‘It’s Starting To Run More Rampant’: Town Officials Seek To Control Proliferating Food Trucks

New Canaan is seeing an increasing number of food trucks pulling into town parks, alongside the new athletic fields by the Waveny water towers and elsewhere, to the point where it’s affecting local businesses, officials say, and creating a need for a formal policy with teeth. Though town officials have dealt with eager food truck vendors for years—at times running them out of public parks (where they’re not allowed), pointing them toward a “Peddlers” or “Itinerant Vendors” license that’s outlined in the Town Code, or even inventing rules about how licensed trucks can only go to construction sites—there’s no ordinance on the books that limits when and where those vendors can go, and no fine or enforcement agency to back up a formal policy in any case. 

“We are getting kind of overrun with food trucks and we don’t really have something specifically in place,” New Canaan Director of Health Jen Eielson told members of the Town Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee at its meeting last week. “It’s starting to run more rampant and then they [food truck vendors] want to have more trucks, and we are trying to limit it because we are getting flack from the businesses in town that pay a lot of money in rent, so I understand their plight and it’s not really fair to them.”

Nearby towns that are similar to New Canaan have rules in their Charters or zoning regulations that are enforced by police or other agencies in the municipality, Eielson said. 

While New Canaan for specific events, such as the Family Fourth at Waveny or the Sidewalk Sales downtown, has food trucks come in as caterers—complete with license checks and health inspections, as well as agreed-upon terms of hours and location—open questions remain about what types of trucks the town may want and what sorts of checks should be required of the businesspeople that operate them. 

Councilman Steve Karl, a committee co-chair, said there’s “definitely a need” for either a beefed-up “Itinerant Vendors” ordinance or new one. 

“Any time we have something like this where you see it’s growing, it’s up to us in the town to control it,” he said. Karl added: “You look at all of the good work that Baskin Robbins does in terms of charity and volunteering and all of the stuff that goes into having a business, and they pay rent to be there, and to have somebody pull up in a truck and take some business away from someone like that, that is a pretty big deal. And I think all of New Canaan and all of the taxpayers they would side on Baskin Robbins’ side.”

Ultimately, the Committee called on Eielson, with help from Administrative Officer Tom Stadler, who also deals with food trucks, to propose some language that the group could bring to the full Town Council.

New Canaan’s Chief Building Official Proposes Creation of ‘Blight Committee’ To Field Complaints

Saying it would be best if a volunteer group of residents oversaw the sensitive and nuanced process of handling a blight complaint, New Canaan’s chief building official on Monday night proposed the creation of a new municipal committee. 

Brian Platz said that in his position, he must be absolutely consistent in how he handles complaints about blighted properties in New Canaan, but such rigidity does not allow him to address on case-by-case basis situations where, for example, a resident has fallen on hard times. For that reason and others, Platz said, a Blight Committee such as other towns have created is a better vehicle for fielding the complaints. 

“I think that if [town residents] were to be, for want of better word—‘judged’—on the condition of their property, it may be better received by a jury of their peers rather than a building inspector who is an enforcement agent of the town,” Platz told members of the Town Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee during a meeting held at Town Hall. “Once I knock on their door and introduce myself, they already, understandably, get a little defensive. And I have had situations where I knocked on a woman’s door and she had gone on chemotherapy. She could barely answer the door and was fighting cancer, and she was well into her 70s, lived alone.

‘Hire Quality Contractors’: Two More Non-Permitted Demolitions in New Canaan

The New Canaan Building Department has received two applications for demolition jobs after-the-fact, one for a garage on Oak Street and another for what officials are calling a significant interior demolition on West Road. The non-permitted demolition at 534 West Road covers the interior of an entire wing of the 1928-built, 5,779-square-foot Colonial there, officials said. That work appears to have been done by an owner of the home, purchased last May for $1,950,000, according to tax records. The garage at 64 Oak St., a property that sold in March for $3,350,000, appears to have been done by a non-local contractor, officials said. New Canaan Chief Building Official Brian Platz urged homeowners to work with reputable contractors and check in with his office to ask any questions about what requires a permit.

Town Imposes 90-Day Demolition Delay on Antique Valley Road House

Saying that buying some time prior to a planned demolition could help the owner of an antique and conspicuous Valley Road home find a way to transfer the structure to preservationists or otherwise avoid the wrecking ball, officials voted unanimously last week to impose a 90-day demolition delay. Representatives of the owner of 1124 Valley Road, Norwalk’s first taxing district, are not fighting against that delay, members of the Historical Review Committee said at their March 1 meeting. It would be interesting for the public at large “to know the purpose of the use” of the 18th Century home, committee member Laszlo Papp—formerly a neighbor of the house, for 54 years—said the meeting, held in the Town House of the New Canaan Historical Society. “Is there going to be open space attached to the land the water company has or do they intend to build a McMansion there or exactly what is the future?” Papp said. He added: “During the period of the delay, I think, all political pressure should be borne to Norwalk to influence that [trustee].

‘They Contradict Themselves’: Town Officials Decry Unpermitted Demolition on White Oak Shade

The New Canaan Historical Society has extensive files that document houses, many of which are gone now, including by demolition, the head of the organization said Thursday. Curious people, such as descendants of those who used to live in those homes, often visit the Oenoke Ridge Road organization’s research library to find out what they can about them or to view photographs of the structures, according to Executive Director Nancy Geary. Yet in the case of a pre-American Revolutionary War era White Oak Shade Road home that’s undergone an unpermitted demolition of its second floor, that’s no longer possible. “From our point of view, for there not to be a process where we can at least get out and document what was there, what was the original 1750 house, to preserve that for the records of New Canaan history, to me is a great shame,” Geary said during a meeting of the Historical Review Committee. The volunteer group convened in the Historical Society’s Town House to decide whether to delay the demolition-in-progress at 251 White Oak Shade Road, a project that’s been under a cease-and-desist order from New Canaan’s chief building official since Feb.