10 thoughts on “Affordable Housing: Developer Pushes for Historic District Commission Hearing on Main Street Application 

  1. Michael, It’s inaccurate to report that Karp’s discussions with me about senior housing at Weed & Elm and a proposed “Colonial Court” development that woukd combine 51 Main Street with the Vine Cottage property were “dismissed out of hand.” My reaction to Arnold’s suggestion to build 70 to 80 units of senior housing at Weed & Elm was that it would be too big for the location just as many felt that Waveny LifeCare’s “The Oenoke” proposed project on Oenoke Ridge was too big for the location. As for his Colonial Court proposal, Tiger Mann, Bill Oestmann and I met with Arnold and Paul Stone and seriously considered that proposal and actually liked the plan except for the value exchange he offered for Vine Cottage. As for Hill Street, Arnold never spoke to me once about anything at that location and I didn’t even know that he owned property at Hill Street. I will swear under oath to the truth of these statements in the pending litigation involving these matters. Kevin

    • Kevin thanks for submitting your comment.

      To recap, I had emailed you the following on Feb. 14 under the subject line “media inquiry”: “Kevin, I’m writing an article about the building plans that Arnold Karp had discussed with you for 751 Weed St. as well as the proposal for the Red Cross building with Vine Cottage, prior to filing the 8-30g applications. Sort of a ‘how did we get here’ type look back for our readers. Specifically, Arnold had proposed senior housing at 751 Weed and the ‘Colonial Court’ residential development at Red Cross-Vine Cottage—in both cases more modest than the 8-30g proposals. The story will also touch on Arnold’s offer (not to you specifically but to the Housing Authority) for the town to develop the Hill Street property as 100% affordable housing (vs the larger 830g project on the table). Happy to include your comments. Mike”

      This was your full emailed response at 7:12 p.m. the same day, and you copied Tiger: “Michael, I don’t know that Arnold ever ‘proposed’ senior housing at Weed & Elm; he ‘discussed’ possible congregate dining senior housing at that location with me on more than one occasion and I believe he may have discussed same with Waveny LifeCare Network.Colonial Court was proposed for Red Cross property more than once I believe, once in response to an RFP by Town. Speak with Tiger about this. I never knew anything about Arnold’s plans for Hill Street location. He never discussed anything with me. Kevin”

      I did as you asked with respect to the Red Cross proposal, and accurately reported (here) what was told to me by your designee. We’ve linked back to and cited that story several times in the intervening months. My only thought is that your decision to comment today is based on some development or new strategy in the town’s ongoing legal battle with Arnold Karp, though you should also know that I saved copies of all emails as well as the RFP for Vine Cottage and the Karp Associates submission.

      Further, at the risk of telling you something that you already know, what I reported in this article is what Arnold Karp told us: “As reported, Karp himself has said he’d approached Moynihan and the town several times with more modest proposals at the three properties in question, but those were dismissed out of hand.” If you’re telling me that’s not what Karp said, I’m happy to hear you out, though of course you would also be wrong.

      Finally I would note here, since you brought it up, that you were a proponent of Waveny’s “The Oenoke” proposal when it was in front of P&Z.

      Thank you again.

      • Mike my guess is you are onto something with regards to some development or strategy change, and perhaps an effort to get things ‘done’ before the election. No matter what the situation is, all the cards need to be put on the table for the public to view as we are talking about land swaps (I presume with regards to public property and private developers) and possible material zoning changes for some very specific private property. How are these public assets being valued, and how do we ensure full transparency (and access to bid by more than one developer on such deals) with regards to whatever may be proposed, and that the maximum value for those assets is being obtained on behalf of town residents? Bilateral negotiations may have been possible to do behind closed doors with regards to this a few years back, but the legal complexities that the town, developers and residents are now in will make this a much more challenging task to solve than many may expect. Based on this article it would appear additional litigation is on the way.

    • In response to Selectman Moynihan’s comments above: revisionist history is always of interest. Back then, Kevin’s personal view seemed to be that any number of units was too big for Weed and Elm. Then, and now, he never seemed willing to consider that the property at 751 Weed Street, which is 3.15 acres (larger than the lumber yard property), has been connected to sewer since 1959, is located 600 feet from a grocery store, 800 feet from a car dealership, and walking distance to the train station. With those facts in hand maybe having a dialogue might have been a more appropriate response rather than dismissing any development outright. Here, please see an early rendering for Weed and Elm that was dismissed rather than discussed.

      Kevin also seems to have forgotten that we also discussed a potential town-house development on that site. We even considered calling it “Gas Light Square”, given that natural was being considered for the town.

      As for the “Colonial Court” concept, various proposals to the Towns RFP were presented for the Main Street properties. Those RFP’s offered such items as giving the Town 22 additional Town Hall parking spaces, preserving Vine Cottage, putting Vine Cottage into the town’s Historic District. In a separate discussion we offered $800,000 for the Vine cottage property with included all the covenants and easements that the town was requiring for it.

      Regarding the Hill Street property that our selectman says he knew nothing about who owned it, we find that difficult to understand. Everyone in Town Hall seemed to have known (it was no secret) – from the land use departments, to wetlands and health – they seemed to know that we were involved since the purchase of the property in 2015.

      These were all opportunities missed to work with a local builder and provide diverse housing that is sorely needed in New Canaan.

  2. The town owns a large tract of land directly behind Waveny Park on Lapham road. As I recall, the current use is for a disc golf course. Why not make a deal with Arnold to swap that large swath of undeveloped land for his Apartments. In truth, the only part of that land that the town uses is the leaf pile. There is certainly enough room for many units and things like the style, size etc. would not be an issue, as they are in places like the Weed st. or Red Cross locations.
    Just a thought.

  3. Paul suggested a great idea, if it is workable. We have lived in New Canaan since 1997, and seeing the huge increase in traffic and the mounting congestion in town has been heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what a nightmare it would be to have more apartment buildings wedged in. Not to mention that, as seen in the renderings shown in this article, the Red Cross project is an even more hulking and intrusive eyesore than I had envisioned when I first heard about the plans. Having suffered the foisting of The Vue on our town, we need to make sure there is no more damage done to the beauty of our town and its quality of life.

  4. The idea of constructing housing at Waveny Park, and more notably on Parcel E of the land Ruth Lapham Lloyd conveyed to the Town to create the Park, is not a new idea and past ideas included the construction in 2009 of a continuing care community on Parcel E (the parcel between Lapham Road and Old Stamford Road that is mentioned in the preceding comments). Housing cannot be constructed on Parcel E. The problems with these proposals, include among others: (1) When the land was conveyed to the Town it was divided into five parcels. Parcel E was conveyed subject to the following deed restriction, “Parcel E is conveyed subject to the following restrictive covenants and agreements, vis.: The premises shall be held and used for the purposes of recreation, health, horticulture, public park, and gardens, including by illustration, but not limitation, the preservation of open space, bird sanctuaries, arboretums, and nature and equestrian trails.” (2) Section 7-131n of the Connecticut General Statutes provides that if a town uses land that was purchased, acquired or dedicated for park, open space, or recreational purposes, or for which bonds were issued for such purposes, then the town has to replace the land with land of at least equal value and area to the land taken so cutting up the Town’s parks to construct housing would force the Town to add similar space to the land that was taken and is not helpful.

    • Luke,
      Your statement is correct.

      I was part of the 2009 group [Waveny Open Space Advocates, an informal, ad hoc group of New Canaan citizens] who successfully stopped a CCRC from being built in Waveny Park by reaching out to the AG’s Office. The Attorney General had a serious interest in the matter as he is the fiduciary for interpreting “charitable restrictions”.

      When representatives of Lifespan Systems, Inc. went before the Parks and Recreation Commission to inquire about leasing space on Parcel E for a CCRC, legal opinion nixed that idea too back on November 27, 1989.

      Below is some historical information about the purchase of Waveny Park and its deed (Parcel) restrictions:

      The late Joseph Toppin, Former Parks & Recreation Chairman, Family Fourth Founder (and the person who endorsed the hiring of Steve Benko!), sent an affidavit sent to Attorney General’s Office regarding housing in Waveny Park. Toppin was chair of the Park & Recreation Commission when Ruth Lapham Lloyd deeded her Waveny property to New Canaan on July 22, 1967.
      “One afternoon First Selectman Charles Kelley called me at my company, United Publishing & Printing, in Stamford, and said, ‘Joe, get over to Waveny. Mrs. Lloyd wants to walk the grounds with you so that she can explain her wishes for the property.’ I dropped everything and went to meet Mrs. Lloyd, who was a very pleasant and particular lady. Her chauffeur had driven her to Waveny, which had been her family home for many years. Mrs. Lloyd got out of her car and we walked out on the patio of Waveny House, then around the house, and finally down the driveway toward Lapham Road.”
      The affidavit continues, “During our conversation, Mrs. Lloyd told me that the northern part of the property was where the town could build a high school or a hospital. She thought that a football or baseball field could be built on the northern side of the driveway where the airstrip
      was located and which is now the site of the soccer fields.
      As Mrs. Lloyd and I began walking from Waveny House down the driveway toward Lapham Road, the sun was beginning to set. The view across the fields in front of Waveny House and to the west across Lapham Road was magnificent. As we faced the fields and great
      meadow where the Family Fourth of July fireworks and weekly band concerts now take place every summer, Mrs. Lloyd remarked, looking toward Darien, ‘This is what I hope will stay forever.’
      “Mrs. Lloyd and I then looked toward the western vista of her property. Located on the west side of Lapham Road, it spans south to north from above the Talmadge Hill railroad station all the way to the intersection of Route 106 and Lapham Road. Many of those 50 acres were originally a dairy farm, and the pastures, returned now in 2009 to secondary growth forest, were still mostly open fields. Mrs. Lloyd turned to me, and referring to that beautiful stretch of land, said, ‘I hope everything stays just like it is. Please don’t touch this.’”

  5. Currently most of the property is just being used as a parking lot. With such a housing scarcity in town, maybe some of the most convenient and walkable land in town should be used for housing people instead of cars. A parking lot does not strike me as a good use, a beautifying use, or a historical use, yet we tolerate it without thought, and balk at an opportunity for 20 families to build their lives in New Canaan.

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