John Engel

Recent Articles

Seeking More Info, Town Council Hits Pause on $1 Million Request for Waveny House

As a member of two committees that have studied the physical plant and uses of Waveny House, Christa Kenin said she’s sat through many brainstorming sessions regarding the 1912 public building. It’s been imagined as a future home for the Board of Education and a conference center, among other uses, Kenin told fellow Town Council members at their regular meeting Wednesday night. There’s been “no shortage of good ideas,” she said, yet right now Waveny House is in a “holding pattern.”

“And unfortunately, it is low-revenue-generating, and so for that reason I am not motivated to throw any money at it right now,” Kenin said as the legislative body discussed a capital funding request from the Department of Public Works for $1 million to install an elevator at Waveny House and accessible routes and bathrooms on the second floor in order to make it ADA-compliant at long last. “I don’t think it’s ‘Do this or shut it down,’ ” Kenin continued at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “I am more in favor of let’s take people off of the second floor, save $1 million, because that will kind of push us to actually make some decisions and this is long overdue for the ADA. Continue Reading →

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UPDATED: Community Forum on ‘The Future of Town-Owned Buildings’ To Be Scheduled

[Note:  Originally scheduled for March, this forum will be held some time after budget season. We apologize for any inconvenience.]

The Town of New Canaan in partnership with will present a community-wide forum on “The Future of Town-Owned Buildings.”

Panelists will include:

Town Council Chairman John Engel
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan
Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee Co-Chair and Board of Finance member Amy Murphy Carroll
Architectural preservationist Marty Skrelunas

The forum will be held at Town Hall, moderated by owner and editor Michael Dinan. Refreshments will be served. New Canaan is working toward major decisions about the uses and futures of town-owned buildings. A selectmen-appointed committee in December produced an in-depth review of some 50 such structures in New Canaan, including recommendations in many cases about what could be done with them. Right now, elected and appointed officials are weighing decisions about spending money next fiscal year to study or alter buildings in ways that could rearrange not just where municipal departments are located but whether some buildings continue under town ownership or exist at all. Continue Reading →

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Town: Former Outback Building Will Not Serve as Home to Alternative High School; Market Value of Building To Be Gauged

The former Outback Teen Center downtown is off the table at this point as a possible future home for an “alternative high school” program envisioned by the school district, the town’s highest elected official said Tuesday. In order to maximize the value of the shuttered, centrally located building, New Canaan first must find out whether it can be rented or sold, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan. “And in order to do that, you have to expose it to the market,” Moynihan told following a full day’s worth of meetings on the fiscal year 2019 budget, which now moves to the Board of Finance. Moynihan said the decision was informed by a committee of the Town Council. Members of the Council’s Education Committee, and Moynihan himself, met Jan. Continue Reading →

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Town Council by 8-3 Vote Elects Mike Mauro To Fill Open Seat

New Canaan’s legislative body on Monday night voted to fill a vacancy in the 12-member group with a father of twin kindergartners who has resided in New Canaan for two years and works as an attorney. Mike Mauro will fill a Town Council seat previously held by fellow Republican Ken Campbell, following an 8-3 vote during a special meeting at Town Hall. He was one of two candidates for the open seat, along with Democrat Colm Dobbyn, a 25-year resident of New Canaan and attorney who is the longest-serving member of the Inland Wetlands Commission. Describing himself and his wife, Melissa, as family-oriented young parents and hard-working professionals—she works for a commodities firm based in Switzerland—Mauro said he specializes in labor employment and views his candidacy for the Council as an opportunity to give back to a town he and Melissa quickly embraced after falling in love with its schools. “You know, it’s getting tougher and tougher to get into this town—it’s getting tougher and tougher to stay in this town,” he said during the meeting, attended by about 50 people including First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Selectman Kit Devereaux and several members of the Democratic and Republican Town Committees. Continue Reading →

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Despite Calls To Slow Down, Town Council by 7-3 Vote Approves Redesign of ‘Parterre Garden’ at Waveny

Thanking the volunteers who conceived of the plan and vowed to fund it—and despite opposition from some professional landscape architects—New Canaan’s legislative body on Wednesday night voted in favor of a redesign of a prominent garden at Waveny. The Town Council—New Canaan’s land use authority—at its special meeting voted 7-3 in favor of what some have called a “substantial redesign” of the parterre or “upper garden” at the beloved town park, though a national organization and prominent local landscape architect cautioned against a hasty approval. During an emotionally charged meeting at Town Hall, councilmen expressed regret that the two parties holding different opinions on what is best for the garden—the New Canaan Garden Club on one side with the redesign, and Keith Simpson Associates and a Washington, D.C.-based coalition on the other, advocating for a historic restoration—could not find a middle ground. Councilman Joe Paladino said he would like to see an “expanded dialogue” between the two sides—calling the Garden Club “an agency with decades and decades” of service to the town, and Simpson himself “an individual with hundreds and hundreds of hours that have benefitted our town.”

Yet a respectful exchange of ideas did not appear to be forthcoming, and the Town Council after some discussion approved the Garden Club’s plan. Those voting in favor included Chairman John Engel, Vice Chairmen Sven Englund and Rich Townsend, Steve Karl, Christa Kenin, Cristina A. Ross and Liz Donovan. Continue Reading →

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