‘She Puts Party First, Before Other Things’: Town Councilmen Voice Concerns about Maria Weingarten in Divided Vote on Finance Board Appointment

In an unusual discussion last week, some members of New Canaan’s legislative body voiced concerns about the qualifications and partisanship of a prospective member of an appointed municipal body. While Maria Weingarten can be admired for her outspokenness and strong opinions, she as an alternate member of the Board of Finance has already had to recuse herself from some important votes related to a proposed affordable housing development at 751 Weed St. and is also an activist on some education-related issues, Town Councilman Hilary Ormond said during the legislative body’s regular meeting July 20. It also is unclear just how Weingarten is qualified to serve as a regular member of the finance board, Ormond said during the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “I’m not entirely clear what her qualifications are,” Ormond said.

Affordable Housing: Town Council Discusses New Canaan’s Handling of Moratorium Application 

New Canaan’s legislative body last week called for the town to consider getting a second legal opinion on whether the municipality should move forward now with an application to the state for relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said earlier this month that, following discussions with the Connecticut Department of Housing, the town will wait until the second phase of the Canaan Parish is completed to apply for a four-year “moratorium” from the state law known by its statute number, 8-30g. Towns like New Canaan, where less than 10% of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s definition, are susceptible to the 8-30g law. Under it, developers can use an appeal process to effectively skirt local zoning regulations when applying for multi-family housing project where at least 30% of all units are rented at affordable rates. 

The town has received two such applications from local developer Arnold Karp, at Weed and Elm Streets, and on Main Street. Moynihan has said that, based on discussions with the state, the town “does not currently have enough affordable housing ‘points’ to qualify for a moratorium.” 

Specifically, the town in drawing up its application for relief—allowable under 8-30g for municipalities that create a certain number of new affordable units—had not accounted for “deductions” for pre-existing affordable housing that were demolished as part of a pan to rebuild with higher density. 

Even so, “we believe our facts are distinguishable based on the kinds of units that we have,” Moynihan told members of the Town Council at their June 15 meeting, held at Town Hall.

Moynihan: Vine Cottage Worth Three Times What Land Trust Bid

The town rejected a venerable nonprofit organization’s recent bid to purchase Vine Cottage because the building is worth more money than what was offered, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan. The Board of Selectmen met out of the public eye—as public bodies are allowed to do, under state law, when dealing with certain specific aspects of real estate transactions—to “decide whether we should negotiate with the [New Canaan] Land Trust,” Moynihan said during the Town Council’s regular meeting Tuesday. “We have an indication that the value of that property is three times what was being offered by the Land Trust,” Moynihan said during the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “If we get to the point where we want to sort of give it away to a nonprofit, an important local nonprofit, we could. But right now, for one we really need it for the Health Department.