P&Z Votes 9-0 in Favor of Canaan Parish Redevelopment; Look of Exterior To Be Finalized

Saying a new exterior design represented a major improvement if not an acceptable final version, the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night unanimously approved the redevelopment of Canaan Parish, a 60-unit housing complex at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123. Addressing concerns voiced by P&Z at an initial public hearing last month, officials representing the applicant— the 5.2-acre property is owned by the town and an organization called ‘New Canaan Neighborhoods’ owns the buildings—reduced the height of two new buildings proposed for the site by six to seven feet, added architectural features for a more local residential feel, toned down the color scheme and increased screening from the street with more robust landscaping. In the end, the redevelopment is expected to achieve one major goal of the town as well as the New Canaan Housing Authority, which is partnering with New Canaan Neighborhoods on the project—namely, to ensure that New Canaan doesn’t open itself up to a loophole in a state law that allows developers to ignore local planning decisions in places that do not meet strict affordable housing requirements. Plans call for rebuilding the 60-unit Section 8 housing complex in a single five-story structure and construction of a new, 40-unit structure of the same height that would count toward the state’s affordable housing requirement. New Canaan is never expected to reach a guideline whereby 10 percent of its housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s rigid definition, though the town by creating additional qualifying units at Mill Pond has earned four years of relief from the developer loophole.

Neighbor Voices ‘Deep Concern’ Over Canaan Parish Redevelopment; P&Z Hearing Opens Tuesday

Though some of those behind a proposal to redevelop an apartment complex on Lakeview Avenue say its impact on nearby properties will be minimal, one neighbor of Canaan Parish is voicing what he called “deep concern” about the project. In a letter filed last week with Planning & Zoning, a Fitch Lane man who lives across Route 123 from Canaan Parish said that although officials with the New Canaan Housing Authority claim “that this area does not affect any residents, that is inaccurate.”

“Several homes from the Hoyt Farm neighborhood will look straight at this complex when the leaves are off the trees in the fall and winter,” Gregory Pepe said in his July 26 letter, part of the public file on an application for the redevelopment that will come before P&Z at its regular meeting Tuesday. “Our family home will have a direct eye level view of an apartment complex which will impact housing values. Canaan Parish existed long before us and I have no issue with that fact. However, replacing it with something far, far bigger and out of character with the town is not acceptable.”

Pepe also said that the proposed redevelopment appears to be five stories, not four, and urges P&Z not to “change or compromise current rules and regulations when it comes to height or density of housing as that becomes a slippery slope for future development, whether affordable housing or not.”

Those behind the proposal at Canaan Parish are seeking to create a new zone within the New Canaan Zoning Regulations in order to make the project possible. Named for the federally subsidized rental complex that’s stood at Lakeview and 123 for four decades, the “Canaan Parish Housing Zone” would allow the two organizations collaborating on the project to create 100 new units where 60 now stand. 

Specifically, Canaan Parish would be rebuilt with two L-shaped four-story buildings, according to an application filed this month with P&Z: one that replaces the 60 apartments now spread through 10 buildings and a second structure with 40 units built specifically to help New Canaan achieve relief in the future from a punitive state law.

‘We Are Not Going for Bad Architecture’: Housing Authority Chairman on Proposed Redevelopment of Canaan Parish

As redevelopment plans for an affordable housing complex materialize, New Canaanites must balance safeguarding the town from a punitive state law with creating buildings that look just how they want and doing so in a financially viable way, project leaders said this week. Specifically, increasing the number of units at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123 in order to gain relief in the future from an affordable housing law known by its statute number ‘8-30g’ means working within restrictions in terms of building height and even style, according to the chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners. Such considerations long have weighed on the minds of the Housing Authority and an organization called New Canaan Neighborhoods, which created and manages Canaan Parish, a 60-unit Section 8 housing complex, Chairman Scott Hobbs told members of the Town Council during their regular meeting Wednesday night. And though early-stage renderings of a redeveloped Canaan Parish have been received poorly by at least some in New Canaan, those schematics are not final and, in many ways, result from careful considerations in how to achieve a workable balance between financial viability and legal qualification on the one hand, and usefulness and aesthetics on another, Hobbs said. “If you want to build a giant box and put a low-sloped roof on it, you have more options,” Hobbs said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

‘It’s Going To Be Hard’: New Canaan Faces Long Odds on Achieving Third Affordable Housing Moratorium, Officials Say

Though New Canaan this summer qualified for four years of relief from a state law that allows developers to skirt local planning decisions by designating a certain percentage of units in new projects as “affordable”—and could be positioned to achieve a second four-year “moratorium” under that law—it’s unclear now whether or how the town will be able to continue doing so. The major difficulty, according to the chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority, is the high cost and scarcity of land in town that could take a fair-sized (say, 20-unit) affordable development. “Land of any sort of sizeable acreage that is on sewer and water, is certainly subject to an [affordable housing] ‘cramdown’ from a developer, and it’s also therefore valuable to them,” Scott Hobbs told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission during their regular meeting, held Aug. 29 at Town Hall. “And knowing that someday we will run out of moratorium time, so the odds that we could buy a piece of property like that, is going to be hard.

Demolition of Final 18 ‘Old’ Housing Units at Millport Imminent; Plan To Rebuild with 36 New Units by Year’s End

The New Canaan Building Department has received applications to demolish 18 public housing units toward the rear of the large complex that fronts Mill Pond—a signal that plans are underway to complete the final phase of a massive rebuilding project there that started about eight years ago. Once the Millport Avenue project is complete, the New Canaan Housing Authority will have increased the total number of units there from 32 to 112, officials said. The 18 units located “up the hill” at Millport, in the neighborhood’s parlance, will be razed and rebuilt with 36 total apartments, half of which will remain federally defined “public housing” while half will become “affordable housing” under state statutes, according to Scott Hobbs, chairman of the Housing Authority Commission. Those who live currently in those 18 units will move into some of the 73 recently completed apartments, located in new buildings that front Millport Avenue. The town issued Certificates of Occupancy for those new units, and—with an expert’s help—is pursuing a four-year moratorium from a state law that developers may use to skirt local planning decisions.