Affordable Housing: Appeal of Historic District Commission’s Denial Transferred to Hartford

A state Superior Court judge last week granted a local developer’s request to transfer a lawsuit regarding a proposed affordable housing project in New Canaan from Stamford court to the land use docket in Hartford. In an appeal filed in November, an attorney representing Arnold Karp calls the New Canaan Historic District Commission’s recent denial of a “Certificate of Appropriateness” for a 20-unit housing project on Main Street “arbitrary,” “capricious” and in violation of state law. 

In seeking the transfer to Hartford, attorney Tim Hollister of Hartford-based Hinckley Allen said in a Dec. 22 application, “This appeal raises land use issues including whether the Commission’s reasons for denial were inconsistent with the Commission’s authority per the Historic District enabling statutes.”

Judge Ted O’Hanlan approved the transfer Jan. 2. 

The appeal of the Historic District Commission’s denial is separate from Karp’s appeal of the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission’s earlier denial of a proposal to move the so-called “Red Cross Building” at 51 Main St. closer to the roadway and erect a new residential building—offering 20 total living units, six of which would be rented at affordable rates, as per the state’s definition—behind it.

Application Filed To Demolish Antique Main Street Building

As anticipated, the owner of a long-unoccupied antique house on Main Street last week filed for an application to demolish the structure after town officials denied an application connected to a plan for redeveloping the property. Arnold Karp on Friday filed the demo application with the New Canaan Building Department. The filing comes about one week after the Historic District Commission denied Karp’s application for a Certificate of Appropriateness to move the ca. 1889-built house at 51 Main St.—known locally as “the Red Cross Building,” after its longtime former owner—closer to the road. That relocation is part of a plan to build a new multifamily structure behind it.

Historic District Commission: Proposed Redevelopment of Former Red Cross Property Not Appropriate

Members of the appointed body that oversees New Canaan’s Historic District—roughly, 21 properties around and near God’s Acre—said last week that plans to redevelop the former Red Cross building property are not in line with the town’s guidelines for the area. Plans filed in May at 51 Main St. call for the ca. 1889 structure—long associated with its former owner, the Red Cross (developer Arnold Karp purchased it five years ago through a limited liability company)—to be moved closer to the road while building a multi-family residential structure with 20 apartments behind it, six of which would be rent-restricted as part of an 8-30g affordable housing application. The Historic District Commission during its Oct.

Objection Letter Filed on Husted Lane Demolition 

The town last week received a letter objecting to the demolition of a multifamily house on Husted Lane. According to a letter filed by email July 1 by New Canaan resident Mimi Findlay, the house at 8 Husted Lane is a “late Greek Revival style clapboard and filedstone home” that “retains many of its 6 over 6 antique windows and the entrance door with sidelights.”

“In the two earlier architectural surveys of downtown New Canaan (1987 and 2010), the house was said to have been built by ‘William Edson Husted, a shoe-cutter for whom the street is named,’ ” Findlay wrote (no citation). 

“However, the 1851 deed in vol. 10 page 337 indicates that W.E. Husted, along with his two brothers and a sister, inherited the house from their mother Jane and it was on a ‘certain parcel of land being the homestead which our father, Alfred Husted, now dead, formerly lived, in quantity one acre more or less with the buildings thereon,’ ” she continued (no citation). 

Under Section 12A-9 of the Town Code, if the Town Building Official “receives a pertinent written objection to the application within 15 days following publication of the [demolition] notice, then the Building Official shall promptly refer such objection to the Historical Review Committee.” 

The legal notice for demolishing 8 and 10 Husted Lane was published June 16 on and appeared in the June 17 newsletter. Under the Code, the Historical Review Committee “shall review and decide all pertinent objections within 15 days of receipt of the objection by the Building Official. If the Committee fails to notify the Building Official of its decision within such fifteen-day period, or if the Committee makes a written finding that the structure is not of an age, style, condition or character that is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan, then the Building Official shall issue the demolition permit, provided the time for filing objections has passed, and provided that all other requirements of the State Demolition Code have been satisfied.”

The Committee also may find that “that the structure is of historical, architectural or cultural significance” to the town, and delay demolition by up to 90 days.