Saying a more robust landscaping plan will only hide the widely discussed retaining walls built along Park Street for part of the year, one member of the Planning & Zoning Commission is urging town officials to have the developer “stain” the stamped-concrete walls so they’re more aesthetically pleasing year-round.
Though the developers of a new condo-and-apartment complex that includes the retaining walls are offering to put in English ivy designed to help hide them, that plant “will take many years to grow to a mature enough state to be effective,” according to P&Z Commissioner Dan Radman.
“The majority of the remaining plantings that are proposed—trees and low ornamental plantings in the ‘planting zone’ between the lower concrete wall and upper concrete wall—are deciduous and will be barren between October and April, 6-7 months out of the year,” Radman said in a Feb. 28 letter to Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni. “This will leave the uniform grey stamped-concrete faux-stone wall exposed and will have the majority of mass of these huge retaining walls fully visible half of the year.”
The letter came in two days after P&Z said it had made progress with the builders of Merritt Village on fuller landscaping as well as a plan to develop moss on the walls themselves. At the Feb. 26 P&Z meeting, Arnold Karp of property owner M2 Partners described plants that will be planted in front of some retaining walls and ivy that will “cascade down” over others to “make this visually appealing.” At the meeting, Karp and Karp Associates COO Paul Stone also described a buttermilk treatment of the retaining walls that’s designed to generate moss growth on them.
According to Radman, however, that “will have little affect on the color of the wall—other than 10 years from now when the wall might have a decent amount of moss on it.”
“The added disadvantage of using the ‘buttermilk patina’ method on the wall at this location is that the whole of these concrete retaining walls are in full direct and indirect sunlight 100% of the time. This ‘buttermilk patina’ method of encouraging moss growth is really only effective in shaded areas where dampness and moisture on the wall is retained.”
A “concrete staining solution” on “the most visible and prominent part of the project, the retaining walls facing Park Street” is in order, Radman said.
“There are many vendors and contractors that do this work, both locally and nationally,” he said, requesting that Brooks Avni share information on those vendors with a committee of P&Z that’s working with M2 Partners on the retaining wall issue.
That issue emerged in October, just as the first, lowest retaining wall began to materialize along Park Street.
In written correspondence between the two parties and multiple public meetings, as recently as last month, P&Z questioned whether the developer was following approved plans while Karp reiterated—as he did again at the Feb. 26 meeting—that he was. Dozens of residents wrote letters to P&Z criticizing the wall as unattractive (not everyone felt that way), while Karp asked that the project get a bit further along before people began critiquing it.
Asked for a comment on the recent letter from Radman, Karp noted that M2 Partners is just 4 percent into aboveground construction.
“Additionally we continue to work with the town of New Canaan and the Planning & Zoning Department to discuss and review various options for the retaining walls,” Karp said.
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