Selectmen Appoint New Town Planner


The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday approved an appointment to one of New Canaan’s most nuanced and closely watched positions.

Sarah Carey, promoted earlier this year to assistant town planner, will assume the job of town planner and senior enforcement officer following a 2-0 vote by the Board.

“She has done an amazing job as our assistant town planner,” the town’s human resources director, Cheryl Pickering Jones, said at the selectmen’s meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference.

“She has cleaned up permits, works well with residents, staff, commissioners,” Pickering Jones said. “[Planning & Zoning Commission Chair] Dan Radman is fully on board with us putting her into a permanent position. So I strongly recommend that we move her into that full-time position.”

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectman Nick Williams voted in favor of the appointment. Selectman Kathleen Corbet was absent.

Prior to coming to New Canaan as the zoning enforcement officer, Carey in 2020 earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Virginia Tech and had worked as zoning and wetlands enforcement officer for the town of Derby, according to her resume. 

Carey succeeds Lynn Brooks Avni in the role. Brooks Avni had served as town planner for more than four years, starting in September 2018.

Carey takes over at a critical time for the town. As the town grapples with three 8-30g affordable housing applications making their way through court in Hartford, P&Z is poised to undergo a comprehensive review and update of New Canaan’s guiding document for planning, the Plan of Conservation & Development. 

The selectmen during their prior meeting, on June 27, had approved hiring Cheshire-based SLR Consulting for $148,670 for its help in developing the 2024 POCD. During that meeting, Carey said SLR will work under a 12-month contract and that P&Z’s goal is to start public hearings on the POCD in September.

Williams noted during the June 27 meeting that some towns, such as Westport, have introduced permeability thresholds in their zoning regulations in order to ensure that there are no problems with issues such as runover stormwater.
Carey said in response that New Canaan currently only regulates building coverage, but that “infrastructure and sustainability” are two major items likely to be addressed in the upcoming POCD review.

There’s a lot of pressure from the state and other factors to get affordable housing in, but how do we do that in a sustainable way where we are not taxing our existing infrastructure and building some sort of unsustainable development that’s just filled with impervious area?” she said. 

Carey added, “I do think it’s a very important shift in zoning regulations to start including that. Because you could have a four-acre lot filled with just blacktop driveway if you wanted to right now, which is not recommended.”

Asked by Willliams “what other issues could be potentially fraught with some political upside or downside,” Carey said, “The other big one truly is infrastructure and figuring out what capacity do we still have for stormwater, sewer.”

She cited the 20-unit approved Burtis Avenue development.

“We have Burits approved but we don’t know what impact it will have on the sewer system,” Carey said. “Can we allow five more? Ten more? We are kind of going at it blindly.”

During this week’s meeting, Williams told Carey that she has “ survived into the battle.”

“We really appreciate the job you’ve done,” he said, adding, “Don’t leave.”

Moynihan said, “Thank you for all your hard work.”

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