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.
The New Canaan Historical Society has extensive files that document houses, many of which are gone now, including by demolition, the head of the organization said Thursday. Curious people, such as descendants of those who used to live in those homes, often visit the Oenoke Ridge Road organization’s research library to find out what they can about them or to view photographs of the structures, according to Executive Director Nancy Geary. Yet in the case of a pre-American Revolutionary War era White Oak Shade Road home that’s undergone an unpermitted demolition of its second floor, that’s no longer possible. “From our point of view, for there not to be a process where we can at least get out and document what was there, what was the original 1750 house, to preserve that for the records of New Canaan history, to me is a great shame,” Geary said during a meeting of the Historical Review Committee. The volunteer group convened in the Historical Society’s Town House to decide whether to delay the demolition-in-progress at 251 White Oak Shade Road, a project that’s been under a cease-and-desist order from New Canaan’s chief building official since Feb.
Calling the redesign of a new home on Forest Street tasteful, respectful of the property’s historic past and exemplary for an important neighborhood, town officials last week voted unanimously to lift a delay on the demolition of an existing structure. Members of the Historical Review Committee voted 4-0 at their Jan. 5 meeting to lift a delay instituted last month on demolishing the ca. 1830-built home at 74 Forest St. “You have made significant changes—positive changes—I think you have created a winner here, a really wonderful model for the neighborhood and an example for others who will come after you,” committee member Martin Skrelunas said during the group’s meeting, held at the New Canaan Historical Society’s Town House.
Saying that more information is needed about a new two-family house planned for Forest Street, town officials on Monday voted unanimously to impose a 90-day delay in the demolition of an existing antique structure on the .3-acre lot. Members of the Historical Review Committee during a special meeting described the architecture of the approximately 1830-built home at 74 Forest St. as a “vernacular” type that rapidly is disappearing in a historically important area. Committee member Martin Skrelunas, an architecture and landscape preservationist, said the red-painted house “represents and is one of last of this style in New Canaan.”
Addressing Tom Sturges, the contractor on the construction project, Skrelunas said, “I think the thing that could be special about your project is, knowing you’re building from scratch, is that you can demonstrate that you can build in a non-designated historic street but maintain that history, maintain that spirit, which in turn could benefit the rest of that block.”
“I think there will be change on the rest [of the street] and if you are able to do that, I could see others following suit and becoming a much more valuable area,” Skrelunas said at the meeting, held in the Janet Lindstrom Room at the New Canaan Historical Society’s Town House. Committee member Rose Scott Long, an architectural preservationist, added: “This is kind of a crucial point because there is definitely going to be more development in that area and what you do here it is really going to have a great impact.”
New Canaan should appoint a task force of town and school district representatives to evaluate what are the best options for a future Board of Education home, according to a primary recommendation committee that’s writing a soon-to-be-released report on the state, uses, capital needs and future of municipally owned buildings. Referring to the former Outback Teen Center as the ‘Town Hall annex,’ the committee also is to recommend that the long-vacant structure be used to house an alternative high school program. The Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee also will recommend that New Canaan “provide funds for architectural engineering designs to address long-delayed, necessary capital improvements at the police station,” co-chairman Amy Murphy Carroll said at the group’s most recent meeting, held Nov. 29 at Town Hall. She read from the Executive Summary of a draft report that’s expected to be presented this month to the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council.