The owner of a structure in the town’s Historic District is joining a condominium association in suing the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission for its recent decision to approve a mixed-use development at the edge of the downtown.
P&Z’s Oct. 27 vote in favor of a zoning change, Special Permit and site plan for a 12-unit residential building with a 315-square-foot commercial space on Husted Lane was “illegal, unlawful, arbitrary and in abuse of the powers vested in the” Commission, according to a complaint filed Nov. 19 on behalf of a limited liability company that owns 46 Main St. and the Oenoke Association, whose condos are located on Heritage Hill Road.
The plaintiffs are statutorily and “and also classically aggrieved because the decision will cause the plaintiffs special harm and injury,” according to the complaint, filed by Bridgeport-based attorney Joel Green of Green and Gross PC.
“More specifically, if the plaintiffs’ appeal is not sustained, as the result of said decision, the subject properties would be permitted to be developed for uses not harmonious with or compatible with uses existing and permitted upon the plaintiffs’ properties, and which will negatively impact the value of the plaintiffs’ property and the use and enjoyment by the plaintiffs of the plaintiffs’ properties.”
The administrative appeal, filed in state Superior Court, seeks to undo P&Z’s decision, deny the applications, award costs for the appeal itself and “such other and further relief as the court may determine,” according to the complaint.
According to the summons, P&Z is to appear Jan. 12 on the matter.Developed from a 17th Century driftway and named for a prominent land-owning family in the 18th Century, Husted Lane runs north off of Heritage Hill Road near Main Street, behind Locust Avenue Lot. It’s composed of five separate parcels and Tom Sanseverino owns four of them, totaling nearly 1.2 acres. He started acquiring the properties in 2015, spending more than $3 million in all, tax records show. In the summer of 2019, Sanseverino gave P&Z a “pre-application presentation” to the Commission regarding his plans.
The applications, including a request to re-zone the properties from Residential B to Retail B, came before P&Z in June and attorney Jacqueline Kaufman of Stamford-based Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP has appeared before the Commission in multiple hearings since then.
Kaufman made the case that she’s tried to work with neighbors who have voiced concerns, that the development achieves goals outlined in a document that helps guide planning decisions in New Canaan, that the dwelling will provide housing for people of different ages and income levels and that it will encourage people to walk downtown. Though the property would support 15 dwelling units, Kaufman noted, the proposed structure has just 12, and they won’t be visible from grade on Heritage Hill Road.
The application included a traffic study which found the units can be accommodated by existing roadways.
Yet neighbors, among others, voiced concerns at multiple public hearings. Some said they needed more specificity regarding Sanseverino’s plans for two other properties he owns on Husted Lane (numbers 12 and 14). Representatives from the Oenoke Association said the proposed development is too large, lacks sufficient parking and that it will not benefit the town.
Mimi Findlay, a founder of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, said that the houses that would be razed to make way for the new mixed-use building are historic. (Kaufman noted that they’re not listed on local, state or national registries of historic buildings.)
Green himself during a final public hearing described the application as a “tortured” use of zoning regulations, and argued that the development fails to meet the goals of the Plan of Conservation and Development. He also said that the traffic study didn’t have a speed or sightline analysis.
Todd Lampert, a managing principal of The Main Street Group LLC, said the study was not comprehensive because it failed to consider traffic going toward Main Street or at the traffic light there.
P&Z voted 9-0 in favor of the application. Those voting included Chair John Goodwin, Secretary Jean Grzelecki and Commissioners Jack Flinn, John Kriz, Claire Tiscornia, Kent Turner, Dick Ward, Phil Williams and Krista Neilson.
Kriz called the project well-designed and in sync with the neighborhood.
P&Z’s approval came with conditions, including that a sight line analysis be added to the traffic study and reviewed by the town planner, and that the fire marshal review and approve modifications to the parking plan.