traffic study along Route 123 in the area of Michigan Road following a pair of serious car crashes there recently. It isn’t clear what can be done to make the intersection safer, though Police Deputy Chief John Federico said Tuesday the biggest problems appear to be that motorists on Michigan Road have poor sight lines for southbound traffic on Route 123, and that those traveling on the state road northbound have poor sight lines for those trying to enter the road. “Anything to clear up the line-of-sight in both directions would be a big help,” DiFederico said during a meeting of the Traffic Calming Work Group, held at police headquarters. Public Works Director Tiger Mann said that although there isn’t much vegetation right now blocking views, “there is a very large rock outcropping” that the state may need to look at. The outcropping is located on the east side of Route 123, just south of the Michigan Road intersection, he said.

Parking Commission Votes 3-2 To Keep Permit Rates Flat Next Year

A divided Parking Commission voted last week to keep rates for all permits to town lots flat for next fiscal year. With some commissioners pushing for relief especially for commuters who already face the highest annual fees for parking permits, the appointed body voted 3-2 during its March 14 meeting to keep rates flat. The recommendation now moves to the Board of Selectmen. 

Commissioner Chris Hering noted that the MTA is already raising its own rates. “I really think we want to drive ridership and given our that our Talmadge Hill parking lot is not full—we don’t have waitlist there—and, this is anecdotally, but people are happy when they are the newcomers and they can commute and get a permit in Talmadge Hill it’s nice,” Hering said during the meeting, held in Town Hall. In pushing back against one proposal for an across-the-board 2 percent increase in permit rates—which would see the cost of commuter lot permits go up more than others—Hering said that New Canaan already is a less attractive town for many commuters because it’s a longer ride and more difficult to find parking at rail lots than many others. 

“It’s a matter of creating an incentive for them or having them drive down to Darien for less money,” Hering said.

Waveny Pond Dredging, New Observation Deck and Trail Coming This Summer

Town officials say they plan to dredge Waveny Pond this summer and install amenities including an observation deck and new elevated walkway trail under the widely anticipated centerpiece of a public-private partnership. 

The pond in the past has filled in with sediment that’s reduced its inflow and led to algae blooms, Public Works Director told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission during their March 13 meeting at Town Hall. Under a project that’s expected to cost New Canaan about $170,000 with at least that much to be paid additionally by the Waveny Park Conservancy, the town will dredge the pond to a depth of about eight feet, Mann said. The pond’s outflow structure is in good contain and will receive new railings that used to line a pedestrian path near South Avenue. “We will add that railing around as a barrier to anyone to prevent them from falling in, so it will give us a little continuity between the pond dredging and the trails and Waveny itself,” Mann said. Unveiled more than three years ago, plans for Waveny Pond have undergone multiple iterations.