The Planning & Zoning Commission last week approved a measure whereby New Canaan property owners seeking to rent out their homes or rooms within them on a short-term basis, such as through the popular online service Airbnb, would need to pay an annual fee to the town. The $150 ‘Short Term Rental Permit Fee’ still requires approval by the Board of Selectmen, according to Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni. Though not a revenue-generator, the fee would cover administrative costs such as application processing and filing, Brooks Avni told members of P&Z at their regular meeting, held Aug. 27 at Town Hall. Commissioner Bill Redman said, “It’s not a money maker but it puts them on notice they need to have the proper paperwork.
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 are weighing proposed zoning regulations that could require the owners of properties let out for short-term rentals to obtain a zoning permit first. The proposed regulations, now in draft form before the Planning & Zoning Commission, could come to a public hearing next month, officials said. Obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a Freedom of Information Act request, the draft proposal would see P&Z regulate short-term rentals as an accessory use, not a primary use, in residential districts. Specifically, a “minor short-term rental” would be defined as “the temporary rental or part or all of a residential property for fewer than 30 consecutive nights at a time, for no more than three times in a six-month period, for which the guest compensates the owner of the property.”
Such “minor short-term rentals” would occur no more than three times in a six-month period and would be required to meet Housing Code occupancy requirements, to be used for lodging only—as opposed to activities such as parties, fundraisers, photo shoots or corporate retreats—and must not “materially disrupt the residential character of the neighborhood,” according to the draft. Commissioner Krista Neilson, who has taken a lead on helping draft the regulations along with Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni, said that in some ways the language is designed to give more discretion to a zoning enforcement officer who might be faced with difficult situations and the prospect of resigning the requirement zoning permits.
Another part of the draft regulation specifies that the zoning permit, which would expire after one year, could be revoked if the rental “imposed a nuisance on neighbors.”
Brooks Avni noted that it would important to have “some sort of threshold about what the nuisance might be.”
“Just because they are bothered by the fact that a neighbor is renting, that might be their nuisance but if it’s allowed then it’s not really a nuisance,” she said during P&Z’s regular meeting, held April 30 at Town Hall.
The developer of a widely discussed 110-unit condo-and-apartment complex to go up on the edge of downtown New Canaan is earning praise from town officials after agreeing to pursue a more robust landscaping plan that will effectively hide a series of retaining walls that some have criticized as unattractive. The retaining walls fronting Park Street will see a combination of plants that will hang down over a lower wall—itself to receive a treatment that will develop moss and so break up its monochromatic appearance—and ivies that will grow up other walls, as well as junipers and other trees, according to Arnold Karp of Karp Associates, developer of Merritt Village. “What we are going to look at it is things that cascade down over the wall that is against the sidewalk and things that will grow up on what is the second wall,” Karp said Tuesday night during a regular meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission, held at Town Hall.
“There has been some confusion about those walls. Those walls have always been in the design. The only change was that after the hearing was closed, one of the 65 conditions was that we put in a sidewalk, but it was always considered that we would leave space, so there was always a question about the height on those walls.
A group of nail salon owners and workers say there are too many such businesses in New Canaan and they’re urging the town to limit the number of them, officials say. About a dozen salon representatives came to Town Hall this month to meet with the town planner about regulating the number of nail salons in New Canaan, such as through a moratorium, according to a memo issued by Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission.
“The nail salon owners did note that the additional wellness boutiques that are opening in the downtown also provide similar services,” Brooks Avni said in the memo. “From a land use perspective it would be difficult to justify a moratorium on nail salons. Several boutique wellness studios have opened downtown as a result of the innovative legislation adopted by this Commission at its April 2018 meeting which included ‘wellness activities’ in the definition of ‘Personal Service Establishments.’ These boutique wellness studios have occupied what were previously vacant storefronts in the downtown.”
She referred to P&Z’s decision to amend the regulations so that service businesses could occupy street-level commercial spaces on Main and Elm Streets so long as they have a retail section in front. A Google search of “nail salon” in New Canaan returns 18 businesses, including spas that offer nail-related services.