Officials: Opponents of ‘Merritt Village’ Project Arrested After Refusing To Leave Burial Ground [UPDATED]

Police on Thursday afternoon arrested two New Canaan residents—longtime opponents of the 110-unit ‘Merritt Village’ redevelopment on Park and Maple Streets—following what eye-witnesses call their refusal to leave a long disused burial ground adjacent to the property. Terry Spring and Jack Trifero each were charged with third-degree criminal trespass. Spring additionally was charged with interfering with an officer. According to representatives from property owner M2 Partners LLC, Spring and Trifero some time around 12:20 p.m. walked onto what has been called the “Maple Street Burial Ground” after parking in a contiguous private condominium’s lot. After New Canaan’s Planning & Zoning Commission approved the Merritt Village project last November, the question of appropriate protections for (and ownership of) the burial ground—a collection of scattered gravestones, disinterred grave shafts and even bodies that M2 itself discovered—lingered before the property owner could pursue its redevelopment project in earnest.

Consultants’ Report on ‘Maple Street Burial Grounds’ Addresses Merritt Village Conditions

Though a tooth, coffin fragments and pieces of arm, finger, leg and pelvis bone turned up following an archeological study of the “Maple Street Burial Grounds,” the only bodies still buried there already have been identified, according to a new report. The body and coffin pieces speak to shoddy work in transferring 13 bodies long ago from the burial grounds to sites such as Lakeview Cemetery, and do not constitute current interments, two experts from a Westport-based archeological and historic structure consulting firm said in a report published last week. As such, construction of a new, 110-unit housing complex approved in November by the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission can proceed with a few basic protective measures, Cece Saunders and Dawn Brown of Historical Perspectives Inc. said in their Feb. 16 report. “The archaeological excavations confirmed the presence of three intact Law family burials, the historic removal of eleven Hoyt-Keeler family burials and the historic removal of two St.

Prospect of Seventh Public Hearing for ‘Merritt Village’ as Cemetery Questions Linger for P&Z

The owner of the future ‘Merritt Village’ apartment-and-condo complex on the edge of downtown New Canaan is in talks with Planning & Zoning officials about whether yet another public hearing will be needed to sort out whether any of the property to be developed constitutes a cemetery. Approved with 60-plus conditions by the P&Z Commission in November following six public hearings, Merritt Village is to include 110 total units. In December, property owner M2 Partners filed an administrative appeal citing several of the conditions that involve the ‘Maple Street Cemetery.’

The conditions regarding the burial ground are objectionable to M2 because, if upheld, they would require the property owner to seek approval for an amended site plan. P&Z is asking the hopeful property developer to return for a hearing in February, according to New Canaan resident Arnold Karp, a partner in M2. “We are on hold because if they are going to go take a piece of my property, I can’t design a building,” Karp told

181-Year-Old Gravesite of Prominent New Canaan Man Discovered at ‘Maple Street Cemetery’

The remains of a prominent New Canaan man who died 181 years ago have been found in a previously unsuspected area of the Merritt Apartments property, officials said Thursday. Long ignored and historically important, the ‘Maple Street Cemetery’ was thrust into a spotlight this summer when Merritt’s owners unveiled a dramatic plan to raze the apartment buildings there and build four new ones. Advocates for historic preservation quickly organized, citing state laws that govern burial grounds and calling for a comprehensive study of Maple Street Cemetery itself. When the Planning & Zoning Commission finally approved 110 units for the proposed ‘Merritt Village’ last week, it included conditions designed to protect the cemetery. One of those called for property owner M2 Partners LLC to “conduct further testing” under the state archeologist “to verify that there have been no burials” (as the office of the New Canaan town attorney had asserted) in an area of the cemetery that M2 owned.

Letter: Concerns Regarding Maple Street Burial Ground Persist

From whom has M2 Partners purchased pieces of the tax-exempt burial ground on Maple Street? Disturbing any part of an ancient burial ground is contrary to state statutes, the question of ownership is secondary. Both occupied and unoccupied plots are protected by law. It’s been suggested that an agreement between the town and M2 might make it legal for M2 to proceed but leave the town holding the bag for allowing a ‘taking’ of any part of the cemetery by a private entity under CGS 19a-295. The likelihood of finding human remains, and strict cemetery laws, likely are why First American Title Insurance Company has noted exceptions to M2’s Owner’s Policy but agreed to an 11th hour amendment to their policy adding part of the cemetery, while, at the same time, denying this actually changes title.