P&Z To Study Concerns Surrounding Airbnb Rentals, with An Eye on Updating Regulations

The chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission said Monday night that the appointed body is to study problems associated with short-term home rentals through a popular online service, with an eye on possibly updating local regulations. Though initial concerns presented by Airbnb emerged in New Canaan several months ago, P&Z did not immediately address it because the town was in process of hiring a new planner, according to John Goodwin. But she’s now in place, a second Airbnb problem on New Norwalk Road has emerged “and I have concluded that I had to more aggressively deal with it,” he told members of the Town Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee during their special meeting. Specifically, he said, P&Z Commissioner Krista Neilson and Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni will study Airbnb in New Canaan, make an assessment and report back to the full Commission with recommendations. 

“There are already sections of the regulations that deal, we think, with Airbnb and the preliminary thought is it looks like they may already be in violation of the regulations without us even having regulations that are specific to Airbnb, so take that as an idea that is being talked about,” Goodwin said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. A guest at the meeting, Goodwin made his comments to a committee of the legislative body that’s looking at a number of possible new or updated ordinances.

Meet Lynn Brooks Avni, the New Town Planner

Lynn Brooks Avni, New Canaan’s newly hired town planner, does ceramics in her spare time. 

She’s been making plates, bowls and beads for necklaces for about 11 years. “I’m not that good,” Brooks Avni said on a recent morning from her office at Town Hall. 

Yet the work keeps her calm. “You get out your aggressions in a more constructive way,” she said. “It takes a lot to aggravate me.”

That may come in handy. In taking over as the municipality’s first permanent town planner in about one year, Brooks Avni will work as co-director of land use for New Canaan—serving as senior enforcement officer with respect to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, as well as a resource and advisor to both the Planning & Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Brooks Avni said she has been made to feel “very welcome” by her colleagues at Town Hall and the wider community.

P&Z: Board of Ed Lacks Site Plan Approval for ‘Alternative High School’ Downtown

The Board of Education plans to install New Canaan’s first-ever “alternative high school” on the second floor of the downtown building its administration currently occupies, though town officials on Tuesday night raised concerns that required zoning approvals for such a program have not yet been obtained. Specifically, the Board of Ed needs approval for a site plan in order to move forward with the program on the second floor of 39 Locust Ave., members of the Planning & Zoning Commission said during their regular meeting. 

Though school starts Thursday, the Board of Ed “missed a deadline” to get on the agenda for this week’s meeting, according to P&Z Chairman John Goodwin. “I think when they make the site plan application in September we will learn more,” Goodwin said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “What is unfortunate is that they are going ahead and doing this without the site plan approval. So my question to them next month is, why did they miss the deadline?”

No Board of Ed members or district administrators attended the meeting.