P&Z Votes 9-0 in Favor of Canaan Parish Redevelopment; Look of Exterior To Be Finalized

Saying a new exterior design represented a major improvement if not an acceptable final version, the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night unanimously approved the redevelopment of Canaan Parish, a 60-unit housing complex at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123. Addressing concerns voiced by P&Z at an initial public hearing last month, officials representing the applicant— the 5.2-acre property is owned by the town and an organization called ‘New Canaan Neighborhoods’ owns the buildings—reduced the height of two new buildings proposed for the site by six to seven feet, added architectural features for a more local residential feel, toned down the color scheme and increased screening from the street with more robust landscaping. In the end, the redevelopment is expected to achieve one major goal of the town as well as the New Canaan Housing Authority, which is partnering with New Canaan Neighborhoods on the project—namely, to ensure that New Canaan doesn’t open itself up to a loophole in a state law that allows developers to ignore local planning decisions in places that do not meet strict affordable housing requirements. Plans call for rebuilding the 60-unit Section 8 housing complex in a single five-story structure and construction of a new, 40-unit structure of the same height that would count toward the state’s affordable housing requirement. New Canaan is never expected to reach a guideline whereby 10 percent of its housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s rigid definition, though the town by creating additional qualifying units at Mill Pond has earned four years of relief from the developer loophole.

Neighbor Voices ‘Deep Concern’ Over Canaan Parish Redevelopment; P&Z Hearing Opens Tuesday

Though some of those behind a proposal to redevelop an apartment complex on Lakeview Avenue say its impact on nearby properties will be minimal, one neighbor of Canaan Parish is voicing what he called “deep concern” about the project. In a letter filed last week with Planning & Zoning, a Fitch Lane man who lives across Route 123 from Canaan Parish said that although officials with the New Canaan Housing Authority claim “that this area does not affect any residents, that is inaccurate.”

“Several homes from the Hoyt Farm neighborhood will look straight at this complex when the leaves are off the trees in the fall and winter,” Gregory Pepe said in his July 26 letter, part of the public file on an application for the redevelopment that will come before P&Z at its regular meeting Tuesday. “Our family home will have a direct eye level view of an apartment complex which will impact housing values. Canaan Parish existed long before us and I have no issue with that fact. However, replacing it with something far, far bigger and out of character with the town is not acceptable.”

Pepe also said that the proposed redevelopment appears to be five stories, not four, and urges P&Z not to “change or compromise current rules and regulations when it comes to height or density of housing as that becomes a slippery slope for future development, whether affordable housing or not.”

Those behind the proposal at Canaan Parish are seeking to create a new zone within the New Canaan Zoning Regulations in order to make the project possible. Named for the federally subsidized rental complex that’s stood at Lakeview and 123 for four decades, the “Canaan Parish Housing Zone” would allow the two organizations collaborating on the project to create 100 new units where 60 now stand. 

Specifically, Canaan Parish would be rebuilt with two L-shaped four-story buildings, according to an application filed this month with P&Z: one that replaces the 60 apartments now spread through 10 buildings and a second structure with 40 units built specifically to help New Canaan achieve relief in the future from a punitive state law.

‘We Are Not Going for Bad Architecture’: Housing Authority Chairman on Proposed Redevelopment of Canaan Parish

As redevelopment plans for an affordable housing complex materialize, New Canaanites must balance safeguarding the town from a punitive state law with creating buildings that look just how they want and doing so in a financially viable way, project leaders said this week. Specifically, increasing the number of units at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123 in order to gain relief in the future from an affordable housing law known by its statute number ‘8-30g’ means working within restrictions in terms of building height and even style, according to the chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners. Such considerations long have weighed on the minds of the Housing Authority and an organization called New Canaan Neighborhoods, which created and manages Canaan Parish, a 60-unit Section 8 housing complex, Chairman Scott Hobbs told members of the Town Council during their regular meeting Wednesday night. And though early-stage renderings of a redeveloped Canaan Parish have been received poorly by at least some in New Canaan, those schematics are not final and, in many ways, result from careful considerations in how to achieve a workable balance between financial viability and legal qualification on the one hand, and usefulness and aesthetics on another, Hobbs said. “If you want to build a giant box and put a low-sloped roof on it, you have more options,” Hobbs said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

‘This Definitely Does Not Look Like New Canaan To Me’: Selectman Voices Concerns About Proposed Redesign at Canaan Parish

Selectman Kit Devereaux on Tuesday morning voiced concerns about the aesthetics and appropriateness of early-stage plans for the redevelopment of a privately owned, 1979-built apartment complex on Lakeview Avenue. 

Pointing to a rendering of proposed new buildings at Canaan Parish from a Stamford-based architecture firm, Devereaux said at the meeting that she “saw this illustration and I am so hoping it is not the final design and that there will be some kind of public input on design.”

“This definitely does not look like New Canaan to me,” Devereaux said during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, held at Town Hall. “I am hoping it will look more like New Canaan than this.”

Officials for nearly two years have talked about whether Canaan Parish, a Section 8 complex, could be rebuilt with more density—a key toward achieving relief in the future from a state affordable housing requirement. 

Early-stage plans call for the 60-unit Canaan Parish complex at Route 123 to get to about 100 total units, Housing Authority officials have said. Devereaux’s comments came as the selectmen considered—and ultimately approved by a 3-0 vote—an allocation of $125,000 toward the redevelopment project from a fund that is comprised of New Canaan Building Department fees. 

She appears to refer to a June 13 meeting of the New Canaan Housing Authority, the sole publicly noticed meeting of the agency last month. Minutes from the meeting note only that a consultant “updated us the redevelopment of Canaan Parish.” She also referred to renderings from Amenta Emma Architects. Housing Authority Commissioner Bernard Simpkin, secretary of the agency’s board, said the rebuilding project is “a matter of getting the proper density and the proper area without it being over-dense and blend in with the community.”

“The idea is to maximize what we can on that property without going overboard, to make it as amenable to the community and to the people living there, and some public input from the people living there as well as the surrounding community is very important, and the town.”

The selectmen asked Simpkin whether public input will be had on the project (yes), whether the the rendering’s yellow-and-black colors were changeable (yes), who will make final decisions regarding design (a committee that includes members of the Housing Authority and New Canaan Neighborhoods, which owns the buildings), and whether it’s true the windows would only open three inches (not immediately clear).

New Canaan Man Falls on Ice, Tries to Get Up, Falls Again, Sues Landlord

Saying he suffered “severe injuries” after falling on an icy walkway two years ago because his landlord and a landscaping company had neglected to clear it, a New Canaan man has filed a lawsuit. Kenneth Soderquist’s injuries from the fall at Canaan Parish, according to the Dec. 9 lawsuit, includeL blunt trauma to both knees; contusions to both knees; right knee pain; left knee traumatic tochanteric bursitis; left knee pain; left hip trochanteric bursitis; left hip pain; thoracic sprain/strain; upper back pain; lumbar sprain/strain; low back pain; headaches; insomnia; and a shock to his nervous system. He fell and landed on his back at about 7:15 a.m. on Feb. 12, 2013 while walking toward the parking lot of the Lakeview Avenue apartment complex, according to the complaint, filed on Soderquist’s behalf by Cheshire-based Michael P. Foley, Jr.

“As the plaintiff was attempting to stand up after he had fallen on the ice, he was caused to fall a second time on the ice, where he landed on his knees,” the complaint said.