Property Owner Appeals Six Conditions Attached to P&Z’s ‘Merritt Village’ Approval

The group that owns Merritt Apartments is appealing some of the conditions placed on its hard-won approval to develop the downtown New Canaan site with up to 110 units. M2 Partners is “aggrieved” by six of the 65 conditions that the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission imposed on construction of the planned ‘Merritt Village’ complex near Maple and Park Streets, according to an appeal filed Dec. 22 in state Superior Court in Stamford. The conditions—which deal with the ‘Old Burial Ground’ or ‘Maple Street Cemetery,’ underground parking and fencing during construction—have no legal or factual basis and should be revised or deleted, according to the appeal, filed on behalf of M2 by attorney Steve Finn of Stamford-based Wofsey Rosen Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP. A series of conditions regarding the burial ground would appear especially objectionable to M2 because, if upheld, they would require the property owner to seek approval for an amended site plan.

PHOTOS: Fire from Parked Car Sparks Blaze in Merritt Apartments Garage on Saturday Night

A fire that started with an unoccupied, parked car in a 4-bay garage on the edge of downtown New Canaan Saturday evening led to a blaze that burned through the structure’s roof, officials said. The cause of the fire is under investigation, though no foul play is suspected, according to New Canaan Fire Department Capt. Mike Socci. No one was hurt, though the fire caused property damage, including to the early 1960s-model Chevy Nova where it appeared to have started, he said. “The garage was full of plastic and hydrocarbons and due to what was burning and the sudden smoke, there were some personal belongings that did get ruined,” Socci said. After smoke was detected in the area, firefighters received a call around 6:40 p.m. and knocked the fire down quickly, he said.

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.

Specter of Affordable Housing Looms as P&Z Nears Decision on ‘Merritt Village’ Proposal

New Canaan could use an increase in its in-town housing supply, for seniors, young professionals and, in some cases, families, the head of the Planning & Zoning Commission said Tuesday night. Some families want to live in town and “we can’t tell them where to live,” P&Z Chairman John Goodwin said during the commission’s first discussion of the divisive Merritt Village application since the public hearing on it closed. “I am not convinced that there will be an influx which would overwhelm the schools—I just don’t see the demographics going in that direction and the applicant put on the record some demographics there, so some sort of huge school enrollment spike—I am just not convinced,” he said during the meeting, held at Town Hall. “I am convinced that a vibrant town needs to meet the demand and the demand right now is for some in-town housing and I know there is a view that New Canaan should ideally never change—I would love that, too, but the reality is that towns do change and I think quite frankly that we have to worry right now about our village. There is a company called Amazon which is the leader in taking share of retail sales.