First Selectman ‘Intrigued’ by Idea of Purchasing Unimin Building on Elm Street, Relocating Police Department, District Offices

The town’s legislative body on Wednesday night approved a $500,000 bonding package designed to help plan for a renovation of the New Canaan Police Department, though the municipality’s highest elected official said the question of whether or not to follow through with the project is uncertain. Even though members of the Town Council at their regular meeting voted 12-0 to approve funds for design, engineering and consulting services for police headquarters, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan told NewCanaanite.com during an interview prior to the meeting that he was “intrigued” by the prospect of relocating the New Canaan Police Department to a prominent office building on Elm Street, negating the need for that renovation. Unimin first put put its building at 258 Elm St.—on the corner of Grove Street, overlooking the Lumberyard Lot—on the market 18 months ago. The industrial mineral producer has said it employs 100 to 110 people in the structure. “I am intrigued by the Unimin building but we don’t know yet whether it could accommodate a Police Department,” Moynihan said.

First Selectman Breaks 6-6 Tie To Advance Demolition of ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’

Though some argued that it makes little sense to rush an irretrievable decision when a viable alternative has emerged, members of New Canaan’s legislative body and the first selectman on Wednesday pushed forward the demolition of a widely discussed brick structure on Richmond Hill Road. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan broke a 6-6 tie on the Town Council to preserve $65,000, as part of a larger proposed bonding package, for razing the “Mead Park Brick Barn” or “Richmond Hill Garage.”

New Canaan Baseball has said it’s interested in using the 1901-built, two-story structure, opposite the bottom of Grove Street, for meetings and storage. Yet some on the Council questioned the organization’s ability to make the structure usable and maintain it. “I am totally in favor of giving [New Canaan Baseball] a reasonable amount of time, but I think the building should be taken down unless there is a credible plan,” Moynihan told members of the Town Council as he cast a vote in favor of preserving the money for demolition. It wasn’t immediately clear what are the criteria for “a credible plan,” or how long “a reasonable amount of time” is, though Councilmen noted that a 90-day delay is likely from the time the town applies for the demolition permit.

How Involved Should Residents Be in Deciding the Future of Public Buildings?

Though their input is valuable, New Canaan taxpayers ultimately should rely on their elected and appointed representatives to make decisions regarding the future of town-owned buildings rather than put such questions to a public referendum, officials say. Structures such as Gores Pavilion, Vine Cottage and Irwin House “don’t exist in a vacuum” and their capital needs are part of “a very fluid process,” Board of Finance member and Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee co-chair Amy Murphy Carroll said during the recent Forum on Public Buildings. Responding to a suggestion that putting key decisions on public buildings to a ballot so that residents can determine “what they do with their tax dollars,” Murphy Carroll questioned “how that it would be all that productive to do that.”

“You elected the people on the Town Council, right?” she said during the April 26 forum, held at Town hall. “You elected your representatives.”

While Murphy Carroll and her fellow panelists—First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Town Council Chairman John Engel, and Town Council members Cristina A. Ross and Penny Young, who also served as committee co-chair—agreed that input from the community is greatly encouraged and appreciated, she and others stressed that residents should also trust them to make the best decisions for the town. Young said that there need to be more public forums allowing residents to express their opinions about how the buildings should be used.

Irwin House, Outback, NCPD: Residents Suggest New Uses for Town-Owned Buildings

What follows are three ideas for new uses of town-owned buildings that attendees at last week’s panel discussion presented during the two-hour Forum on Public Buildings. Designed as a follow-up to a comprehensive committee report released in December, the event was sponsored by the New Canaan Historical Society, New Canaan Preservation Alliance, Town of New Canaan and NewCanaanite.com. The panelists—First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Town Council Chairman John Engel, Town Council members Penny Young and Cristina A. Ross, and Board of Finance member Amy Murphy Carroll (Young and Murphy Carroll also are co-chairs of the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee)—responded to the suggestions. Swapping Irwin House for Additional Park Space

One resident mulled whether tearing Irwin House down completely to add more green space would benefit New Canaanites since the park itself is a more popular attraction. The panel agreed that the idea of tearing the house down isn’t completely off the table, but involves building a new structure in its place.