Penny Young

Recent Articles

Town Council Members Mull Using ‘Outback’ Building To House Alternative High School Program

The superintendent of schools on Wednesday night presented a subcommittee of New Canaan’s legislative body with details of a proposal to create an “alternative high school” program for students with specific health challenges in New Canaan to be housed at the former Outback Teen Center behind Town Hall. Dr. Bryan Luizzi and Assistant Superintendent of Pupil and Family Services Darlene Pianka outlined their vision for a program to replace New Canaan High School’s current Afternoon Instructional Program, or ‘AIP,’ which is held in the school’s media center. AIP is currently only available to four to 10 upperclassmen at a time, while Luizzi’s proposal will potentially provide full- or half-day instruction for six to 12 students in grades 8-12 based on their educational and therapeutic needs, they told members of the Town Council’s Education Committee. The idea of locating the alternative high school at Outback had been broached with a town committee in November and the program itself was presented to the Board of Education on Monday as part of the approximately $90.7 million proposed budget for New Canaan Public Schools next year. Throughout Luizzi and Pianka’s presentation, Education Committee members Tom Butterworth, Rich Townsend, Joe Paladino and Christa Kenin raised questions about the potential costs of the program and the suitability of the Outback as the program’s physical site. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

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 →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Editorial: A Disputed FOI Question Regarding ‘Illegal Meetings’

In February, the Board of Selectmen appointed a seven-member committee and tasked it with one of the most consequential jobs assigned to a municipal body: Study the physical condition, uses and capital needs of all 56 town-owned buildings in New Canaan (except the school district’s) and report back to the town. As a one-person news operation, I often make difficult decisions about what to cover, and forgo coverage of entire boards or commissions—I rarely covered the Charter Revision Commission, for example, never go to Deer Committee meetings and did not cover the Playhouse Committee after its second meeting. But the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee—an advisory body—was to make recommendations (in a report originally scheduled for September delivery) with wide implications for the town, including whether to raze, sell, invest in or use differently buildings such as Waveny House, Vine Cottage, the former Outback Teen Center and Irwin House. I decided to attend every meeting I could and report back to our readers on what they were discussing. My goal was to clue people in as to the committee’s thought process as its work unfolded. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , ,

Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee Unveils Its Recommendations [IUPDATED]

Members of the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee—which for the past eight months has been looking for ways to make more efficient and cost-effective use of town-owned facilities—presented its draft report to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday. Among the recommendations included in the group’s massive 91-page report (available here in full) are moving the Board of Education offices from the current leased space on Locust Avenue to a town-owned facility—preferably the second floor of Waveny House or the main house at Irwin Park; using former Outback Teen Center building for an alternative high school program; renovating the Police Department building; razing the Richmond Hill garage; using the three-bay garage at Irwin Park as additional space for the Public Works Department; and developing policies for the storage of documents and other items in town buildings, among other recommendations. “The idea here is to look at where we might find some savings—or, if not, lower costs, moving forward—by optimizing the use of our buildings,” committee co-chair and Board of Finance member Amy Carroll said during the special meeting. “That’s what really drove this whole analysis. In tough times, [the Board of Finance] going to go through every department and say, ‘Please sharpen your pencils, what can we do better?’ It seems to me that from a town perspective, we should be saying, ‘How can we do better with our own buildings?’ ”

With regard to the general cost of the committee’s recommendations, which is still largely yet to be determined, Carroll said: “Yankee frugality is awesome—in that you don’t spend too much—but sometimes it might be penny wise and pound foolish. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Officials To Recommend Creation of Town-District Combined ‘Task Force’ To Determine Future Home of Board of Education [CORRECTED]

New Canaan should appoint a task force of town and school district representatives to evaluate what are the best options for a future Board of Education home, according to a primary recommendation committee that’s writing a soon-to-be-released report on the state, uses, capital needs and future of municipally owned buildings. Referring to the former Outback Teen Center as the ‘Town Hall annex,’ the committee also is to recommend that the long-vacant structure be used to house an alternative high school program. The Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee also will recommend that New Canaan “provide funds for architectural engineering designs to address long-delayed, necessary capital improvements at the police station,” co-chairman Amy Murphy Carroll said at the group’s most recent meeting, held Nov. 29 at Town Hall. She read from the Executive Summary of a draft report that’s expected to be presented this month to the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,