Those seeking to force a referendum vote on town’s $10 million grant to New Canaan Library for its widely anticipated rebuilding project failed to garner enough verifiable signatures before deadline, officials say.
The petitioners needed to obtain 689 signatures of New Canaan registered voters—5% of qualified local electors as of the most recent voter list—in order to force a town-wide vote on the grant, Town Clerk Claudia Weber has said.
Yet after verifying the names and qualifying status of the names submitted to her office, Weber said the petitioners fell short.
They obtained 528 signatures of support, Weber told NewCanaanite.com.
“On behalf of the thousands of New Canaanites eagerly waiting for the new New Canaan Library, we look forward to receiving our building permit and starting construction,” Library Director Lisa Oldham said.
Opponents to the library’s plan for a new 42,641-square-foot facility—located closer to Maple Street and with a new entrance facing south—emerged soon after the organization unveiled its project in January 2020. Many of those opposed to the project said the library should be required to preserve the original 1913 library and a 1930s-era addition. The preservationists argued that a substantial number of New Canaanites wanted the building to remain in place, and some town officials, including some members of the Board of Selectmen, even referred to a “groundswell” of support for the preservationists’ cause. Some members of P&Z said the town was divided 50-50 on the matter.
The Planning & Zoning Commission approved the project in July, leaving open the question of just how the library would preserve the building, such as moving all or some of it to a different part of the property. A few weeks later, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance sued P&Z over the approval. That civil matter is still pending in state Superior Court.
The new building will cost about $39.2 million, a figure that includes $1.7 million in contingencies, according to members of the organization’s Board of Trustees. The library already has raised more than $16.9 million toward the project from more than 220 individual donors, is seeking a $10 million contribution from the town and has a four-year plan to fundraise the balance, they have said.
The Town Council in April approved a draft Memorandum of Understanding that spells out the terms of the town’s contribution. On Aug. 25, the legislative body voted 10-0-2 to bond $10 million for the rebuilding project. Weber’s office on Sept. 7 received a qualifying Notice of Intent to Petition regarding the vote.