Saying the proposed redevelopment of the Roger Sherman Inn is wrong for its neighborhood and that changes to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations would need to undergo to allow it are too site-specific, officials on Tuesday night by a 7-2 vote denied a plan to replace the Roger Sherman Inn with six single-family homes.
Though changing the use of 195 Oenoke Ridge Road from a business to a residence normally would make it more conforming to the regulations, the plan as proposed isn’t “a good trade here, for a lot of reasons” beyond its excessive density, according to Planning & Zoning Commissioner Bill Redman.
“One is, it is certainly not like the Maples Inn from years ago, it’s not the same look and feel,” Redman said during a regular meeting of P&Z, held at Town Hall.
“Things have changed around town in terms of the types of housing that have gone in. I don’t want to give false hope by saying, ‘Come in with something different.’ I don’t feel that way. I don’t see any reason why that cannot be one house on 1.6 acres.”
Commissioners John Kriz, Bill Redman, Claire Tiscornia, Jean Grzelecki, John Goodwin, Elizabeth Deluca and Dan Radman voted to deny the application, while P&Z commissioners Laszlo Papp and Dick Ward voted against a motion to deny. Absent were commissioners Jack Flinn and Kent Turner.
Rowayton-based developer Andrew Glazer, the applicant on the project, said during an interview after the commission’s vote that his plan now “would be to appeal.”
“Immediately appeal,” he told NewCanaanite.com.
Glazer said he was especially disappointed because he had received encouragement from some commissioners to proceed when his plan first came down from eight to seven units, in the fall.
“So the hypocrisy is infuriating, because I proceeded on the understanding, though clearly nonbinding, that the commissioners—which is a normal process to do and sit down, take a look, ‘What do you guys think?’—there’s no guarantee, we all know that, but they clearly said, ‘This looks good.’ ”
P&Z’s denial bookends a series of applications and re-applications that saw plans for the Roger Sherman site evolve—from eight new units, to seven following objections raised by an attorney retained by several neighbors, then to six in December. Each of those plans included a partial restoration of what developer Andy Glazer of Norwalk-based Glazer Group had determined to be the oldest part of the original structure. Most recently, plans called for picking up and moving that structure closer to Oenoke.
In a letter to New Canaanite earlier this month, Glazer proposed a four-unit development. Asked about the prospects of that plan now, Glazer said he had “heard the commissioners” and that clearly opposed to him.
Throughout the application process, Glazer has identified himself as “the contract purchaser of the property.” It’s owned by a limited liability company whose principal is Joseph Jaffre of Heritage Hill Road and whose agent is Nesreen Jaffre of Ridgefield, according to tax records and records on file with the Connecticut Secretary of the State. They bought it for $3,415,000 eight years ago, records show.
It isn’t clear what will happen with the Roger Sherman Inn now.
The Jaffres originally told the community that they would close the Roger Sherman on Jan. 2, but supporters appeared to have turned up in enough numbers that the restaurant will remain open for the time being—no one knows for how long.
During the meeting, commissioners debated the idea of specifying that they would deny the application “without prejudice” instead of outright. According to Papp, that language could encourage the applicant to return with a more reasonable project. Though commissioners such as Tiscornia objected to that notion, saying they didn’t want to give false hope, Town Attorney Ira Bloom settled the matter by saying a denial is a denial in any case.
“I don’t think it matters a lot” whether an application is denied with or without prejudice, Bloom told the commissioners.
P&Z by a 8-1 vote also denied a proposed text amendment to the zoning regulations, with Ward casting the dissenting vote (Papp said he didn’t think the provision in question needed updating).
Radman said that it is up to the applicant to return with a new application, adding that he felt the 6-unit proposal was inappropriate for a location so far from the center of town.
Of the proposed text amendment, he said: “And I do not think we should support this kind of spot zoning, because that’s what it is.”
Papp disagreed, saying, “It is not spot zoning.”
He argued that requiring a builder to stick to as-of-right use of the lot—which would permit a single home—“is not a defensible position” because creating a residential use in the residential zone where a pre-existing nonconforming use (the restaurant and inn, a business) now is in place is “definitely a step in the right direction.”
Ward also argued in favor of Glazer’s plan, saying those most directly affected—abutting neighbors—had voiced support for it. Other commissioners weighed in, saying two neighbors on Holmewood Lane objected to the plan.
One of those neighbors, an elderly woman, turned around in her chair to face Glazer during the hearing when the developer, visibly upset and scoffing, uttered the word ‘bullshit’ audibly.
“Turn back around,” he told her.