Selectman: More Public Input Is Needed on Future of Vine Cottage, Irwin House

More public input is needed before New Canaan gets closer to funding projects that bring major changes to the use and ownership of town-owned buildings such as Vine Cottage, Irwin House and the former Outback Teen Center, Selectman Kit Devereaux said Tuesday. There hasn’t been any real discussion in public about renting Irwin House to nonprofit organizations, for example, yet a process appears to be underway to start funding work to that end, according to Devereaux. “I am concerned, for instance, that in renovating—and I have no idea how much it would cost to do the full renovation of the Outback,” Devereaux said during the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall. “By doing that I presume it would be a fait accompli to move Human Services over there which then creates a vacant building, and I just think before the Vine Cottage is put on the block, that there should be a lot of public discussion and the public should weigh in, even a referendum.”

Her comments came as the selectmen discussed proposed bond resolutions that are to go before municipal funding bodies and are related to future capital projects. They include $50,000 to plan for the renovation of the lower level at the former Outback Teen Center for office use and $80,000 for similar work at Irwin House.

First Selectman: Vine Cottage Likely To Be Sold, Human Services Relocated to Former Outback Teen Center

The town-owned Vine Cottage soon will be marketed for sale on condition that the ca. 1860-built structure be added to New Canaan’s Historic District, the municipality’s top elected official said Thursday. Town officials recently drafted an updated five-year capital plan that “has some inherent decisions about buildings in it,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan told the local media corps during a press briefing at Town Hall. “We are not going to fund any renovations of Vine Cottage,” Moynihan said. “It assumes that Vine Cottage is not in our portfolio.”

The gabled structure’s current occupant, the Human Services Department, would be moved about 50 yards away to the lower floor of the former Outback Teen Center, under Moynihan’s plan, he said.

Public Buildings InfoSheet: Vine Cottage

[Editor’s Note: The following has been prepared in advance of the “Forum on Public Buildings,” to be held 6:30 to 9 p.m. on April 26 at Town Hall (questions for panelists can be submitted here). Most of the information in the bullet points below is drawn from the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee report.]

Built: ca. 1860
Square footage: 2,334
Current uses: Occupied by the New Canaan Department of Human Services
Committee recommendations: Defer a decision on renovation until the future home of the Board of Ed is determined. How other town-owned spaces are used will help inform a decision on the best future home for Human Services. Relevant news articles: Owner: Future of ‘Red Cross Building’ Depends on What Town Does with Vine Cottage (January 2018), ‘They Need To Be Separate’: Town Officials Weigh Future of Human Services’ Vine Cottage Home (October 2017), Seeking Less Costly Option, Town Council Rejects $550,000 Renovation Project at Vine Cottage (March 2017)

With its sunny yellow facade, this large transitional high Victorian gothic revival/Queen Anne building is located next to our Town Hall.

Owner: Future of ‘Red Cross Building’ Depends on What Town Does with Vine Cottage

The New Canaan man who last year purchased the ca. 1889-built Red Cross building on Main Street said a decision on just what to do with it—for example, whether to convert vacant structure into a residence or commercial use—depends largely on what the town plans to do with another antique next door. Whatever the town or another future owner of Vine Cottage decides to do with it, no part of Arnold Karp’s vision for 51 Main St. involves tearing down the former Red Cross building, installing condominiums or otherwise changing “the character of the neighborhood,” he said. Yet it wouldn’t make sense to pursue a much-needed overhaul of the building’s interior with a residential use in mind if Vine Cottage is razed for Town Hall parking because “nobody wants to live next to a parking lot.” Similarly, if the ca.