Officials Recommend Raising ‘Fee-in-Lieu’ Parking Rates for Commercial Projects Downtown

Saying New Canaan’s rates lag other towns and haven’t been upped in years, officials are recommending that the town raise its fees for those seeking to pay money into a parking fund in lieu of providing the required number of spaces for commercial construction projects. A committee of the Planning & Zoning Commission proposed at its most recent meeting that the baseline fee for the first “fee-in-lieu” space go up from $17,500 to $20,000, with increases in other categories to follow. “We have seen some resistance at $17,500 but I think it would not seem unreasonable to me to bump it a little bit this year,” Jean Grzelecki of the Plan of Conservation & Development Implementation Committee said at the group’s most recent meeting, held Nov. 28 at Town Hall. Going to $20,000 “seems pretty reasonable,” she said.

Officials Propose Way To Allow Service Businesses To Occupy Street-Level Commercial Spaces Downtown

Seeking to give commercial property owners and businesses eyeing space in the heart of downtown New Canaan more flexibility, officials are considering a change to a section of the zoning regulations that governs what types of enterprises are allowed in street-level locations. As it is, the New Canaan Zoning Regulations allow, with site plan approval, a number of business types in what’s called the ‘Retail A zone’—it encompasses the one-way portion of Elm Street, the first block of South Avenue and Main Street roughly between Burtis and Locust. Those uses include retail businesses up to a certain size, restaurants, food shops and theaters. Service establishments such as exercise studios also are allowed in the zone, though not on the first floor. Yet in a difficult retail environment, many commercial spaces “are simply too large to get [tenants],” Jean Grzelecki, chairman of a subcommittee of the Planning & Zoning Commission, said at the group’s meeting Tuesday night.

P&Z Denies Aquarion’s Bid To Subdivide Indian Waters Drive Property

Saying a wooded property at the end of Indian Waters Drive is too narrow to subdivide and that a development proposal is out of keeping with the residential neighborhood at the end of a private access way, officials on Tuesday night denied an application to carve out two building lots there. The Planning & Zoning Commission voted 9-0 to deny the closely followed special permit and two-lot subdivision applications, filed on behalf of Aquarion. Though the proposed subdivision would set aside 4.1 acres of open space, it provides no real access to it, according to commissioner Laszlo Papp. “I do not believe that the commission has the authority to waive that requirement [for accessibility to open space], either by Special Permit or otherwise,” Papp said during the commission’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall. “So that I see as a serious problem for approval.

‘It Seems a Little Excessive’: P&Z Voices Concern over Request for Second Sign Behind Bank-Owned Building

Saying a proposed second sign out back of a corporate building on Elm Street was too large, the Planning & Zoning Commission at its most recent hearing continued an application filed on behalf a community bank. Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations (see the final paragraph on page 127 here), P&Z may grant a business a second sign larger than one square foot for the rear entrance of a first-floor use. Yet what Bankwell had proposed for the non-walk-in, corporate headquarters at 220 Elm St.—a building that houses other commercial tenants—appears to be too big at 12-by-134 feet, according to P&Z Secretary Jean Grzelecki. “It seems a little excessive,” Grzelecki said at the group’s June 26 special meeting, held in Town Hall. “I could see this being totally appropriate if in fact Bankwell were moving into this building, with one sign on the front and one sign on the back, to identify for its own customers coming.

Town Planner: New Canaan May Look at More Closely Defining Core Retail Area Downtown

Protecting New Canaan’s core retail district may require greater flexibility in what types of businesses can occupy street-level storefronts in other areas of the downtown, officials said last week. Though non-retail uses of street-level commercial spaces are heavily restricted on parts of Main and Elm Streets now, it has become increasingly important to determine exactly what are “the proper limits of retail in town, so that we do not over-commit our zoning to acquiring retail to saturate the market,” Town Planner Steve Palmer told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission at their regular meeting. “I think there is a supply and demand, and we have too much supply,” he said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “So we have to be careful with that, too. We know where it [retail] works best, we know where it is important, so let’s focus on those areas, the outskirts areas—we have to be careful with how we do that.”

The comments come as P&Z guides a discussion with business and town officials on whether the New Canaan Zoning Regulations as regards the “Retail A” zone (in purple here) should be amended—for example, to accommodate more types of service businesses.