Though the Town Council on Wednesday night once again raised the specter of the “Mead Park Brick Barn” and its pending demolition, some members of the legislative body said their ongoing discussion only offers the false hope that it can be spared the wrecking ball. During a meeting attended by preservationists who have been working for months on a plan to preserve the century-old structure on Richmond Hill Road, Councilman Tom Butterworth noted that the Council already voted on an appropriation of demo funds, and said the difficulty in having a meaningful conversations now is that the “process” of municipal government is underway.
“We have a process in our government and if you want to look at what the implications of that are, look at the people here tonight that we are misleading by having this discussion,” Butterworth said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.
“It’s fine for us: We have no skin in the game on this anymore. We voted. We are done. If somebody can come up with a way to revive this issue and put it in some way so that the Town Council has jurisdiction, please bring it on.
Members of the town’s legislative body said on Monday that they would debate whether and how widely posted ‘For Sale’ signs in New Canaan may be phased out through regulations, and then would bring a recommendation to the Planning & Zoning Commission. In discussing the future of real estate signs in New Canaan, the Town Council itself first would hold what members expect to be well-attended public hearings, as would P&Z, officials said. “Ultimately I would see one of the best attended P&Z meetings that you have ever had, because it would be a big decision and you would have to hear both sides of the argument,” Steve Karl, co-chair of the Town Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee, said at the group’s special meeting, held in Town Hall. “And ultimately you would make the decision on whether to amend the policy or not. It’s not going to happen over one meeting.
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.
The repaving of Farm Road from South Avenue to Old Stamford Road will be completed by mid-November and state roads including Old Stamford Road and South Avenue will be have temporary patches removed and permanent patches installed in the next few weeks, town officials said Monday night. South School and Saxe Middle School already have been connected to the new natural gas lines, and Eversource will have connected the natural gas lines to New Canaan High School by Wednesday, according to Cristina A. Ross, co-chair of the Town Council’s Infrastructure and Utilities Committee. East School is hopefully to be completed by year’s end, she said. Also, Eversource has received 200 service requests from residents seeking to hook up to natural gas and the town has received over 50 applications for permits to do so, Ross said during the Committee’s regular meeting. The utility company is planning a three-year installation period, from 2019 to 2021, she said, with roads repaved in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
New Canaan is seeing an increasing number of food trucks pulling into town parks, alongside the new athletic fields by the Waveny water towers and elsewhere, to the point where it’s affecting local businesses, officials say, and creating a need for a formal policy with teeth. Though town officials have dealt with eager food truck vendors for years—at times running them out of public parks (where they’re not allowed), pointing them toward a “Peddlers” or “Itinerant Vendors” license that’s outlined in the Town Code, or even inventing rules about how licensed trucks can only go to construction sites—there’s no ordinance on the books that limits when and where those vendors can go, and no fine or enforcement agency to back up a formal policy in any case.
“We are getting kind of overrun with food trucks and we don’t really have something specifically in place,” New Canaan Director of Health Jen Eielson told members of the Town Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee at its meeting last week. “It’s starting to run more rampant and then they [food truck vendors] want to have more trucks, and we are trying to limit it because we are getting flack from the businesses in town that pay a lot of money in rent, so I understand their plight and it’s not really fair to them.”
Nearby towns that are similar to New Canaan have rules in their Charters or zoning regulations that are enforced by police or other agencies in the municipality, Eielson said.
While New Canaan for specific events, such as the Family Fourth at Waveny or the Sidewalk Sales downtown, has food trucks come in as caterers—complete with license checks and health inspections, as well as agreed-upon terms of hours and location—open questions remain about what types of trucks the town may want and what sorts of checks should be required of the businesspeople that operate them.
Councilman Steve Karl, a committee co-chair, said there’s “definitely a need” for either a beefed-up “Itinerant Vendors” ordinance or new one.
“Any time we have something like this where you see it’s growing, it’s up to us in the town to control it,” he said. Karl added: “You look at all of the good work that Baskin Robbins does in terms of charity and volunteering and all of the stuff that goes into having a business, and they pay rent to be there, and to have somebody pull up in a truck and take some business away from someone like that, that is a pretty big deal. And I think all of New Canaan and all of the taxpayers they would side on Baskin Robbins’ side.”
Ultimately, the Committee called on Eielson, with help from Administrative Officer Tom Stadler, who also deals with food trucks, to propose some language that the group could bring to the full Town Council.