P&Z To Weigh Change to Allowable Heights of Retaining Walls


In the past three years, the town has issued 25 permits for retaining walls higher than four feet, including 10 over six feet, though one section of the New Canaan Zoning Regulations outright forbids retaining walls taller than four feet in Residential and Special Zones, officials say.

At the same time, another section of the regulations states that retaining walls higher than four feet simply require a zoning permit, Town Planner Sarah Carey noted in a memo ahead of the Planning & Zoning Commission’s regular meeting at 6 p.m Tuesday. 

“It is recommended that we clean up this regulation to take a clear position on the permitted height of retaining walls in Residential and Special Zones,” Carey wrote in the memo, which forms part of the public packet for the meeting. 

“Staff recommends that there be no height limit on retaining walls but rather a special permit be required in certain instances,” she said.

The discrepancy—in Section 6.5.B of the regulations (page 153 here)—recently was brought to the attention of town staff, Carey said.

In the past three years, the town has permitted retaining walls higher than four feet in Residential Zones, she said, “sometimes administratively, sometimes requiring a special permit.”

“The Commission in 2022 granted at least 2 Special Permits that had proposed retaining walls over 4ft in height in Residential Zones,” Carey said, citing properties on Brushy Ridge Road and Oenoke Ridge.

To address the discrepancy, P&Z will consider text amendments to Section 6.5.B. Specifically, the outright exclusion of retaining walls higher than four feet will be eliminated. At the same time, allowing such structures by Special Permit will be expanded from just the Business Zone to include all Residential and Special Zones, while forbidding any retaining wall taller than six feet in any Residential Zone, under the recommended text amendments. 

Another proposed addition to the regular would indicate specific allowable materials such as natural stone r brick, according to notes added to Carey’s memo. “We need to make sure stamped concrete and other faux walls are not allowed,” according to the note.

It appears to refer to an issue that emerged in the fall of 2018, as The Vue condo-and-apartment complex materailized at Mead and Park Streets. There, a stamped concrete retaining wall drew wide criticism both on P&Z and among neighbors and passersby.

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