Though still unwilling to sell the entire 4-acre parcel it sits on, the owners of an historic 18th Century house on Valley Road on Wednesday pulled their application to demolish the antique structure.
Officials at the First Taxing District of Norwalk Water Department said they had “explored demolition because of concerns regarding liability and insurability of a vacant house that is not rentable” but found out from their insurance carrier that “liability coverage was not an issue.”
According to a press release issued by the department’s general manager, Dominick DiGangi, the owner of the property at 1124 Valley Road therefore has pulled its demo application and vowed not to raze the house. The property also has been formally transferred to the District from an attorney who held it as trustee, according to DiGangi.
“The District wishes to thank the First Selectman and the New Canaan Land Trust for their cooperation in this matter,” DiGangi said in the press release.
Frank N. Zullo, chairman of the department’s Board of Commissioners, said in the press release: “It is our belief that the current solution achieves the goals of both the Town and the First Taxing District. All of us at the First Taxing District look forward to a long continuing relationship with the people of New Canaan and those who serve in its government.”
Moynihan said last month that the town would pursue eminent domain in order to take the property as open space. To that end, the town last week offered $1.2 million—to be funded entirely by the Land Trust—to acquire the parcel, located opposite Benedict Hill Road.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether preserving the house will change New Canaan’s pursuit via eminent domain. Moynihan could not immediately be reached for comment. DiGangi declined to comment on the question of eminent domain.
What is clear is that the District does not intend to sell the property for $1.2 million.
In the press release, DiGangi said that given the property’s location and current appraised value—about $1.6 million as of five years ago—“the District has determined that the value of the property to achieve our mission to provide the highest quality drinking water at some of the lowest prices in Connecticut to the customers in our service area far exceeds the current appraised dollar value that could be received from a possible sale of the property.”
The prominent red-painted house that stands in front of a well and near Valley Road is known to countless New Canaanites who drive by it. Officials with the Connecticut Department of Economic Community Development’s State Historic Preservation Office last week called the house “an important, tangible expression of the story of New Canaan’s nineteenth-century rural development.”
“As it stands on its current site surrounded by stone walls, the property is individually eligible for listing on the State Register of Historic Places,” according to the agency’s state historic preservation officer/director of culture, arts and historic preservation, Kristina Newman-Scott. “It meets the State Register Criterion I for its associations with the town’s agricultural development and Criterion 2 as a notable example of a timber-framed farmhouse expanded during the nineteenth century.”
District officials have said they’ve offered to sell the house itself to the New Canaan Land Trust, with about .8 acres around it, for less than the $1.2 million that the organization has offered to pay for the entire parcel, and have offered in the past to let the Land Trust or any other interested party physically remove the home if they want it.
Yet the Land Trust is interested in the entire property, officials have said, partly because it abuts its 10.3-acre Browne Wildlife Sanctuary.
In his press release, DiGangi said: “The First Taxing District has been and continues to be sympathetic to the desires of the New Canaan Land Trust to save the Everett-Grupes-Browne House located at 1124 Valley Road. Unfortunately, as we have indicated to them many times this land is not for sale.”