Saying a new New Canaan Library will benefit residents, businesses and the wider community, the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night voted 6-3 to approve the organization’s rebuilding plan. The proposed new library also is consistent with many tenets of the major document that guides development in town, P&Z Chair John Goodwin said during the appointed body’s special meeting, held via videoconference. The approval includes a condition that the library return to P&Z in four months with a proposal for appropriately commemorating the original 1913 building and a 1936 addition—a requirement that is a “risk” with respect to the structures but also an “opportunity” for the library to be creative, Goodwin said. “It’s a creative team over there,” Goodwin said during the Commission’s 4.5-hour meeting. “Now is it 120 days from now, we get options we don’t like?
During their seventh hearing on New Canaan Library’s application to rebuild its facility, members of the Planning & Zoning Commission last week set up a vote between two options regarding the fate of what remains of an original library building. One of them, tagged “Option A” and developed mainly by P&Z Chair John Goodwin, would allow for the library project to commence and, one year in, the organization would present options to P&Z to “appropriately commemorate” the 1913 building and 1936 addition. “It is the assumption that significant aspects of the 1913 and/or 1936 building will be preserved in some meaningful way on the site,” according to the language of the draft approval, obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request. The other, “Option B,” developed mainly by Commissioner Dan Radman, calls for construction to be put off until the library has submitted a plan to “incorporate and integrate” the east and north facades and roof of the old buildings so that they’re “maintained on the site in a location satisfactory to the Commission.” If there’s “no feasible way” to do that, the project can start without a plan for preservation, under draft Option B.
As drafted for the start of the meeting, neither scenario meets the standard set by a preservation group that has said the 1913 building must be restored—that is, its southern and western walls re-closed—and remain in place. Library officials last month said they’d be willing to preserve and move the Main Street-facing portico and facade of the 1913 building to the western property line.
The language in both options is expected to undergo revision based on the commissioners’ discussion at the 4.5-hour meeting, held June 29 via videoconference.
Library officials last week unveiled renderings of what they’re calling an offer of compromise to preservationists who are opposed to the demolition of a century-old structure as part of a plan to rebuild the downtown facility.
Moving the 1913 building’s portico and the Main Street-facing wall to the western border of the library’s campus could cost about $600,000 to $700,000, Executive Director Lisa Oldham told members of the Board of Finance during their regular meeting, held June 8 both in person and via videoconference. The library is “trying to get to a compromise solution that would respectfully honor the past, memorialize meaningfully the original library and not sacrifice the green, given the importance of the green to the overall campus,” Oldham told the finance board. At past public meetings, the library has said it would memorialize the 1913 building and its 1930s addition with professional photos, a limited edition commemorative book and works of art featuring the original structure that would become part of a permanent collection on display in the new facility. Library officials also have said in the past that granite from the 1913 facade would be used in a retaining wall for the green overlooking Cherry and Main Streets. The new proposal would see the portico and wall, at a depth of about eight feet, moved to the property line that the library shares with the gas station, New Canaan Library Board of Trustees President Bob Butman said.
The chair of New Canaan’s Planning & Zoning Commission said during the appointed body’s most recent meeting that he’s given testimony on proposed state legislation regarding affordable housing. The arguments behind “a number of bills” under consideration by the Connecticut General Assembly is “that historical and current zoning regulations have and continue to propagate exclusionary zoning in the state of Connecticut,” John Goodwin said during P&Z’s regular meeting, held March 30 via videoconference. “Meaning the argument is they keep housing costs high and then exclude lower income families from more affluent communities. One of the key bills is Bill 1024 some of the key provisions of that bill is 50% of the downtown area or 50% of an area within a half-mile of a transit station—that is, the New Canaan Train Station, in our case—would be subject to four or more unit housing as-of-right, meaning that if somebody came in and wanted to build a four-unit project there’s little that the Planning & Zoning Commission could do to control that development. In addition there would be no parking requirements for that development.
While they must continue to operate under public health-related restrictions that have impacted revenue, officials with an internationally renowned National Trust for Historic Preservation site on Ponus Ridge say they’re looking forward to reopening for the season next month. The Glass House in a normal season draws about 15,000 visitors, according to Executive Director Greg Sages. The figure declined to 5,500 visitors in 2020, and at a reduced per-person revenue, he said. “People were not coming to the Visitors Center in the numbers they had previously, so the Design Store was impacted, too,” Sages said. “It’s doing well but it has been impacted by access to throughput.”
Now, following a unanimous vote by the Planning & Zoning Commission at its Feb.