Selectman Williams Proposes Elimination of Metered Parking in New Canaan

Shoppers and diners would feel more welcome in New Canaan if they faced enforceable parking time limits instead of pay machines, Selectman Nick Williams said Tuesday. Though cars wouldn’t be allowed to sit in a parking space all day and enforcement officers would ticket overtime violators, New Canaan should look into eliminating metered parking downtown, Williams said during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen. “It would be, I think, great for our town in the sense that it would be a talking point: Come to New Canaan, you don’t have to worry about putting money in the meter, don’t have to worry about running out of time,” Williams said during the meeting, held in Town Hall. “You would have to consider it can’t be a situation where you can’t park all day in Morse Court or elsewhere—maybe it’s two hours, maybe it’s three hours, that would be something for discussion— but I put that out there because we need to do whatever we can to support our downtown.”

The comments came during an open discussion of general matters before the town. New Canaan offers metered parking spaces in the Morse Court, Locust Avenue, Park Street, Playhouse, Railroad and Talmadge Hill Lots.

Application for Cell Tower in Northeastern New Canaan Poised to Move Forward; AT&T on Board as Carrier

On hold for many months, a formal application for a widely discussed cell tower proposed for a private property in northeastern New Canaan is poised to move forward, as a service carrier is now on board with the project, officials say. Proposed by Soundview Lane resident Keith Richey early last year, the 85-foot-high “monopine” tower would host equipment from AT&T if approved by the state agency that oversees telecommunications, according to an Oct. 1 letter to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan. Submitted on behalf of AT&T as well as Homeland Towers, a wireless infrastructure consulting firm, the letter describes the project at 183 Soundview Lane as “the result of years of review to provide wireless services to the northeastern portion of the town.”

“As you probably know through your own experience, the exponential growth in consumer use of mobile data and overall network demands requires the development of additional wireless infrastructure to reliably serve the public,” said the letter, from attorney Lucia Chiocchio of White Plains, N.Y.-based Cuddy+Feder LLP. 

The proposed tower “would provide reliable 4G LTE service to over 1,000 residents in the area and several miles of main and secondary roads,” the letter said. The cell tower itself would include “faux branches extending another 5 feet above the top of the monopine within a fenced compound in the northwest portion of the 4.05-acre parcel.”

“AT&T’s antennas would be placed at a centerline budget height of 81 feet with equipment installed at grade within the compound.

Dispute Between Grace Farms, Neighbors Centers on Use of ‘Operations Center’ Building

A former municipal employee erred in signing off on a zoning permit for Grace Farms that has allowed for a violation of approved uses at the organization’s Lukes Wood Road campus, according to an appeal now before the town. Former interim Town Planner Keisha Fink in April 2018 approved a zoning permit for an interior renovation at the Grace Farms “Operations Center,” a former residential dwelling just inside the gate to the complex that is to be used only for security and other administrative operations for the property, as well as an accessory apartment. Yet Fink made mistakes in filling out her portion of the zoning permit application form itself, according to an appeal filed on behalf of Grace Farms neighbors Jennifer Holme and David Markatos, and the renovation that followed apparently “was undertaken to provide offices for a recently formed nonprofit corporation, Unchain Foundation, that is operating at Grace Farms.”

“Even though the [Planning & Zoning] Commission has not approved Unchain as an additional principal use at Grace Farms, Unchain recently activated its programming, hosting three separate events at Grace Farms in May and June 2019,” according to a July 24 appeal filed by attorney Amy Souchuns of Stamford-based Hurwitz Sagarin Slossberg & Knuff LLC 

In activity reports that Grace Farms is required to file with the town, the Unchain events are listed as generic ‘justice events’ implicitly attributed to Grace Farms itself, according to the appeal. Such an expanded use should have required formal P&Z approval, not Fink’s administrative sign-off, the appeal said. 

The Zoning Board of Appeals opened the appeal at its Sept. 9 meeting and is expected to take it up again during a regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. 

Though zoning officials, after consulting with town counsel, say the appeal appears to be limited by state law to the Fink-issued permit—and not the building permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the “safety building” that followed—they also appear to concede that Fink made mistakes.

‘No Parking’ Signs Installed To Improve Safety at Marshall Ridge and Richmond Hill Roads

Town officials have installed new parking signs in a residential neighborhood just south of the downtown following concerns from residents there that increased on-street parking has created a safety hazard. At the recommendation of the Traffic Calming Work Group, ‘No Parking Here To Corner’ signs have been installed toward the northern end of Marshall Ridge Road, where it intersects with Richmond Hill Road. 

An administrative team that includes members of the Police, Fire, Parking and Public Works Departments, the Work Group fielded a Marshall Ridge Road resident’s request for traffic-calming following what she described as a car crash during the morning school and work rush. According to Dawn Belles, a vehicle traveling eastbound on Richmond Hill Road at about 8:10 a.m. on a recent morning struck a vehicle with a mom driving her son toward school as that car tried to exit from Marshall Ridge. “Its very lucky kids weren’t around crossing to get to the bus stop on [Marshall] Ridge,” Belles wrote in her email to traffic officials, obtained by through a public records request. With motorists, possibly commuters, parking on both sides of the road in the morning, that end of Marshall Ridge becomes dangerously narrow, to the point where school buses sometimes have difficulty getting through, Belles said in the letter.