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. With a special permit in hand, each of these businesses could set up shop, operate and grow right next door to you. As long as the special permit criteria are satisfied, there is no limit to the number of principal uses on any residential lot.

Should this text amendment be approved, “institutional creep” in our residential neighborhoods will no longer be limited to traditional institutions such as St. Luke’s School, Silver Hill Hospital, the YMCA or The Glass House. The certainty that you had thought the zoning regulations provided when you purchased your property will be shattered. How does allowing this level of intense commercial activity in our residential neighborhoods comport with New Canaan’s Plan of Conservation and Development? Put simply, it doesn’t.

Don’t be fooled—for-profit or not-for-profit activities would all be permitted. Once approved, controls would be hard to place on the new business. As that business grows, how are you going to prove that it exceeded its approval? Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow only one principal use on each residential lot? So when your neighbor advertises a restaurant/café in their barn, re-develops a guesthouse into medical office space, and starts up a day care facility in their home—all of which would be possible if the proposed text change is approved—there is no need to debate if they are running a retail establishment, renting commercial office space and running a business in your neighborhood?

P&Z will be discussing this proposed text amendment at their June public hearing. If you feel strongly about protecting the character of New Canaan’s residential neighborhoods, write the Commission and Town Planner or, better yet, come and speak at the June public hearing. Let’s have one principal use in our residential neighborhoods. We shouldn’t permit our residential neighborhoods to morph into commercial, mixed-use zones. Multiple principal uses must remain restricted to New Canaan’s downtown business district.

Jennifer Holme & David Markatos

9 thoughts on “Letter: Proposed Change to Zoning Regulations Threatens All New Canaan Residential Neighborhoods

  1. Agree with the letter and oppose changes in P&Z code as described in the letter. Of greater concern is the impetus for this change. Did it come from within P&Z?

    More importantly, A full explanation for the rationale behind this proposal is needed.
    Our ability to oppose the change hinges in part on first understanding the reasoning behind it.

    • The proposed text amendment to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations is coming from the applicant, Grace Farms, not from the Planning & Zoning Commission. With that said, the town attorney and town planner did suggest to Grace Farms that pursuing a text change would help P&Z work through the organization’s overall application, which already is a large and complicated one. You can find some additional background/context here, and the application itself can be found on this page, if you go to the dropdown menu and choose “Lukes Wood Road 365 (Grace Farms Foundation) 5.30.17” and then “Resubmitted Application to include Text Amendment 05.30.17.”

      • Just a note – This regulation change will cover all residential zones going forward if approved. Yes, it was proposed by Grace Farms but will not be limited to just that application but instead will cover all parcels in a residential zone. Grace can not propose an amendment for just their parcel as that would be spot zoning. This debate has moved beyond Grace and with this change, we will have to contend with multiple principal uses in a residential zone.

  2. Kudos to the letter writers. They seem to be absolutely correct. Glad they spotted this issue and are bringing it to the public’s attention.

  3. Well said! This proposed change would have ramifications well beyond Grace Farms.

    It appears that Grace Farms has decided that if they can’t be accommodated under the current zoning regulations, then they should get the regulations changed to accommodate them.

    I trust that P&Z will have the wisdom to protect all the homeowners of our town and not allows our town’s zoning protections to made malleable by a single applicant

  4. I was at a public meeting a few months ago and Laszlo Papp, an architect and former member of Planning and Zoning and the Town Council recalled that he had advised that the number of very large homes going up in the mid 90s and early 2000s would become difficult to sell in the future and would inevitably be put to “alternative uses.” The 909 West Road sober house, and the spa and showroom referenced by the letter writer are early examples. Its hard to imagine how this is in any way positive for the Town or for homeowners and residents.

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