David McCarthy

Recent Articles

‘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. Continue Reading →

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Town Starts Allocation of Funds for Denser Redesign of Canaan Parish Affordable Housing Complex

Officials on Tuesday took a step toward securing four additional years of relief from a widely criticized state law that allows developers to skirt local planning decisions in towns such as New Canaan, where a low percentage of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s narrow definition. The Board of Selectmen voted 2-0 to approve $170,000 to be transferred from a specially designated town fund to the New Canaan Housing Authority. That agency is working with Canaan Parish, a Section 8 housing complex at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123, on plans to redevelop the apartments there with greater density in order to better use the land there and help New Canaan achieve a second four-year “moratorium” under the state law. Early-stage plans call for the 60-unit development to get to about 100 total units, Housing Authority Board Secretary Bernard Simpkin told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall. “We’ve already chosen an architect and now the next stage is doing the design, the engineering and all those things,” Simpkin said. Continue Reading →

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‘A Logical and Mandatory Thing’: Millport Avenue Developers Address Concerns About ‘Loom Factor’ of Four-Story Structures

Though neighbors of the public housing development at Mill Pond and at least one member of the Planning & Zoning Commission had voiced concerns about the height and aesthetics of proposed four-story buildings there—concerns that some now say were well-founded, as the units take shape—the new structures will look better once they’re finished with stonework, balconies, trim and landscaping, the project’s architects say. At least as importantly, given the need for elevators and the challenges of expense and space that they bring—particularly when dealing with affordable housing—going “up” in height and leveraging density is an economic and architectural reality, according to Scott Hobbs, chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority Commission. “In the case of affordable housing, it is especially tricky because it is hard to make it work economically even with seed money from the town and grants from the state,” Hobbs told NewCanaanite.com. “It’s still hard to make it work and you need to get to density, otherwise you cannot pay for the construction. At the end of the day four stories, while large, is still within what is acceptable. Continue Reading →

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Plans Filed for Building Project at Millport That Would Give New Canaan Relief from Developer Loophole

A plan to add 33 units to the public housing development at Mill Pond would trigger temporary relief for New Canaan from a state law that often amounts to a loophole for developers seeking to skirt local planning decisions, officials say. Under the Affordable Housing Appeals Act, towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock qualifies as “affordable” by the state’s definition (New Canaan’s is at about 2.4 percent), developers may bypass Planning & Zoning by designating a percentage of units within proposed new structures as affordable. Ten percent is a rigorous standard that towns such as New Canaan are unlikely to meet, officials say, since the state in calculating “affordable” lumps the town into the sprawling geography of the “Norwalk-Stamford Metropolitan area.” Yet there’s a way to get relief under a provision (a complicated provision) in the state law. Under the provision, types of housing are assigned a certain number of points based on variables such as how much they cost (in mortgage payments or rent) and who they serve (seniors or families). Continue Reading →

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