Op-Ed: In Wake of FOI Decision, Change Is Needed in New Canaan

Have you ever requested a document that was discussed at a public meeting and been denied? Or perhaps asked to see correspondence on a proposed application or a draft approval and been told that those documents are not available to the general public? On May 21, 2018, in a proposed final decision of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission, what we believe to be a longstanding illegal practice of New Canaan’s Planning & Zoning Commission—namely, the denial of prompt access to draft decisional documents that have been discussed in public—has been exposed. Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act guarantees you, with limited and narrowly construed exceptions, prompt access to public records without having to go through the formalities of filing a formal FOI request. Until recently, representatives of the town have continued to advocate for withholding public records, notwithstanding, and in the face of, more than a quarter century of Connecticut Supreme Court precedent.

Letter: Proposed Change to Zoning Regulations Threatens All New Canaan Residential Neighborhoods

To the Editor:

At the May 30th P&Z hearing, a change was proposed to New Canaan’s zoning regulations that has the potential to fundamental alter the character of our residential neighborhoods. This proposed text change would allow multiple, independent and unrelated principal uses to co-exist on a single residential lot. Why is this important? If approved, any homeowner in New Canaan could set up one or more businesses and actively operate those businesses at their property in addition to maintaining their primary residence. Some recent examples in town—the Sober House on West Road, Orchards’ End Spa on Oenoke Ridge, and the One King’s Lane “residential retail” design showroom—would all be perfectly legitimate activities in their respective neighborhoods.

Letter: Grace Farms’ Proposed Changes To Zoning Regulations Opens ‘Pandora’s Box’ throughout Town

To the Editor:

Saturday, May 13th, marks the one year anniversary since our neighborhood formally asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to investigate the activities taking place at Grace Farms. Twelve months later, notwithstanding the former Town Planner’s June 2016 report to the Commission that the Foundation is conducting a myriad of unpermitted activities at Grace Farms, our neighborhood is confronted with no enforcement of the conditions set forth in the 2013 Special Permit, and an applicant overtly refusing to come into compliance with that permit. This begs the question: Is there enforcement of zoning regulations in New Canaan? Reflecting on the past year with Orchard’s End Spa on Oenoke Ridge, One Kings Lane’s “residential retail” decorating showroom on Cross Ridge Road, the “sober house” on West Road, the long-standing parked RV on Hoyt Street, and the Luke’s Wood Road house with imposing driveway gates and pillars, we know that enforcement, while ephemeral, does exist. As residents of New Canaan, we are all required to follow the zoning regulations; they are intended to guide land use activities in New Canaan in ways that will enhance community character, provide assurances and certainty to property owners when they buy into a neighborhood of its general characteristics, and protect public health, safety, and welfare. In other words, these regulations form one of the principal building blocks of the social contract we share living in New Canaan.