Neighbors Oppose Planned Freestanding 3-Car Garage at Michigan and Lukes Wood Roads


Saying a plan to erect a freestanding, three-bay garage near the corner of Michigan and Lukes Wood Roads lacks specifics on use and lighting, isn’t in keeping with the neighborhood and whose proposed driveway could present a safety hazard on a blind curve, nearby property owners told planning officials last week that they’re adamantly opposed to it.

This is what the proposed freestanding garage at 89 Lukes Wood Road would look like, according to an application for a special permit.

This is what the proposed freestanding garage at 81 Lukes Wood Road would look like, according to an application for a special permit.

Marty Yudkovitz of 440 Michigan Road told the Planning & Zoning Commission at its regular meeting on April 28 that, if approved as originally submitted, the proposed 24-by-30-foot garage at 81 Lukes Wood Road would appear to the world to be located in his own front yard, diminishing his property’s value.

Though it seemed a straightforward proposal at first, “the more we looked at it, it raised just a lot of red flags,” Yudkovitz told the commission at its meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center.

Site plan for 89 Lukes Wood Road, including a proposed driveway off of Michigan Road to where a a freestanding, 3-bay garage would go up.

Site plan for 81 Lukes Wood Road, including a proposed driveway off of Michigan Road to where a a freestanding, 3-bay garage would go up.

The first of those flags emerged about one year ago when a new, driveway-width wooden gate appeared one day cut into a longstanding stone wall along Michigan Road, he said.

“We didn’t know whether permission was needed, we don’t know if permission was received—it doesn’t seem to have been,” Yudkovitz said.

“We knew at the time that there was something very, very odd but we weren’t told anything, then we received notice of this hearing, which contained again almost no information, not even a map. We had to go down to Town Hall and find a map. So red flags were coming up because of this process taking that is taking place and the lack of information, and the more we looked at it the more it seemed like 1. This is a v v odd location, very far from the house for a garage. It’s a very large garage with a tall roof and its placement does seem very odd. On top of that I did my own informal little survey, went up and down all of Michigan Road. Every single driveway that I could see led to a house. This is the only driveway that would lead to a garage nowhere near a house, sitting there right in front of Michigan Road, which doesn’t at all make sense to me, which is definitely not to me in keeping with the nature of the neighborhood and seemed very inappropriate, in fact, to the nature of that neighborhood.”

Rendering of the proposed 3-bay garage for 89 Lukes Wood Road.

Rendering of the proposed 3-bay garage for 81 Lukes Wood Road.

Speaking on behalf of applicant Kathleen Castiglione, Steve McAllister of Wilton-based McChord Engineeering said a special permit was needed in order to construct the garage because it would bring the total number of bays on the property to six (the limit is five—see page 53 here) and would be located—technically—in the front yard of the property. Yet the 6.2-acre parcel itself is oddly configured, and includes several regulated wetlands areas.

McAllister said the garage is to be used for storage of two cars as well as pool and patio furniture.

Commissioners asked McAllister to clarify the difference in elevation with the proposed garage (20 feet ground elevation), whether the gate would remain (yes), how close is the nearest neighbor (400 feet) and how many trees would need to be removed for proposed driveway and structure (about 10 or 11 substantially sized trees).

P&Z decided to continue the hearing to its next meeting.

New Canaan-based attorney David Rucci of Lampert Toohey & Rucci LLC, speaking on behalf of the Greenes at 442 Michigan Road, said his clients are worried about the safety of a new driveway that would be cut in a blind curve off of Michigan Road.

“Really the major concern we have at least at this time is that there is no driveway cut here, there is no permit for opening a driveway here,” Rucci said.

“There may be a gate that sits here, it may have been put up three years ago. Our clients remember seeing it about a year ago automatically appear. But there is nothing there now that would allow a car to come in and out of that and it is very concerning because this particular driveway, according to my clients—again if you’ve gone out there and come up Michigan, you will see as you come up Lukes Wood Road, you will hit this blind curve, start to head up Michigan—and this I guess where they’re going to put it, where this gate is, it is right around a blind curve. Our clients are about 50, 60 feet up from that, it is dangerous for them, coming out of their driveway—they specifically told me, ‘It is dangerous for me.’ I am concerned if they are going to have more activity coming in and out of this particular driveway, that it is going to cause an issue for them and their driveway.”

He added that plans call for a walk-able pathway from the garage “going out to some sort of fire pit structure or something in the middle.”

“I’m not sure exactly what it is or what it’s for, but it’s got a roof on it, and it would seem to me that they are going to be using this more, potentially, not as second residence, necessarily, but where people can congregate and access this property or this area for some sort of recreational purposes, which to our client is a concern,” he said.

Attorney Steve Finn of Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, LLP, representing the McIvors of 79 Lukes Wood Road, said his clients’ request for additional screening from the abutting proposed garage—which is needed, he said, because trees in the wetlands valley between their properties easily could come down, had been turned down.

“Although the location of this proposed project is a significant distance away, it will be seen, especially when the leaves are down, from the McIvors’ backyard,” Finn said.

“We don’t disagree that there are extensive woods now, between where the garage would be located and the McIvors’ backyard, it is wetlands, I think we all know from our common experience that trees in wetlands can fall down. There is nothing that would prevent either a current owner of this property or a subsequent from cutting down trees. Where are you then?”

Finn added that he wants the applicant to explore whether the proposed garage could be shifted to an area with flatter ground.

McAllister said that he would be willing to look into moving the garage 30 feet.

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