Ben Bilus

Recent Articles

Officials To Recommend Creation of Town-District Combined ‘Task Force’ To Determine Future Home of Board of Education [CORRECTED]

New Canaan should appoint a task force of town and school district representatives to evaluate what are the best options for a future Board of Education home, according to a primary recommendation committee that’s writing a soon-to-be-released report on the state, uses, capital needs and future of municipally owned buildings. Referring to the former Outback Teen Center as the ‘Town Hall annex,’ the committee also is to recommend that the long-vacant structure be used to house an alternative high school program. The Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee also will recommend that New Canaan “provide funds for architectural engineering designs to address long-delayed, necessary capital improvements at the police station,” co-chairman Amy Murphy Carroll said at the group’s most recent meeting, held Nov. 29 at Town Hall. She read from the Executive Summary of a draft report that’s expected to be presented this month to the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council. Continue Reading →

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ZBA Grants Variance for Improvements at Brinkerhoff Avenue Home

The Zoning Board of Appeals recently approved a variance paving the way for improvements to a single-family home located at 7 Brinkerhoff Ave. Mario Lopez of ML Builders, on behalf of homeowner Ed Ku, presented plans for improvements to the circa-1918 home during the ZBA’s most recent meeting on Nov. 6. Ku plans to change the pitch of the home’s roof from 7 feet to 14 feet and add a 56 sq. ft. Continue Reading →

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Committee Mulls Whether Town Should Continue As Owner of Playhouse

Does it make sense for the town to continue to own the New Canaan Playhouse building downtown, especially considering that it needs more than $2 million in repairs? That’s a topic that members of the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee broached during their most recent meeting at Town Hall. The town acquired the building at 89 Elm St.—which also includes street-level retail space and second-floor offices—in August 2007 for about $2.2 million. However, officials have been mulling in recent years whether it makes sense for the town to continue to lease the facility to BowTie Cinemas and have it operate as a private movie theater, considering the major capital investment needed to make it safe, structurally sound and ADA-compliant. The figure three years ago was pegged at $2.1 million (major line items at the 1923 building include partial roof and brick exterior replacement, elevator and ADA-compliant wheelchair access, new gutters and drainage system and new layout for its sprinkler system). Continue Reading →

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Plan to Build Two-Family Home on East Avenue Stalls at ZBA

An application for a variance that would allow a two-family residence on East Avenue to replace a 1900-built single family home there was continued Monday night after town officials expressed concerns over the proposed driveway and pedestrian access way included in the project. On its face, property owner William Panella’s request for a variance for 72 East Ave. is straightforward: The applicant is requesting relief from the residential Zone B requirement for a minimum 100 feet of street frontage, as the property only allows for about 93 feet of frontage, and to allow the driveway from East Avenue to connect with another driveway and parking lot for an adjacent commercial property on Vitti Street. Panella plans to tear down the existing 1,400-square-foot home, where his late mother Mary had lived, as well as the detached garage in the rear and construct a new, residential style, two-family dwelling measuring about 4,000 square feet. Before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, attorney David Rucci of Lampert Williams & Toohey LLC explained that he is, in fact, representing two clients on the project, William Panella, son of the late Mary Panella, whose property is the subject of the application, and Panella’s development partner, Art Collins, who is developing an adjacent property on Vitti Street, directly behind the property on East Avenue and in the town’s Business B zone (see map below). Continue Reading →

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Owner of Historic Park Street Home Seeks Increased Flexibility in Home Office Use

The owner of a prominent Park Street house that’s lingered on the market for two years is seeking more flexibility from town officials than the New Canaan Zoning Regulations normally allow, regarding his home office. Richard Bergmann, an architect who since 1973 has owned the stately and well-preserved Greek revival at 63 Park St.—a house located in New Canaan’s Historic District that had been owned by Maxwell Perkins, masterful Scribners editor of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe—on Monday night asked zoning officials for permission to allow the home’s owner to not live in the house while still using its first floor as an office. Specifically, he’s seeking a variance to a section of the zoning regulations (see page 47 here) that allows for a home-based business by permit so long as the person working there also uses the same dwelling as his or her primary residence, among other requirements. One of those requirements is that no more than one nonresident of the house can be employed on the premises—Bergmann in 1985 obtained a variance that allowed him to employ two people in addition to himself at the 1837-built Park Street home. In making his statement of hardship, which Bergmann reviewed before the Zoning Board of Appeals at its regular meeting Monday night, the homeowner noted that the house is adjacent to the town’s business district and that a similarly situated residence already has the allowances that he’s seeking. Continue Reading →

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