‘A Pattern of Abuse’: Police Commission To Remove Auto Shop’s Designated Parking Space on East Maple Street


The volunteers who oversee on-street parking in New Canaan voted last week to spend $1,700 for a field analysis and sight line study of East Maple Street, an increasingly busy commercial area downtown whose residents say they’re concerned about traffic and safety.

At its regular meeting Wednesday, the Police Commission also decided to discontinue a practice whereby an auto body shop on the corner at Main Street is allowed to park on East Maple.

Instead, the commissioners said, AC Auto Body will use two designated spaces in the nearby Center School parking lot for its flatbed trucks and could park a smaller wrecker in its own lot.

East Maple Street resident David Shea, who has become a spokesperson for the concerned neighbors, told the commission at its July 20 meeting that “what we are looking at is two kinds of streets when you come up East Maple from Hoyt it is a wide street.”

“As you turn in the curb toward Main it becomes a bottleneck, it narrows down,” Shea said at the meeting, held in the New Canaan Police Department’s training room. “What we are proposing is that parking only be on the right-hand side of the street, the usual two hours, and then on the right-hand side going east, that would be no-parking, no-standing [zone] that will allow traffic to pass on a two-way basis and give the residents the parking that they need. We have asked that the current parking space allocated to a commercial user be moved up to the Center [School] parking and removed from the residential area.”

The comments come as tensions have escalated between AC Auto Body owner Anthony Ceraso and several neighbors. Brought to the town’s attention last winter, the sight line and traffic problems caused by flatbed trucks parked on East Maple Street, as well as customer cars that include school buses, amount to an abuse of a privilege that the town granted some years ago because the shop serves as New Canaan’s emergency towing service, neighbors have said.

During the meeting, commissioners noted that the Center School lot has three designated spots for flatbed trucks, two for AC Auto Body and one for C&H Auto across Main. Ceraso asked whether he could have a third spot for himself up near South Avenue. Capt. John DiFederico said that two would be sufficient. Police Commission Chairman Stuart Sawabini asked Ceraso whether he would need more than two trucks on call in New Canaan for emergencies.

“I’m not here to argue, I’m just trying to see if this can be done amicably,” Ceraso said. “If it means that the truck has to come off of East Maple, I understand the aesthetics of it. Again, this was offered to me. I would like it if we could maybe get another spot up in the parking lot to try and make this work. That is what I am here for today.”

When Ceraso said he felt the problem with his trucks was aesthetic rather than safety-related, DiFederico countered that area has “changed dramatically” in the past few years, especially with the New Canaan Cleaners moving onto East Maple, and that the problem of a narrow road is exacerbated in the winter when the snow pushes parked vehicles closer to the center line.

Shea added that the problem “is not one wrecker.”

“It is a constant stream of client cars, pickup trucks jammed in there, all the way down our street,” Shea said.

He added: “A commercial enterprise on our street is using our street as an extension of the commercial business. So this is not about one wrecker. This is about a business selling cars and using space that they sell cars and moving client cars on our street. This is a pattern of abuse that has been going on almost two years.”

Commissioner Paul Foley said the town should avoid spending money on a traffic study, if possible, and try making East Maple Street one-way from Main to Hoyt, as previously discussed.

One attendee at the meeting, Terri Cox, said it was “kind of screwy” to divide Maple Street up into three parts that are one-way westbound at St. A’s, two-way by the library and one-way eastbound past Main Street.

“That seems squirrely,” she said.

Foley replied: “Forgive me, ma’am, it doesn’t seem squirrely to me.”

Jim Lewis also urged the commission to get a professional study done, saying the problem there “affects the lives of everybody on the block” and that he himself has almost been killed by motor vehicle traffic on East Maple.

Commissioner Sperry Decew suggested the group recommend spending $1,700 total with Fairfield-based Frederick Clark Associates for a sight line study and field analysis of the area.

“I don’t think we want to pretend that we are traffic experts on a Wednesday evening,” Decew said.

The commission voted 2-1 in favor of getting the professional studies, with Foley in opposition.

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