Letter to the Editor


NewCanaanite.com recently received the following letter(s) to the editor. Please send letters to editor@newcanaanite.com for publication here.



The following is the statement I read at the Special Meeting of the Historical Review Committee this past Thursday, July 14. The Committee met to review the written objection to demolition of 8 Husted Lane here in New Canaan. There are more questions regarding process and requirements than those that I address here, but it’s a start.

I am going to speak about 8 Husted Lane based upon the criteria in the letter of objection written by Mimi Findlay. I am also going to make a statement on more broad issues related to what has been an onslaught of demolitions of properties of ages ranging from 50 to 231 (yes, I said 231) years in our town. 

As outlined in our Ordinance, 8 Husted Lane is significant due to Criteria B and C:

B – the Structure is associated with the lives of persons noted in local history – much esteemed First Selectman Charlie Morton.

C – The Structure embodies distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction that is rare or disappearing and worthy of preservation – “relatively unchanged….. [original] Greek Revival-style…. representing a style and form not seen often”

I was unaware of 8 Husted Lane and its sister, 10 Husted Lane for many years, until I drove down Husted to access the buildings at the end of the Lane. How, I wondered did these two jewels survive in New Canaan? Over the near 30 years living in New Canaan, I have made the following observations concerning preservation in our community and elsewhere.

In general, preservation is typically challenged by two things: too little money, and too much money. The primary economy of our town is based on real estate because New Canaan is not just a bedroom community, it’s a good schools community. The top reasons people move to New Canaan are the schools and the natural and built visual appearance of the town. The problem is that once those children have graduated, the parents high tail it away and the kids, who are already gone, don’t come back. This makes for a lack of long-term local memory and caring for same.

Right now, laws both locally and state-wise are overwhelmingly against preservation and for development. Property rights – that’s the phrase we always hear when we object to demolition of a privately owned property. What they really mean is the owner’s right to make a profit. If you look at the tax assessor listings, you will immediately see that for most homes older than 50 years, the land is worth more than the building. So the purchaser buys the property wanting to make the highest profit possible which means the structure has to go. 

In reference to some recently highly discussed State Legislation, 8 (and 10) Husted Lane, like so many properties in New Canaan which are rapidly disappearing, are prime examples of potentially “affordable housing”. The death knell for preservation in this Connecticut affordable housing legislation is that it must be in a structure built after 1990. If New Canaan could count affordable units older than 32 years, our affordable housing numbers would surely increase. 

In the last few years greater numbers of New Canaan residents, both current and past, have publicly expressed how important the unique natural and architectural environment of New Canaan is and was to them in their life experience and memory. This town has been on a not so slow march to destruction of that environment and is now headed toward obliteration. 

The usual push back to preservation is that it gets in the way of progress. There are countless examples of communities which have successfully balanced preservation and progress and in addition, have incorporated affordable housing in that balance. Surely if other communities have figured out how to make it work, New Canaan can.

So what’s the answer? The answer is to take a deep, hard look at what is important long-term – what is the legacy one leaves behind? How do we work together toward a goal of progress plus preservation? The first step is for community members to speak up if they care about New Canaan’s unique natural and built environment and not count on what has been termed a “handful of preservationists”. Elected and appointed officials need to know what matters. Then all need to work together to create and enforce stronger local pro-community laws and challenge state laws that do not achieve our community’s goals. New Canaan just needs to decide. What is the legacy we wish to leave?

Based upon the opening language in this Committee’s Ordinance, “…to promote the cultural, economic, educational and general welfare of the Town of New Canaan”, and based on objections raised and the criteria listed, I vote to imposing a 90-day demolition delay on 8 Husted Lane.

Rose Scott Long Rothbart


Absent from the P&Z’s Public Hearing Wednesday night was even the pretense of hearing from the public. Weed Street is a true hot button issue and the town should allow discourse, not bury it with an over-scheduled, overcrowded, poorly air-conditioned meeting. 

Alfred Vanderbilt 


Save the Red Cross building on Main Street, after all it is inside the Historic District. 

The proposed multistory condo complex by a developer would have the building move forward five from the sidewalk and partially dismantle the rear part of the building . 

Has the Historic District Commission met and agreed that this is permissible? Why do we have a Historic District if it’s buildings cannot be protected and preserved in  perpetuity? 

Ed Vollmer

One thought on “Letter to the Editor

  1. I would like to thank Rose Scott Rothbart and Ed Vollmer and for their comments. Rose Scott said it eloquently. Both progress and preservation are possible. Countless communities have achieved a balance. Schools and the visual appearance of our town are top reasons people move to New Canaan. If the processes which structure our government’s response to achieving these desired results are not fully utilized, we fall short as a community…. Ed Vollmer said it like it is. Why isn’t our Historic District Commission protecting the Red Cross Building, using their expertise to alert the public and the P&Z to what we stand to lose if the this building, located in our only Historic District, is replaced by a twenty unit ‘affordable’ development, a five storied building, 5 ft. from the sidewalk, protected by a chain link fence, ‘shoehorned’ into a location set aside by Town Ordinance? Town Councilmen, Historic District Commissioners, Town Planners, and Selectmen, who’s job is it to decide?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *