New Canaan’s highest-elected official said this month that because he’s a neighbor of a proposed development, he will recuse himself from any “governmental process” with respect to the project.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said he will not participate in any votes on the Board of Finance, where he sits as a tie-breaking member, or on the Planning & Zoning Commission, when it comes to an application filed last month for a 102-unit affordable housing development at Weed and Elm Streets.
“My position right now is I am recused from the governmental process of participating in those two bodies and their votes,” Moynihan said during the March 8 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “That doesn’t mean I am not involved.”
He added, “I am the chief executive and I will continue to be involved in this whole process to make sure that the town is properly, from my point of view, addressing the issue. And I also said I’m not disinterested in the process. Frankly, I’m a neighbor. It doesn’t make me any more opposed to the proposal that has currently been made. It seems like everybody in town so far is saying they’re opposed to the proposal. If that is confusing it is probably because it doesn’t come up very often.”
Moynihan spoke in response to comments that New Canaan resident Giacomo Landi put to him during the public comment portion of the meeting. Landi said that the town should have someone step into Moynihan’s role in situations where he has to recuse himself from votes as a neighbor of the proposed development.
“In particular, I understand the first selectman’s office has a tie-breaking vote on the Board of Finance, if I understand that correctly,” Landi said. “So if there’s an issue where a person is recused of three-person committee, which is the Board of Selectmen, who is actually taking over that role on behalf of the Board of Selectmen? In particular, there have been legal documents prepared by the town on behalf of the town instructing certain agencies to look at things in certain ways. Lawyers have clients—the lawyers of the town, the client is the town—so who on the town body is actually reviewing these documents that the town lawyers are putting out on their behalf? Or are town lawyers merely exercising own judgment as they are preparing these documents?”
Landi appeared to be referring to a recent memo from the town attorney’s office to the town planner. Among other things, it said that Planning & Zoning Commission’s have “a very limited ability” to deny applications for affordable housing developments.
News of the proposal at Weed and Elm broke last month, after a separate application from the property owner—made to the New Canaan Water Pollution Control Authority, regarding sewer capacity and approval for hook-ups—was made public. (In New Canaan, the Board of Finance acts as WPCA, and at its Feb. 10 meeting formally noted the application’s filing and said it would make a decision in April-May, as per a 65-day timeframe spelled out under state law.)
Arnold Karp is developer and owner of the property, the sewer application said.
In comments threads online and social media, dozens of residents have criticized the proposal. More than 2,600 people have signed an online petition saying they’re “vehemently oppose the proposed development.” More than $64,000 has been raised for a legal defense fund launched by neighbors.
Moynihan noted during the meeting that town officials, such as those on the finance board and P&Z, “cannot engage in ex-parte communications with the public because it’s really an adjudicatory process.”
“The whole point is the process has to be fair and what is being submitted as comments have to be available to the public,” Moynihan said. “There can’t be any private conversations, in other words, with any member of a body who is going to make a vote. I will not be making a vote in any process. If it comes back to the Board of Selectmen in some way, I am involved with town attorney, I am fully aware of the discussions, so if you have the impression that I’m not involved, that impression is totally wrong. I will not be using my influence in any way with any parties, either town employees or any members of those town bodies that have to decide.”
Isn’t it true Kevin doesn’t even own the condo he lives in. He continues to make statements like” it seems everyone in town is opposed”. That is certainly not accurate as there are already residents who have contacted us to be put on a list for rental.
Mr. Karp – I would say it is difficult to take you seriously given your financial interest in the overdevelopment of New Canaan. It seems a more prudent course of action would be an attempt to convince the residents of New Canaan of your intentions. This comment really speaks to your true motivations.
This development is not appropriate for Weed St, and affordable housing is just a trojan horse for your greed.
Kathy Tanner finds you properties at a discount. She undervalues them and then offers them to you to snap up. You two tried to do that to me on Rosebrook Road but got caught. Ha Arnold! Stop ruing our town you opportunist!
Kevin how long did You know about the housing plan?
What alternative housing plans did you say no to prior to telling karp to apply for alternative housing?
An excellent question…
Mr. Moynihan – what is going on behind the scenes that you have neglected to mention to your constituent’s?
We should look into the financial arrangements/investments of ALL Town Officials into any of Karp’s previous development endeavors.
I would like to know the answer to this question.
Mr. Moynihan has previously said to neighbors, “Would you really mind some tasteful condos/townhomes at that location”?
The property is zoned for 1 acre single family homes. Period. This should not become a bait and switch or a zone change purely to create a money making opportunity for certain individuals.
As follow up to my previous question.
Mr. Moynihan – was this a quid pro quo for the police station, or Vine Cottage? It seems the timing of this announcement is curiously in sync with both? I am very eager to get a better understanding of the back room dealing that has been going on since 2017 (when Mr. Karp bought Weed St, to the best of my knowledge).
There are many unanswered questions, and it seems obvious to me that there is much more to this story and the sequence of events that needs to be brought into the open.
Furthermore, was Moynihan responsible for the lapsing of the 8-30g moratorium? Was it intentional?
The Moynihans lives in a co-op, not a condo, and they owns shares in the corporation, as do all members of his development. As a developer, Karp should know the difference between a condo and a co-op. And yes, “everyone in town” is opposed to the proposed high-rise buildings, or at least an overwhelming majority of New Canaanites.
Moynihan’s recusal based on his own housing proximity to the property is patently absurd. Makes one wonder if there are perhaps other more salacious reasons as to why he has recused such as financial entanglements with Karp and or campaign contributions from Karp?
Great to see yard signs all over our town unified against this predatory development.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Kevin can’t be both involved and recused.
A quick municipal google search provides the following:
“If an official does recuse him- or herself, how should they behave at that point? It is critical to note that simply saying “I recuse myself” is not enough. The official must take steps to make the recusal effective. Literally. The official should immediately leave their seat at the board table, and preferably, leave the room until the board moves on to the next subject.”
Please join the facebook group “Save New Canaan’s Weed St.” It is constantly updated and quite informative. Like the comments above, the selectman’s intentions/involvement in this “development” are a bit fuzzy. I feel a town hall style meeting is in order.
Thanks, Kevin. Please do! https://www.facebook.com/groups/saveweedst. We have a petition, local fundraiser, yard signs, and event reminders.
Ladies: remember that when you kiss a prince, you may get a carp.
This property was larger years ago before it was sold and three to four houses were built on the Elm street side. Leaving the remaining parcel with the one home that stands there now. I was the caretaker of the property before it was divided.
To put this planned housing unit in it’s place is an insult to the people who live in New Canaan. For those who have lived here for many years can see real estate turning this town into a big city. No longer the New England it should be. This is what happens when it becomes transient. New families move in and move out not knowing the history of New Canaan. If the P&Z can’t see what is happening or won’t see what is happening and not listen to the people. What is next?
Moynihan should reverse his recusal or come up with a better reason for recusal.
We need a leader who will negotiate a more reasonable proposal.
8-30g is a powerful weapon for the developer, but bona fide health and safety concerns are valid. Can our present sewer system handle this large, concentrated addition of residences? Will the addition of so many residences and tenant cars to this busy corner present a safety issue?
It will… the key word is congestion…
Time to impeach Moynihan. He doesn’t remotely care about our town.
Send us a card when you get settled in Florda. Kevin