NewCanaanite.com recently received the following letters to the editor.
The season of Thanksgiving brings about a great opportunity to give thanks to all elected and appointed members of our community who volunteer to serve through our Town’s boards, commissions, and committees.
It has been an honor to serve alongside of all these individuals over the course of my first year as a Selectman and I am most thankful for the encouragement and support from the electorate last week.
I look forward to continuing to represent and serve our entire community on the Board of Selectmen with my colleagues Nick Williams and First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.
I would also like to congratulate all the newly elected members of the Town Council and Board of Education – thank you for your perspective and valued contributions to our Town.
Finally, regardless of the election outcome, I am thankful to all candidates who demonstrated their willingness and commitment to serve our community.
We are indeed fortunate for the time, talent, unique perspectives, and collaboration that so many of our volunteers provide our Town and for which I am most grateful.
Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Kathleen A. Corbet
Selectman, Town of New Canaan
These [American Rescue Plan Act] funds are intended for use to repair damage to COVID related community entities and spur downtown community revitalization. We are all involved. An item off capital budget or out of usual funding is a savings at tax time.
However, a first concern should be the distinction between wish list and COVID damaged town sectors.
I would like to suggest that in many other communities in Fairfield Co. there is strong emphasis on using some of these funds to revive retail with an emphasis on mom and pop stores catering to customers who need to come in to try on or examine goods like toys, gifts, clothing, art galleries and shoes. This category of retail was found to be most affected by the COVID shut down.
According to an article in the Fairfield County Business Journal which reported the findings of retail expert Michael Berne of MJP consulting—Berne’s findings: E-commerce retail has been overrated. Rising shipping costs will further limit growth of this category. The restaurant association in Connecticut reports that only 600 of 83,000 normally open restaurants have closed, or 7% decrease which is lower than in an average year . E-commerce business was up only 2% in 2020. The most affected retail category was mom and pop stores. Downtown revitalization is possible. Berne’s suggestions for moving downtown development forward includes lowering barriers to entry, cultivating permanent tenants, and providing a “sense of discovery’ for visitors to help downtowns ‘build back better’.
Cody Real Estate has had a major part in this market for many years. Speaking frequently to brokers and tenants, I would like to suggest that the least understood element in achieving ‘lower entry’ is not simply “ lower rents” but the structure of Town assessments which does not balance town center and residential income in a way favorable to the town center and smaller retailers. Most landlords pass through town taxes and insurance costs to tenants. This has been a long standing practice which permits landlords and tenants to work together for the benefit of the entire downtown. If tenants can not pay the rent, landlords can not afford to stay in business. COVID was a blow to the small retail operators and their landlords.
How could COVID ARPA funds subsidize retail losses and keep our town lively? How about a study of local assessment practices. How about a part-time Town marketing position to help take advantage of retail opportunities? Like the gardens of Waveny, our downtown could use a little help.
ARPA funds were designed to focus on loss and revitalization. Downtown New Canaan landlords and retailers, have been particularly affected by reduced pedestrian traffic and lack of visitors during COVID. Focus on assessments, marketing, and achieving a successful balance between town and residential taxation are crucial to restoring vitality.
Those of us who care about the fate of the 1913 Library have an interesting piece of news. The great grandson of Alfred H. Taylor, the architect of our 1913 library, is coming to visit New Canaan from his home in the Midwest. He has heard about the struggle for nearly two years now to try and preserve the 1913 Library, and he wants to help.
Jon Keepman is a great grandson who wants to make a difference and like his great grandfather shares the same sort of passion for the building. Alfred H. Taylor was a very hands on architect, he even voluntarily helped the builder with the selection of every rock that went into the handsome stonework, and cared about all the details of the construction.
In a note I received from Jon Keepman, he said – “I look forward to speaking with you and learning more about your preservation group, and also a profound thanks from me to the group working so hard toward saving my great grandfather’s work. I believe the 1913 library really stands the test of time. ”
We look forward to meeting him too.
Patricia Funt Oxman
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