Officials Flag Parking Space-Reduction Piece of Cross Street Proposal

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Saying they’re concerned about any permanent reduction of parking spaces that Zoning Regulations require in the downtown, members of the municipal body in charge of off-street public lots on Thursday night voiced opposition to one piece of the closely followed residential-and-retail building proposed for Cross Street.

The Parking Commission has no formal jurisdiction over the private development proposed for 16 Cross St., which would include retail space on the ground floor—possibly for the Post Office—three levels of apartments above and 54 parking spaces below. Developers say a text change to New Canaan’s Zoning Regulations is needed so that the mixed-use building can reduce beyond five the number of parking spaces normally required for such a structure (a calculation that considers total dwelling units as well as commercial square footage).

Parking Commission Chairman Keith Richey said he is “against any change in the rules regarding the number of spaces that commercial establishments—which in my mind is the Post Office—need to provide.”

“Particularly the Post Office, where you have people coming in and out all the time,” Richey said at the meeting, held in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center. “They should be the last ones allowed to provide a below-code number of spaces.”

Technically, what the developers want to do on Cross Street is expand a regulation already on the books. Right now, it allows by Special Permit a reduction in the number of required parking spaces of up to 25 percent and—importantly—up to five spaces, given certain conditions.

Advocates for the project want that 25 percent to go beyond just five, calling it an arbitrary figure and noting that the Plan of Conservation and Development specifically says that planners should consider adjusting for mixed-use developments where residential and commercial uses of parking spaces do not coincide.

Though their charge by Town Charter deals with off-street parking only, the Parking Commission routinely is called upon by groups such as the Police Commission and Traffic Calming Work Group to make recommendations about parking.

Parking Commission Secretary Rick Franco said, “A settled business building is one thing, and a building that has all day interaction of ebb and flow is completely different, and of all people they should be paying attention to the rules.”

Richey said he doesn’t trust P&Z when it comes to parking.

“I never have. I think they give away parking whenever they can,” he said.

The commission voted unanimously to express to P&Z that its members “are against any relaxation of the rules requiring parking spaces in this new section of Cross Street.”

Some of what the Parking Commission had to say echoed reservations expressed by P&Z commissioners at the first public hearing for the 16 Cross St. development. A special meeting regarding the application is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center.

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