Letter: New Canaan Land Trust’s Bid To Purchase Vine Cottage


We wanted to let the public know that the New Canaan Land Trust submitted a bid on December 2, 2021 to purchase Vine Cottage.  While our bid has been declined, Land Trust’s Board of Directors thought it’d be helpful to outline the reasons why we believe our offer makes tremendous sense for the town of New Canaan and its residents.

In developing our proposal, we began with the guiding principle that preservation of Vine Cottage, a historic treasure of New Canaan, is essential to the town and many of its residents. We believe that the Land Trust can play an important and unique role in protecting this local landmark.

By way of background, historical preservation is part of the Land Trust’s DNA. While the Land Trust is best known for conserving open space, preservation of historic sites has been part of our mission from the start. The Land Trust’s 1967 Articles of Association permits the “preservation and conservation of…historic sites.” Additionally, our 2020-2040 Strategic Conservation Plan emphasizes our intent to preserve the character of New Canaan which can include protecting historic and culturally significant properties.

Our proposal to acquire Vine Cottage solves four important needs of the Town of New Canaan: 

  1. Eliminates taxpayers’ financial burden in maintaining Vine Cottage;
  2. Properly restores and renovates the historic building; 
  3. Offers a flexible deal for the town; and
  4. Creates a use for the space that benefits the New Canaan community.

Let me discuss each of the above points.

First, the Land Trust will take on the responsibility of raising the needed funds to restore Vine Cottage. The Land Trust is a financially sound organization with over 500 supporting members, and a track record of identifying and completing conservation projects that have a positive impact on the community.

Second, our proposal details a restoration plan in four phases over the next two years that will establish Vine Cottage as the Land Trust’s administrative and program headquarters. The plan starts with the sorely needed exterior renovations (including repainting), advances to interior renovations, and finally to improvements that include ADA compliance.  

Third, the proposal addresses two issues important to the Town: losing control forever of a building that’s strategically placed next to Town Hall; and the loss of valued parking spaces. The proposal is reversible.  We offered a 55-Year Call Option on the building and land – giving the Town the opportunity to buy the building back. In addition, the proposal includes an easement of six parking space – delivering the needed parking spaces for Town Hall during the day, and Main Street restaurants at night. 

Fourth, as the permanent home of the Land Trust, we will rehabilitate the property for use as our headquarters, as well as a creating a new, desirable home for other non-profits by leasing excess office space. We envision that the renovated office space and larger meeting rooms will enable us to further foster the connection of the New Canaan community with the mission of the Land Trust. As stated in our 20-year strategic plan (2020 to 2040), it is imperative for the Land Trust to engage the New Canaan community in our mission through strategic outreach efforts, including educational programs, events, and access to relevant information so to spread a conservation ethic across our community. Vine Cottage would help us achieve that important goal.

With a mission that is carried on in “perpetuity”, the Land Trust can play an important role in preserving, restoring, and making Vine Cottage accessible to all town residents. While the Health Department has a near term need for the building, the Land Trust would like to be part of the long-term vision for this cherished landmark. 

Tom Cronin

29 thoughts on “Letter: New Canaan Land Trust’s Bid To Purchase Vine Cottage

  1. I am so sorry to read that the New Canaan Land Trust’s bid and proposal was declined by our Town Officials. Their mission to restore and preserve the Vine Cottage and make the building/parking lot accessible to residents is a win-win for the Town, non-profits and our community. The details of the proposal are thorough and noteworthy. Thank you, Tom Cronin, for sharing the details of your proposal with all of us.
    Now, time will tell if the Vine Cottage falls into a developer’s hands…..

  2. Arnold Karp owns the former Red Cross Building next to Vine Cottage. Perhaps the Land Trust could acquire that building with a similar concept?

    • Arnold purchased the Red Cross Building in 2017 for $740k. He previously bid on the Vine Cottage. I wouldn’t count on his selling the Red Cross Building to NC Land Trust.

  3. I love this idea and applaud the NC Land Trust’s proposal. Preservation continues to be on the back-burner for the Town. Did they give a reason why the proposal was declined?

  4. An excellent letter and idea, thank you for sharing this. It is unclear why this very interesting proposal was declined – or did I miss that? Is it the present situation with the Health Department? If it is the Health Department you would think you could negotiate a forward starting arrangement i.e. the land trust takes over the property in 2 years giving the town and health department ample time to find another location – of which we still have some structures owned by the town – that appear to be under utilized.

  5. This is a great idea. Win-win for the Land Trust, for the Town and potentially other non-profits. These ideas should be shared with the Town Council and with the Selectmen.

  6. Such a wonderful example of an adaptive reuse project, which could potentially generate revenue for its upkeep while repurposing a much-loved building at a key entry point to town. Seems like a win/win/win to me.

  7. Wow, this is a strong, positive proposal with many benefits for New Canaan. The Land Trust is doing so many good things.

  8. Tom Cronin , You are the best! Your proposal and offer seem totally reasonable. We do need to know why and also who has turned it down! It only benefits the town which we need badly right now.

  9. Are the town fathers Karping on New Canaan again ? Why no transparency about these hidden decisions that affect those who live here?

    • Im shocked at lack of transparency by this town. There are a ton of “cozy” relationships which need to be thoroughly looked into. Perhaps they are!

  10. This plan has great merit for the town and the community as a whole. I am sorry I am not in a position to be able to move such a project forward nor insure that the entire process is done openly and transparently.

  11. We all want the best for New Canaan, the Vine Cottage, and no overdevelopment. The Land Trust’s plan seems admirable, but, unless I mistakenly overlooked it, there is one missing piece of information: the price for a Town Asset. Our Health Department, which is doing an outstanding job dealing with Covid, needs a headquarters. Perhaps, after looking at all alternatives and prices offered, it was decided it was in New Canaan’s best interest to have the Health Dept located in Vine Cottage. I also vaguely recall Town owned real estate transactions are except from FOIA provisions. If the Health Dept, or the Land Trust, after paying an acceptable price, is in the Vine Cottage, it seems New Canaan wins either way.

  12. This does sound like it would be a good use for the property and a long term plus for New Canaan …. but without knowing how much was offered and under what terms, it is impossible to fully assess either the Land Trust’s offer or the Town’s decision to reject it.

  13. Thank you so much Tom Cronin and the New Canaan Land Trust. This is appalling that this was not brought to the attention of the Tax Payers in New Canaan. Every single person in the Town would rather have the NCLT own this scenario than Karp who would destroy the building and build another monstrosity. I think the Board of Selectman and town officials all owe us an explanation as to why this has not been considered. This is also scary because it means the town is not informing us of these crucial decisions.

    • Under state FOI law, the town technically may choose to discuss some real estate matters in executive session, and the first selectman appears to have invoked that exemption whenever possible, including with respect to the library project, town acquisition of a building on Elm Street and Vine Cottage. Whether the real estate exemption is being invoked legitimately by the first selectman— a lawyer turned politician—or as a pretext to hold the discussions out of the public eye, I can’t say.

      • Thanks for the information. I’m fairly certain of the answer between “legitimately or pretext to hold discussions out of the public eye.”

  14. I would agree with the many comments above that the NCLT proposal appears to be a win-win for all. I would encourage any government officials who might legitimately have a say to weigh in on this proposal-minds can change!

  15. I dislike Arnold Karp as much as anyone, and he deserves to be disliked. His character is unassailable, because he has none. He is clearly motivated by greed and a belief that his threats, private (via means like Direct Messaging) or public (Like employing his daughter to photograph town members, which he is -a town member -not, gathering in public and enjoying guaranteed Constitutional rights) will bully any and all back into their homes.
    But enough of Arnold, if it looks like a snake, crawls like a snake and hisses like a snake; guess what: it’s a snake.
    Let’s talk about our Town Government. Our First Selectman, by all accounts is an intelligent man but his actions speak to other flaws. We’ve all asked the questions in a round-a-bout manner, but how about this: Ken, are you corrupt? Are you invested alongside Karp? Are you getting benefits from him elsewhere? It’s a simple: Yes or No. You don’t get to “recuse” yourself. If you want to “recuse” yourself in such a major matter for The Town, do the right thing and resign. Period.
    As for The Town’s lawyer, Are you lazy? Your single job is to represent The Town. You don’t get a pass to say why it cannot be done. You open up the books and figure out how it can be done or delayed to the point at which you can find a resolution.
    Of the appointed Committee Members, maybe it’s time to turn appointed into elected. Sure it adds more labor to a process that is laborious in electing, but at least this way these folks would be accountable to The Town and not just one individual.
    In all, don’t tell me why any of this, or something similar, cannot be recognized and addressed.
    We can write letters and talk all we want. We can heap praise on those, who DO DESERVE, praise for their efforts to raise people from their apathy, but if we do not roll up our sleeves, get down into the mud and fight as dirty and whole heartedly as our opponents, then we do not deserve what we think is that “Last Stop before Heaven”.

    • Thomas:

      Under Conflicts of Interest:

      No official or employee shall participate in any Town or Board matter in which he or she has a financial interest or a personal interest. The minutes or records of the relevant Town or Board proceedings shall reflect the fact that the conflicted official or employee disclosed his or her conflict and did not participate in the matter.
      A violation of this conflict of interest rule shall occur when: (1) the official or employee had a financial interest or a personal interest in a matter; (2) the official or employee had the authority, either individually or collectively with others, to deliberate, decide or act for the Town or Board, or to influence decision or action by the Town or Board, with respect to the matter; and (3) the official or employee failed to disclose such financial or personal interest and did not recuse himself or herself from participation in the matter.

      According to town records there have been No documents filed for conflicts of interest with regard to the Vue or any other of Karp’s projects.

      Therefore, either there has been No Conflicts of interest by Town Officials and their family members or they avoided filing said documents.

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