‘An Enormous Addition to the Town’: New Canaan Museum & Historical Society Unveils Plan for ‘Special Collections Museum’ with Reassembled Millar Studio

Representatives of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society last week unveiled plans for a striking new barn-like structure at their Oenoke Ridge campus. The glass-enclosed “Special Collections Museum” will have attached at its rear one of the last–if not the very last—original art studio of a founding member of the Silvermine art colony, according to Nancy Geary, executive director of the NCM&HS. 

Addison Millar’s lean-to-like painting studio—which remains in place on Mill Road more than a century after the artist himself, and his wife, were killed in a railcar accident (1913)—has been generously donated to NCM&HS by the Borglum family, Geary told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission during their March 28 regular meeting. “It is a very rustic building,” Geary said during an approximately 30-minute pre-application presentation to P&Z during its meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “It uses the bark from the mills at the turn of the century when it was built. And we have a plan to disassemble it and rebuild it, and it will be partly enclosed and partly attached to this new building. It will give us space also to have permanently on display rotating paintings by the Silvermine artists.

Cigar and Tobacco Shop Planned for South Avenue

A Westchester County man is applying to the town for permission to open a cigar and tobacco shop in downtown New Canaan. The shop at 13 South Ave. would be open from about 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to a site plan application filed with Planning & Zoning by Yazan Mustafa of Yonkers, N.Y.

Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, site plan approval is required in the Retail A zone for retail shops, among other uses (see page 73). The commercial space at 13 South Ave. had been occupied by Cobble Court Interiors, which moved just a few doors down to 21 South Ave. 

During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission, Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni said that the town had originally considered recommending that P&Z deny the site plan application because it was incomplete at the time.

‘They Missed It’: P&Z, ‘Merritt Village’ Developer at Odds

The developer of an apartment-and-condo complex on the edge of downtown New Canaan is at odds with municipal officials about whether he’s building what they approved. 

Though members of the Planning & Zoning Commission have said that at some point a set of plans for Merritt Village specified that retaining walls would be finished with a “fieldstone veneer,” local builder Arnold Karp of property owner M2 Partners said final approved plans make no such specification. 

“They are making it seem that we didn’t follow plans,” Karp told NewCanaanite.com in an interview after Tuesday night’s regular meeting of P&Z. “The truth is that plans in Town Hall, stamped and approved, did not show a fieldstone veneer. They are going to something prior to that.”

He referred to a set of plans submitted to the Commission and town planner in August of 2016, five months before P&Z approved the 110-unit complex at Park and Maple Streets. According to Karp, an updated final set of plans went into the town the following month, prior to when the public hearing on the Merritt application closed. 

Officials appear not to be able to find those plans, he said. “The best I can say is they missed it,” he said.

P&Z To Merritt Village Builder: We Thought the Retaining Walls Would Have Different Materials

Saying they’re disappointed that the materials they thought a local builder would be using for a retaining wall are not what has materialized along Park Street, members of the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night asked the developer of Merritt Village whether similar “faux-looking” structures could be expected. 

Weeks after addressing the matter of the retaining wall with New Canaan’s legislative body, Arnold Karp of Karp Associates came before P&Z to during the appointed group’s regular meeting. 

According to Karp, a second retaining wall above and behind the one that’s caused so much fuss is to be built, and there’s also one that curves around where motorists will enter Merritt Village from Park Street. 

Even so, Karp said, the retaining walls will be capped and partially hidden by plantings, and the buildings themselves—which feature natural stone and cedar shingles—will be the focal point for passersby. “I have to get a little more of the project on down the line before I have 18,000 architects who live in town telling me how it is going to look,” Karp told the Commission during its meeting, held at Town Hall. 

As P&Z itself includes architects Laszlo Papp, Dan Radman and Kent Turner, Karp added, “I wasn’t counting anybody on the commission in the 18,000,” drawing laughter from the room. Radman said, “But it’s only these three that you have to worry about.”

Merritt Village, a 110-unit apartment and condo complex approved by P&Z two years ago, following several months of hearings and a record-high number of conditions, is still about 18 months away from completion. 

Even so, Chairman John Goodman said that P&Z has received “a fair amount of feedback from the community” regarding the retaining wall, and therefore asked Karp and Karp Associates COO Paul Stone to address the matter. 

Karp said he takes P&Z’s comments to heart. 

“It’s not like I’m going to build this and disappear,” Karp said. “I’m here for the duration.”

Speaking of the retaining wall in its current state, he added: “We are looking at something that against this backdrop is very noticeable. They are not finished.