P&Z Chair: Those Advocating for State Affordable Housing Laws ‘Have Largely Ignored’ New Canaan’s Ongoing Efforts

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.

‘I Am Optimistic’: Glass House To Reopen April 16

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.

P&Z To Prioritize Affordable Housing in New Canaan

Faced with the prospect of new state laws designed to increase the amount of affordable housing in towns such as New Canaan, the Planning & Zoning Commission should proactively focus now on boosting the number of units available to low-income families here, including through updates to its regulations, the appointed body’s chair said last week. Though New Canaan already actively supports the creation of more affordable units—such as through a long-established fund that collects fees from building permit applicants and redevelopment projects that add dozens of new apartments here—P&Z should consider doing even more, especially as some in the General Assembly seek to have the state take over certain zoning powers to redress what they describe as “segregation” in affordable housing, according to the Commission’s chair, John Goodwin. “I think we do need as a Commission—and this is just me as one commissioner talking right now—I think we do need to take a more immediate focus on increasing affordable housing in New Canaan,” Goodwin said during P&Z’s regular meeting, held Jan. 26 via videoconference. Updates to the regulations—such as requiring developers with projects of 10-plus units to designate a certain percentage of them as “affordable,” under the state’s definition of the term—would create more housing for low-income families as well as seniors and working people who otherwise couldn’t afford to live in New Canaan, Goodwin said.

Divided P&Z Approves October Wedding at The Glass House

Despite concerns voiced by a Planning & Zoning Commission member who lives near The Glass House, the appointed body last week voted 4-2 to allow the organization to host a wedding this fall on its Ponus Ridge campus. Dick Ward, a P&Z commissioner who lives on Winfield Lane, .3 miles from the National Trust for Historic Preservation site, said approval of the Oct. 4 wedding “would, in my opinion, create perhaps an unnecessary and perhaps dangerous precedent, on two levels.”

“One is it’s been our longtime practice that financial considerations are not a criteria to support a Special Permit or an amendment to a Special Permit,” Ward said during P&Z’s regular meeting, held Aug. 25 via videoconference. “And it’s pretty clear that the request is based on a financial concern and I don’t think we want to open that door.