First Selectman Rob Mallozzi on Wednesday cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of listing Waveny on the National Register of Historic Places.
New Canaan’s highest elected official broke a 6-6 tie on the Town Council (voting record below), freeing local preservationists to draft an application to list on the register Waveny House and a portion of the park whose exact boundaries are still to be determined.
Rose Scott Long, president of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance—the organization that fueled the effort to list Waveny and has offered to fund the application cost (up to about $30,000)—in an interview directly following Mallozzi’s vote thanked the Town Council and especially those on its Land Use & Recreation committee for their diligence.
“They have done the right thing for Waveny and they have done the right thing for the town of New Canaan and the citizens of New Canaan,” Scott Long said outside the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center, where the Town Council held its regular monthly meeting.
The dramatic vote followed multiple meetings and public hearings before the Town Council and other municipal bodies, and a walk on the grounds of Waveny this week that included councilmen, New Canaan’s recreation director, state officials and local preservationists.
At Wednesday’s meeting, though councilmen all agreed on the importance of preserving Waveny and offered sincere thanks to the New Canaan Preservation Alliance for its work to this point, the elected legislative body—and members of the public—debated the pros and cons of listing Waveny.
Those in favor of the listing said the designation could qualify New Canaan for state and federal historic preservation grants for upkeep and improvements at Waveny, in no way prevents the town from doing what it wants to the main house, outbuildings or grounds, and called for naysayers to articulate their objections specifically.
Those opposed said they saw no reason to list Waveny on the register since New Canaanites long have been responsible stewards of the town treasure, feared the prospect, however remote, of New Canaan losing control over it, and suggested that an internal conservancy or affiliated “Friends” group be created and funded privately to oversee capital projects there.
One of the “yes” votes, councilman Sven Englund, took aim at the objection that if the listing could be seen as largely honorific, then New Canaan simply doesn’t need it.
“Yes, it is an honorific and as a body and on other town bodies, we often honor certain people who have contributed to this town and I think that Waveny Park is a very important thing and I think it is deserving of the honor to be one of our national treasures,” Englund said.
Among those who voted against the listing, Town Council Steve Karl issued one of the most passionate arguments, calling Waveny “the DNA of New Canaan” and saying that vigilant residents are watching the park every day.
“The entire town of New Canaan is passionate about the park and above and beyond that we have a historic Preservation Alliance that rivals any town in this country, and I support that historic Preservation Alliance 100 percent, but we are debating preserving something we all know we are going to preserve,” Karl said. “And we would lie in from of a bulldozer, a backhoe, a pickup truck before anybody touches that parkland, so while I love the idea of a historic nomination or putting it on this land record, I just don’t understand—and I want to get there,—that elevator speech I am looking for and the reason I can the tell taxpayers why we did it. I am not there and I am there to preserve it 100 percent but I just never got I never got to that point.”
It isn’t clear just how much or what parts of the parkland at Waveny will be included in the application. State officials who work in the field of historic registry have said that in reviewing applications, it’s important that the grounds surrounding a building are included in a listing in cases where that land is connected to it in an important way.
The text of the Town Council’s resolution reads: “To approve a proposal to proceed with an application to have Waveny House and boundaries of Waveny Park to be decided by the Town Council, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Connecticut State Register of Historic Places. If approved, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance would execute the registration process, subject to working with the Town Council Land Use & Recreation Committee and with any future Waveny Conservancy or similar organization that may be formed. The New Canaan Preservation Alliance would be responsible for all associated costs.”
The voting record on the item is as follows:
- Kathleen Corbet
- John Emert
- John Engel
- Sven Englund
- Joe Paladino
- Roger Williams
- Rob Mallozzi (first selectman, tie-breaking vote)
- Ken Campbell
- Steve Karl
- Kevin Moynihan
- Tucker Murphy
- Bill Walbert
- Penny Young