Carlson Proposes Paid Parking on Elm Street

New Canaan’s highest elected official last week said the town should pursue a change in parking on Elm Street whereby spaces there are paid instead of free. First Selectman Dionna Carlson told members of the Parking Commission at their regular meeting that, at the same time, the town would “switch with Park Street to free parking,” an apparent reference to the paid Park Street Lot. “Most people understand that we have sort of a backwards system: Our most valuable parking is free and our least valuable is paid,” she said at the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “And we’re seeing lots of people circling on Elm Street, creating more congestion, so it just doesn’t make sense.”

Town officials have looked at the prospect of switching Elm Street to paid and making the spaces at lots further from the very heart of downtown New Canaan free. In examining the idea 10 years ago, parking officials framed their reasons for the change in terms of downtown workers taking up the free spaces all day.

Commission Approves New Parking Configuration for Morse Court

Saying it’ll make parking easier for large vehicles and improve traffic flow, town officials voted last week in favor of re-striping the Morse Court lot. The change will create spaces nine feet wide and at 90 degrees from the travel lane, as opposed to the current configuration where stall widths range from 7.5 to 8.5 feet wide and many are angled, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. The new striping also will create wide enough traffic lanes within the lot to allow for two-way traffic all around, though it will bring a net loss of 10 spaces to Morse Court, officials said at the May 1 Parking Commission meeting. 

Though the town is “not being forced” to change the parking configuration when it re-stripes the lot, Mann said, the spaces as currently configured are not in compliance with the New Canaan Zoning Regulations or Village District Guidelines, Mann said. “The problem is you have spaces that are way undersized and the Commission was receiving complaints,” he said at the meeting, held in Town Hall and via videoconference. “The first selectman’s office was receiving complaints.

Town: Butler Lane Homeowner in Violation of Zoning Regulations

Town officials say a Butler Lane homeowner has been in violation of the New Canaan Zoning Regulations for more than one year for illegally renting out rooms within the house. In an April 30 Notice of Zoning Violation, Town Planner and Zoning Inspector Sarah Carey said the property in question violates two sections of the regulations. 

A Special Permit is required to operate a “rooming house” under the regulations (see page 45 here), under a number of conditions, including that the property owner lives there, no more than four rooms are used for the rooming house and the lot is of a certain size. Also, a zoning permit is required for short-term rentals (page 51), also with a number of conditions, including that the rental is for fewer than 30 consecutive nights at a time, and for no more than three instances in a rolling six-month period. It also is required that “[t]he accessory use of the property as a Short-Term Rental shall not materially disrupt the character of the neighborhood.” The property owner also must provide on-site parking, under the regulations. 

The town issued Mark Palmer, owner of 151 Butler Lane, a cease-and-desist in February 2023, Carey said in the Notice, “requiring remediation of said violations within ten days.”

Then on April 11, 2023, Carey issued a citation “carrying with it a monetary penalty of $150 per day for each ongoing violation.”

“To date, said violations have not been remediated nor any monetary penalties paid to the Town,” she said. That’s 385 days in total to the date of the Notice, for a total owed of $57,750.

‘The White Buffalo’ Seeks Permission for Twice-Weekly Outdoor Music through October

Saying the business has met a number of Planning & Zoning conditions, the owners of a popular bar in downtown New Canaan are seeking permission to have outdoor music twice-weekly from May through October. Located down an alley just past Chef Luis on Elm Street since it launched in 2019, The White Buffalo has reviewed letters of complaint about past outdoor events, established an acceptable decibel level, produced a site plan for the access, talked to neighbors and produced documentation requested by the Planning & Zoning Commission, owners Rich Hewitt and Chris Meier said in a letter to P&Z. “We have combed through each complaint and made sure that we have addressed each complaint with sensitivity and empathy,” their letter said. “We feel we have addressed those complaints with our compliant actions. We have met with Chef Luis and feel we have come up with a great compromise to work together in order to generate business for both our restaurants.

New Bakery and Café Planned for Main Street

A new bakery and café is planned for downtown New Canaan. The owners of a vacant commercial space on Main Street are seeking approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission for a new food use at 90 Main St. Formerly home to Sorelle Gallery, the 2,085-square-foot space would have café seating closest to the street, with a serving counter that has pastry display cases and an espresso machine located behind it, deeper into the store, according to plans submitted to P&Z by Joseph Thompson of Peekskill, N.Y.-based Joseph Thompson Architect. Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations (see page 77 here), food shops are permitted in the Retail A Zone with site plan approval from P&Z. In her memo to P&Z on the application, Town Planner Sarah Carey said the proposal “also includes façade changes to the first floor.”

“The applicant proposes to remove the existing first floor windows and a portion of the brick façade to replace them with retractable glass doors to have an indoor/outdoor seating area,” Carey said.