Property Owner Appeals Six Conditions Attached to P&Z’s ‘Merritt Village’ Approval


The group that owns Merritt Apartments is appealing some of the conditions placed on its hard-won approval to develop the downtown New Canaan site with up to 110 units.

Merritt Apartments in New Canaan. ‘Notice of Demolition’ signs have appeared on the property following the Planning & Zoning Commission’s Nov. 29 approval of the planned ‘Merritt Village’ development. Credit: Michael Dinan

M2 Partners is “aggrieved” by six of the 65 conditions that the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission imposed on construction of the planned ‘Merritt Village’ complex near Maple and Park Streets, according to an appeal filed Dec. 22 in state Superior Court in Stamford.

The conditions—which deal with the ‘Old Burial Ground’ or ‘Maple Street Cemetery,’ underground parking and fencing during construction—have no legal or factual basis and should be revised or deleted, according to the appeal, filed on behalf of M2 by attorney Steve Finn of Stamford-based Wofsey Rosen Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP.

A series of conditions regarding the burial ground would appear especially objectionable to M2 because, if upheld, they would require the property owner to seek approval for an amended site plan.

Originally filed in June and approved Nov. 29 by P&Z following six public hearings, the application included plans to find out whether any bodies were buried in the long-neglected cemetery and to cordon it off for public viewing. As P&Z weighed the application through the summer and residents weighed in on it, advocates for the cemetery’s restoration and preservation began calling for a more comprehensive search for bodies there and raised questions about its ownership.

In the appeal, Finn reviews the extensive studies already done on the burial ground.

A cemetery consultant hired by the applicant found “after extensive and thorough research that it was unlikely that burials existed in any of the smaller parcels that comprise” a parcel owned by M2, the complaint said.

“But the expert also stated during the hearings that it was impossible to be certain without further investigation which might include some excavation.”

Conditions placed by P&Z on the Merritt Village approval require: that the locations of two proposed buildings are contingent on confirmation that no bodies are found in the burial ground, in a parcel located alongside them; that under the state archeologist’s supervision, M2 further test the area to verify that there are no burials there; that if there are bodies, “all construction shall immediately cease and a modified site plan shall be submitted.”

Following the approval, during a “ground penetrating radar system” scan, three graves turned up in one section of the parcel in question (including a prominent shoemaker from the early 19th Century).

M2 managing principal Arnold Karp, a New Canaan resident, has told in the past that the ownership of the parcel remains an outstanding question. According to Karp, M2 is not prevented from owning the land where bodies have been discovered because the statute that governs cemeteries came long after the entombment of those buried at Merritt Apartments. (Note: Plans have never called for building atop the burial ground, but near it.)

According to the complaint filed by Finn: “The plaintiff, M2 Partnership, the owner of record of the subject property, is aggrieved by conditions #5, 21,22 and 24 which concern the Old Burial Ground because they are inconsistent with one another and are otherwise illegal, arbitrary, not supported by substantial evidence and/or do not find a basis in fact or law.”

Condition #21 would require M2 to install a fence around property it owns during construction “which would materially interfere with the approved construction plans,” according to the appeal.

Another condition requires M2 to provide 193 parking spaces—116 tandem and 77 single spaces. According to the appeal, P&Z “mistakenly imposed” that prohibitively high number of spaces—a figure that’s not tied to the number of units at Merritt and “impossible to satisfy given the size of the parking garage approved by the commission,” “not in accordance with applicable zoning regulations” and represents “an abuse of its discretion in that the decision is not supported by substantial evidence and does not find a basis in fact or law.”

Finally, a condition that requires M2 to install a 6-foot temporary barrier fence with a green dirt screen on both sides along the perimeter of the site—instead of just one side—“is an arbitrary and unnecessary condition,” and also goes beyond applicable zoning regulations, the complaint said.

P&Z has until Feb. 14 to answer the complaint.

6 thoughts on “Property Owner Appeals Six Conditions Attached to P&Z’s ‘Merritt Village’ Approval

  1. More serpentine maneuvers by this outrageous development company. All of their paid experts should be called into question after their debunked findings of this cemetery scandal they have brought upon our Town and its History. Next question: When are you releasing the new report you conducted on the found burials in our Towns Ancient Burial Ground?

    • Serpentine maneuvers? Debunked findings? The only scandals are the ones created in the minds of those who are opposed to the Merritt Village project. These are the same people, with a newly found interest in cemeteries, who have yet to be outraged by the actual ongoing desecration in the Maple Street Cemetery (for decades now). Have the experts called into question? Like you suggested for all the members of the P&Z Commission because you think our unpaid & overworked commissioners are getting paid off? Conspiracy theories are easy to throw out there.

    • Mr. Trifero and his gang of bullies still at it. The “cemetery scandal” is theirs in spades for never looking after this property … where were they in terms of taking care of this hallowed ground over the last 10+ years. They have only come up with this lame reasoning and argument to try and stop this much needed senior-friendly housing project when their petitions, etc. didn’t work.

      Also, “serpentine maneuvers” doesn’t fly well in the English language.
      “A serpentine shape is any of certain curved shapes of an object or design, which are suggestive of the shape of a snake (the adjective “serpentine” is derived from the word serpent). Serpentine shapes occur in architecture, in furniture, and in mathematics.”

      I hear rumors that there are hidden cemeteries at the NC Nature Center, Grace Farm, and The Roger Sherman Inn. Maybe Trifero and friends should get out their search parties on those hallowed grounds also?

  2. When considering the # of parking spaces, their should be enough spaces to allow for guest and “employee” parking. My mother lived in an apartment on Park Street. Ultimately, she could not stay in her home simply because there was absolutely no parking for the people hired to give her 24 hour home health care. And, what about babysitters, house cleaners, etc? Parking close to or in town is a challenge, lets not make it worse.

  3. ….and guests were not able to visit unless they parked across the street in Mead Park, some distance from her apartment. As a result, friends rarely came to visit but would call and ask when she would be able to meet them in town. It was depressing for her as a resident. Her own son was not able to visit her overnight without “stashing” his car in a parking space far away, since there is a sign in Mead Park forbidding overnight parking. If that situation were to be mirrored in these new units, it will be a major source of resident frustration. Our town has enough parking problems. Lets not make it worse!

  4. Mr Stone, I believe you are the Mr Stone who works for M2 Partners. . If I’m wrong please correct me. If right please answer the question I asked about your company’s plan to release the complete Town directed , State supervised study your company conducted on our Town’s Ancient Burial Ground. Yes, we are interested in seeing real facts. The first radar survey your company did was meaningless hense the directive to do it properly. Now that burials have been found you would understand the calling out for your firm and our P&Z to respect our State’s recommended 50 ft set back from the cemetery. This would encompass. your company’s contested areas that we now know includes burials and hense is clearly part of the the Ancient Burial Ground.
    Again since M2 has not provided The Maple Street Ancient Burial Ground report to P&Z as recommended by State Archeologist Brian Jones, we are asking you to make the report public before it is to be made public via the Dodd Archives at University of Connecticut according to FOI laws. As they say a little sunshine never hurt anyone.

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