After reviewing plans for a major building project on the edge of downtown New Canaan, planning officials say, a widely criticized faux stone retaining wall will not be completely screened, and therefore must be addressed in some other way.
The Merritt Village retaining wall that is materializing along Park Street is “aesthetically underwhelming and not in keeping with the spirit of your description of the project and the drawings that you originally presented as part of your application,” Planning & Zoning Chairman John Goodwin said in a Nov. 20 letter to the project’s developer, Arnold Karp.
Sent on behalf of the entire Commission, the letter says that the faux stone finish on the retaining walls were not referenced during public hearings on the Merritt Village project and that the structures require “at a minimum, fieldstone veneer.”
“You are certainly correct that you are in the early stages of your project and you noted that ultimately these structures would be ‘hidden’ by landscaping,” the letter said. “After reviewing the plans on record and considering the extent of the structures, we are not convinced the faux look will be completely screened. We believe the appropriate solution would be the application of a 4-inch thick fieldstone veneer directly to the face of the existing retaining walls. This application may not need to go all the way to the footing. If you have an alternative solution that attains a look along these lines, we would certainly consider it.”
Karp and his partners in Merritt Village won approval for the 110-unit project two years ago following several months of hearings.
This week’s letter follows Karp’s Oct. 30 appearance before P&Z to talk about the retaining walls, which garnered wide attention and criticism from passersby as soon as they appeared in the first two weeks of October. Karp had appeared before the Town Council in mid-October to address criticism of the retaining walls, saying the wall would be screened by landscaping, that Merritt Village was not yet 1 percent finished and that he needed to get further along with the project before “everybody becomes an architectural critic.”
Karp did not immediately provide a response to the letter from Goodwin.
The letter from P&Z’s chairman closed: “Your project is very high profile in New Canaan and as you have told us, is expected to have strong demand for occupation once completed. An effort to attain the aforementioned objectives we believe, and despite the additional expense, would ultimately benefit the project and the Town.”