The volunteer municipal body responsible for studying historical buildings in New Canaan wants to double the amount of time it may delay the demolition of such structures. The Historical Review Committee voted 5-0 last week to recommend upping the demolition delay period from 90 to 180 days. It currently “is not an adequate incentive for an applicant to seriously consider alternative solutions to demolition,” Committee member Laszlo Papp said during the appointed group’s Sept. 13 meeting, held at the New Canaan Historical Society. “And 180 days possibly will provide more incentive to keep, repurpose or maintain the historical property,” he said.
Saying he would have voiced the very same concerns regarding a recent application to the Planning & Zoning Commission even if he didn’t live near the site in question, a member of the appointed group on Tuesday night nevertheless recused himself from further discussion or voting on the matter. P&Z Commissioner Dick Ward cited an editorial published this week “basically asking me to recuse myself with respect to the Glass House application,” and said he was “willing to do so,” though he also noted that his Winfield Lane home does not fall within the formal 100-foot notification area as required under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations.
“I did receive a letter from the Glass House several months ago simply mentioning that they were holding a meeting for some neighbors, and I think it said that I was invited to attend, which I did not,” Ward said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall. “I don’t want the mere fact that you may live in the mere area of the applicant to somehow become a precedent that, whether you are a neighbor or not, just because you may live in the area, you have to recuse yourself,” Ward added by way of making his own recusal. “I think it’s a choice that should be made by the individual commissioner. Clearly, if you are a member of some club and there is an application from the club or something like that, you have an obvious conflict of interest.
Town officials on Tuesday imposed a 90-day stay of demolition for an antique barn on New Canaan Country School property. In planning to raze the structure as well as a row of smaller sheds that originally had been used as chicken coops to make way for a new outdoor pool and pool house, the Frogtown Road private school appears not to have considered using the original barn in some way, according to members of the Historical Review Committee. Committee member Marty Skrelunas said he was disappointed that the project’s architect appeared not to looked at the “adaptive reuse” of the barn. “Given the structure, the style of construction, it would be a very easy building to redesign,” Skrelunas said during the Committee’s meeting, held in the Janet Lindstrom Room of the New Canaan Historical Society. “It is not like a brick building where the spaces are defined by the structure.
A divided Board of Selectmen on Tuesday voted to approve a pair of contracts to demolish a long-neglected town-owned building on the northern edge of Mead Park, signaling the end of a long-running and hotly disputed debate concerning its future.
Selectman Nick Williams, who emerged in recent months as the Board’s “swing vote” on what preservationists have dubbed the “Mead Park Brick Barn,” said he had mixed feelings about voting to raze it.
Noting that a local nonprofit organization, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, has “worked tirelessly in its efforts to save the Barn” and that “every citizen of New Canaan, regardless of whether you are in favor of or opposed to its continuation, should applaud their efforts,” Williams said that “the time has finally come to proceed with demolition.”
“During a meeting last fall, I said then and I quote, ‘I am personally generally agnostic about the disposition of the Brick Barn, but regardless, one of two things needs to happen—it either needs to be fixed and rehabilitated soon, very soon, or it needs to come down,’ ” Williams said during the Board’s meeting, held at Town Hall.
“While the Alliance has indeed tried to move heaven and earth to save the Barn, alas, the requisite funding plan, in my mind, essentially, cash on the barrel and in the bank for the complete restoration, with no ‘strings attached,’ and together with a business plan acceptable to relevant town bodies has not come to full fruition,” Williams continued.
He noted that municipal bodies including the Town Council and Parks & Recreation Commission have voted repeatedly to see the Brick Barn demolished.
“That tells me that even if we as a Board today were to provide additional time for the Alliance, their continued efforts would ultimately be in vain,” Williams said. “For those reasons, I feel compelled to assist in ending a discussion that has has taken place for nearly a decade. It’s time to move on. The disposition of the Barn has engendered an extraordinary amount of input from our citizens, with emotions running strong on both sides of the issue. Likewise the so-called ‘process’ of that disposition has been discussed and debated extensively in our local press.
Though some are eager to preserve forever a frequently used pedestrian alley downtown, officials say, the town attorney is warning that doing so through an easement could hamstring future municipal leaders. The alley that runs alongside the Playhouse and Le Pain Quotidien, connecting Elm Street to the parking lots behind it, is town-owned property. Though it could be transferred into a trust and then placed under an easement that would guarantee it serves as a pedestrian walkway in perpetuity, Town Attorney Ira bloom is urging town officials to consider that doing so could restrict future generations in unforeseen ways, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said. Asked by a committee of the Planning & Zoning Commission to look into the possibility of an easement, Moynihan said he called on Bloom to investigate it.
“Some people want to protect it in perpetuity,” Moynihan said. “The counter argument is that you don’t want to restrict future generations of leaders about what to do 100 years from now.”