Police Commission Takes No Action Following Sight Line Concern at Farm and Main


Looking west from Old Norwalk Road at the Main-Farm-White Oak Shade intersection on Jan. 1, 2024. Credit: Michael Dinan

Saying the intersection works as-is, members of New Canaan’s local traffic authority will take no action in response to residents’ call for changes at the Main-Old Norwalk-White Oak Shade-Farm Road four-way.

The Police Commission in December received at least two letters from residents voicing concerns about a picket fence recently installed atop a stone wall on the south side of Old Norwalk Road, at the intersection.

Obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request, the letters note that the fence appears to violate two sections of the New Canaan Zoning Regulations (see pages 154 and 161 here).

In a Dec. 6 letter to the Commission, Peter Cooley notes that the fence atop the rock wall is taller than allowed and also in a public right-of-way.

“There is a reason that we have these zoning requirements near intersections on corner lots,” Cooley said. “And corner lots are specifically different from other lots. The reason is to allow for proper [sight] lines at the intersection.”

He suggests moving the stop bar and stop sign on Old Norwalk Road forward, a solution that “could make everybody happy” where the “intersection could function properly.”

“Everybody could have the lines of sight between the different stop signs restored, and you don’t have to go to bed against the homeowner to take down their new privacy fence,” he said.

Yet the stop line is properly placed, under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, meeting “standards and the overall road safety of the area,” according to Police Chief John DiFederico.

“If you go out there, you can see a large portion of the intersection from behind the stop bar, and then you can advance slowly into the intersection and have a clear view for the rest of the intersection,” he told members of the Police Commission at their Dec. 20 meeting, held at Town Hall.

“The stop bar is where it is located because the standards want to allow for pedestrian traffic,” the chief said. “Although there’s no crosswalk there, going across that leg of the intersection, you do have to allow for pedestrians, if they may be crossing, or bicyclists. So we can’t have cars going right into the intersection, right to the edge of the intersection. You have to stop behind the stop bar, allow a car to see any pedestrian traffic, then advance carefully and with caution into the intersection.”

Ultimately, the Police Commission took DiFederico’s recommendation to forgo any action on the new fencing, deferring instead to the Planning & Zoning Commission, which oversees enforcement of the zoning regulations. 

Tiger Mann, director of Public Works, said that the current configuration allows for “pretty good sight” of the other legs at the intersection.

“From behind that intersection line where you’re in a safe position, you can see the stop bar at White Oak Shade,” Mann said. “You can see the stop sign, the stop bar and any car that’s stopped there. So you have a complete view of the intersection. And then as the chief mentioned, then you’re directed—the DOT is actually, it’s what they teach at driver’s ed—is you stop at the stop bar, and then you proceed, you start to enter the intersection, you wait for pedestrians to clear, cars to clear, and then you proceed into the intersection with caution. If you do that, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Mann said he had his highway department look at the new fencing and “we had no concern.”

“I did speak to the town planner about the wall, and the fence, the wall is in the town right-of-way,” Mann added. “It’s been there for well over two decades. We have no concern with it. And we’re not asking the residents to remove it. And the fence, while it is a zoning violation, the fact that it starts at four feet and goes to six feet, it has a scalloped design.so once it trends over the four foot line, it does become a zoning violation, but because the installation of the fence did not exacerbate the situation, it actually probably helped it, since it contains the road [inaudible] that’s now behind the stone wall.”

The Police Commission also received a Dec. 20 email from New Canaan resident Jeff Holland.

“My concern here is that the fence and wall combination seem to be in conflict with zoning regulations 6.5 and 6.9, but also seem to be possible within the public’s right-of-way according to the attached GIS map that I found online,” he said. “Maybe this should be addressed as a zoning matter, and resolved in a way that improves the intersection for both the town and the property owner.”

Commissioner Paul Foley said that the corner of the intersection used to have rhododendrons and that the stone wall changed the visibility there for the better. 

“This looks better than it has in the past,” he said.

Mann agreed, saying, “With the rhododendrons removed, you can actually see much more of the intersection.”

The fence also reduces the glare of headlights beaming into the residence on the corner lot, he said.

DiFederico said during the meeting that zoning violations are not police matters.

“That’s not our purview, it’s not our area of authority,” the chief said.

He added, “I recommend that we take no action on this.”

The next regular meeting of the full P&Z Commission is scheduled for Jan. 30.

2 thoughts on “Police Commission Takes No Action Following Sight Line Concern at Farm and Main

  1. As a neighbor who walks through the intersection regularly and whose family members drive through that intersection countless times each week, I agree with Police Commission Foley and Public Works Director Tiger Mann. The removal of overgrown bushes and the installation of the small fence on an existing wall certainly made a huge difference for dog walkers, families who walk to Kiwanis Park with strollers, students who walk to and from the schools.

    In my opinion the bushes that hung over the sidewalk obstructed the sight line for drivers turning from White Oak Shade onto Old Norwalk Road. I noticed an immediate improvement to the area especially for walkers.

  2. I walk my dog along Old Norwalk Road and use the pedestrian crossing to Main street every morning. I think the neighbor’s new fence line and the removed rhododendrons are a great improvement to the side walk.
    However, I disagree with the decision not to move the new stopbar on Old Norwalk Road further forward. The current location of the stopbar makes it difficult for those drivers to see cars oncoming from the left (from Main street). Often, drivers are not ” slowly creeping forward” over the stopbar as the commissioners suggest. Rather, drivers on Old Norwalk Road are ignoring the location of the current stopbar; and approach the intersection as if the stopbar was already further forward to improve their sight lines.
    I would support moving the stopbar further forward so that pedestrians and drivers all have good sight lines.

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