Affordable Housing: Town Council Discusses New Canaan’s Handling of Moratorium Application 

New Canaan’s legislative body last week called for the town to consider getting a second legal opinion on whether the municipality should move forward now with an application to the state for relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said earlier this month that, following discussions with the Connecticut Department of Housing, the town will wait until the second phase of the Canaan Parish is completed to apply for a four-year “moratorium” from the state law known by its statute number, 8-30g. Towns like New Canaan, where less than 10% of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s definition, are susceptible to the 8-30g law. Under it, developers can use an appeal process to effectively skirt local zoning regulations when applying for multi-family housing project where at least 30% of all units are rented at affordable rates. 

The town has received two such applications from local developer Arnold Karp, at Weed and Elm Streets, and on Main Street. Moynihan has said that, based on discussions with the state, the town “does not currently have enough affordable housing ‘points’ to qualify for a moratorium.” 

Specifically, the town in drawing up its application for relief—allowable under 8-30g for municipalities that create a certain number of new affordable units—had not accounted for “deductions” for pre-existing affordable housing that were demolished as part of a pan to rebuild with higher density. 

Even so, “we believe our facts are distinguishable based on the kinds of units that we have,” Moynihan told members of the Town Council at their June 15 meeting, held at Town Hall.

Republican Candidates for Town Council Face Off in Second Debate

Republican candidates for Town Council offered their views on on some of the town’s most controversial planning and zoning applications during the Republican Town Committee’s second candidates’ debate held at Town Hall Wednesday. Currently there are six Republican candidates for Town Council: Roy Abramowitz, Tom Butterworth, Mike Mauro, Rich Townsend and incumbents Penny Young and John Engel. They are jockeying for seats opening up on the Town Council this fall and thus are seeking party backing. When asked for his opinion on the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recent approval of the Merritt Village redevelopment downtown, Engel, who missed the first RTC debate in June, said, “Real estate is what I do—and I have a deep understanding of the Merritt Village project.”

“Number one, I respect the process,” he said of the recent approval. “We heard earlier that the Town Council doesn’t get involved in what P&Z should do—just like the first selectmen doesn’t tell them what to do—and I don’t think we should have a thumb on the scale with P&Z.

GOP Candidates For Town Council Spar Over Cell Service, Transparency During Debate

Five of six Republican candidates seeking seats on the Town Council in the upcoming November municipal elections debated a range of topics—from cell towers to land acquisition to transparency in local government—during a lively and well-attended debate hosted by the Republican Town Committee at Town Hall last week. Four Republican seats on the Town Council are up for grabs in the upcoming fall election. The six candidates seeking nomination from town Republicans in the upcoming caucus, to be held July 18, include incumbents John Engel and Penny Young, as well as Roy Abramowitz, Tom Butterworth, Mike Mauro and Richard Townsend. Engel was unable to attend the debate. Recently, the town Utilities Commission, which is searching for ways to improve cell service in town, issued a report proposing that cell towers be erected in Irwin Park and near West School.