New Canaan Selects Town Planner, Hires Budget Director

Two-and-a-half years after losing its budget director to one neighbor, the town is hiring a new one away from another. New Canaan also has selected a new town planner, officials said Tuesday. The Board of Selectmen during a special meeting voted 3-0 to hire Lunda Asmani as budget director. He currently serves as director of management and budgets for Norwalk. 

During a night meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission, Chairman John Goodwin also announced that Lynn Avni has been selected as town planner. 

Though Avni’s full professional background was not immediately available, Goodwin said that she has “nine years of experience across the country,” including in New Orleans and New York state.  Avni is expected to be in place for P&Z’s next meeting, he said. According to a LinkedIn profile under ‘Lynn Avni,’ she has served for more than two years as director of planning and development for Ossining, N.Y., a village of 25,000 in Westchester.

Officials Cite Frogtown Road Nursery’s Violations of Decades-Old Agreement with Town

The owner and operator of a commercial nursery on Frogtown Road have violated the terms of a 1984 agreement by storing materials on the site expressly excluded in it, town officials said last week. The town requires property owner Twin Ponds LLC and Frogtown Nurseries to “remove such unrelated nursery materials, including cement blocks, located on the disputed property between 321 and 259 Frogtown Road,” according to a March 14 letter to the business from New Canaan’s interim town planner. “This removal shall be done in a timely manner and such removal shall be completed no later than 10 days from the date of this letter,” it said. Interim Town Planner Keisha Fink’s letter comes amid a bitter, years-long and ongoing legal dispute between the nursery and three contiguous homeowners next door. That legal matter centers, in part, on the question of whether the nursery had made “continuous and uninterrupted” use of areas near its shared property line for a statutory period of 15 years that would then give the business certain rights to it, such as installing deer fencing.

Interim Town Planner’s Contract Extended through October

The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend the contract of New Canaan’s interim town planner by nine months. The 3-0 vote means Keisha Fink will work in the key land use role, advising the Planning & Zoning Commission and reviewing applications that come in both to P&Z and the Zoning Board of Appeals, through October. “Keisha is doing an excellent job as interim and acting and she is a necessary part of our process and we would like to continue her for nine months,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said at the board’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall. He voted in favor of the extension, as did Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams.

A former land use coordinator in Westport who hold a master’s certificate in urban and regional planning, Fink succeeded Steve Palmer in the role of town planner—he worked here for less than one year—and has been at Town Hall on an interim basis since September. New Canaan launched its search for a full-time, permanent town planner at that time.

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.

Cell Service: Town Hires Consulting Firm To Help Draft Updated Telecom Regulations

Saying expert help is needed, officials on Tuesday approved a $7,500 allocation to hire an Simsbury-based consulting firm to help New Canaan review and revise the telecommunications section of its zoning regulations. The Board of Selectmen by a 3-0 vote approved the request from Interim Town Planner Keisha Fink during its regular meeting. According to Fink, Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman John Goodwin had recommended hiring Planimetrics since the town had “identified a need to be proactive in updating” the relevant section of the regulations. “Myself and other members of the Planning & Zoning Commission have reviewed the current telecommunications zoning regulations and feel it is prudent that the town have in place standards that should address any future applications affecting the siting of antenna facilities in town,” Fink said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “We believe that the Hiring of Planimetrics is the most efficient use of the town’s time and resources in order to bring forth a more comprehensive telecommunications regulations.”

Selectman Beth Jones said the general consensus is that “everyone wants to move ahead with this as quickly as possible, so we can get some professional help from people who have dealt with this before.”

Jones, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and Selectman Nick Williams voted in favor of the allocation for Planimetrics.