Saying a wooded property at the end of Indian Waters Drive is too narrow to subdivide and that a development proposal is out of keeping with the residential neighborhood at the end of a private access way, officials on Tuesday night denied an application to carve out two building lots there.
The Planning & Zoning Commission voted 9-0 to deny the closely followed special permit and two-lot subdivision applications, filed on behalf of Aquarion.
Though the proposed subdivision would set aside 4.1 acres of open space, it provides no real access to it, according to commissioner Laszlo Papp.
“I do not believe that the commission has the authority to waive that requirement [for accessibility to open space], either by Special Permit or otherwise,” Papp said during the commission’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall.
“So that I see as a serious problem for approval. For that reason, I think we will have to deny the permit.”
Papp and the following seated members of P&Z voted to deny the application: Bill Redman, Dick Ward, Jack Flinn, Jean Grzelecki, John Goodwin, Elizabeth DeLuca, Dan Radman and Krista Nielson.
Some commissioners noted that there remains an open question, following a lawsuit filed by 23 Indian Waters Drive neighbors, of whether the would-be new lots could even be accessed by the private road.
Aquarion’s bid to make the vacant parcel build-able had garnered criticism from open space advocates in New Canaan, and members of groups including the Conservation Commission and New Canaan Land Trust spoke out against it. The water company last year secured approval from a state regulatory agency to pursue the subdivision and sale of the property.
Plans called for the 9.98-acre vacant lot to be subdivided into two building lots of 2.1 and 3.7 acres, with 4.1 acres to the north designated as open space. Under the Aquarion application, both newly created building lots would be served by private wells and septic, with access off of a shared access way from Indian Waters Drive. An existing cul-de-sac would be moved onto the Aquarion property, large enough to accommodate emergency fire vehicles.
Commissioners said the town stood on solid ground in denying the application because criteria for the Special Permit application and subdivision were not met.
“I think there are two givens here: one that the proposed subdivision meets all the regulations, there would be no choice but to approve it,” Grzelecki said. “However, this one does not. It is very deficient in width and it is a very large ask, the deficiency. More than I ever remember. The other issue is that absolutely no, we may not opine on the legality of the access way, we can request verification and we do not have verification. So I think that becomes an issue as well. This is not us opining on the legality, but a subdivision allows us to ask for verification and we do not have it here.”
Goodwin, P&Z’s chairman, said he focused on the Special Permit application more than the subdivision.
“Where I got tripped up was, for example, suitable location—street, access,” Goodwin said. “Frankly, I was not able to conclude that this is a suitable location for a subdivision due to the nature of the street, nature of the access way, the private street—a whole host of issues.”