Saying a barn on New Canaan Country School property has architectural and historical significance, a town resident has filed a formal objection to its proposed demolition.
The private school on Aug. 1 applied to the New Canaan Building Department to demolish the estimated 4,500-square-foot, ca. 1870-built red barn, records show. Citing Mary Louise King’s history “A Portrait of New Canaan,” Mimi Findlay, a founder of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, said the barn once was part of William Davenport’s farm. “King relates that the farm was purchased from foreclosure by the the New Canaan Savings Bank at the end of the century by the Grace Church in NYC,” Findlay wrote in her objection letter, filed Wednesday with the chief building official.
An attorney for New Canaan Country School is denying a neighbor’s claim that the new athletic facility approved for school’s Frogtown Road campus will diminish the value of her home more in its planned location than it would anywhere else on the 70-plus-acre property. Attorney Steve Finn, a partner at Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP, also is denying the neighbor’s claim that locating the two-story facility near the school’s eastern property line was done “solely for NCCS’s convenience” even though there were other potential sites that would’ve had less impact. In answering a lawsuit filed in August on behalf of the neighbor, Katherine Moore, Finn in several places—for example, in addressing the assertion that one member of the Planning & Zoning Commission who had recused himself from considering the application later actively participated in deliberations—said New Canaan Country School “is unable to admit or deny the allegations … and leaves the plaintiff to her proof.”
P&Z in March voted 9-0 in favor of a Special Permit application filed on behalf of the school, and in June approved the site plan (with 17 conditions) by a 7-1 vote. The town is named as primary defendant in the administrative appeal and is represented by Westport-based Berchem Moses PC.
Finn filed his answer Sept. 27, according to Connecticut Judicial Branch records, and the case last week was transferred to Superior Court in Hartford.
A neighbor of New Canaan Country School this month filed a lawsuit appealing the Planning & Zoning Commission’s approval of a two-story, 25,000-square-foot athletic facility near their shared property line. According to the administrative appeal filed in state Superior Court on behalf of the plaintiff, Katherine Moore, the new facility’s location “is such that it will have more negative impact on the use, enjoyment and value of the Moore property than it would literally anywhere else on the 70-plus-acre school property.”
P&Z’s decision, ultimately, to approve the Country School’s site plan “is illegal, arbitrary, capricious and constitutes an abuse of discretion for a variety of reasons,” according to the complaint, filed Aug. 9 by attorney Ted O’Hanlon of Stamford-based Robinson + Cole. According to the complaint, those reasons include that the Country School’s initial application was incomplete and inaccurate, failed to meet New Canaan’s Special Permit criteria, that P&Z reached its decision through “incomplete, non-conforming and illegal plans” that the Commission then tried to address through conditions of approval and that the plan allows the school to exceed maximum allowable coverage illegally (by applying a 2006 Zoning Board of Appeals decision that’s no longer relevant). “The Commission ignored competent and unrefuted evidence offered by Moore that the facility could be located elsewhere on the school property, in a location that fully complied with the Zoning Regulations, and without impacting neighbors so severely, if at al, and which did not present the traffic or safety complications at the approved location,” the complaint said.
A newly formed company last week acquired seven residential properties in New Canaan for a combined $5.1 million, records show, including three contiguous homes on East Avenue totaling .8 acres. All of the properties—they’re multifamily dwellings on East Avenue, as well as Mead Street, South Avenue and Park Street (see below)—were sold by New Canaan Country School. It isn’t clear just who the buyer is. Created in June, the company that acquired the properties—called ‘New Canaan Realty Partners LLC’—is itself owned by a New York City-based limited liability company, according to Connecticut Secretary of the State records.
That company is called ‘Capricorn Investment Group LLC’ and is based in New York, N.Y., the records show—yet a search of the New York Secretary of State’s business filings show no such company.
A California-based ‘Capricorn Investment Group LLC’ does exist, however—one of its managing directors is a Canadian billionaire who had worked as eBay’s first president. A woman who answered the phone there Thursday said she could not confirm or deny that it was the same Capricorn that purchased the New Canaan properties.
For 54 years, Horizons at New Canaan Country School has worked to provide better futures for K-12 students from low-income families by creating year-round academic, artistic and athletic opportunities through a variety of programs.
This year, Horizons has consolidated a major part of its support base by creating an Alumni Association. The program is something that the Board of Directors has been “working on for a long time, and tried many different approaches,” said New Canaan native and Board Chair Jennifer Barnard, who has been active with the organization for over 10 years. “The organization started 54 years ago, so there are hundreds and hundreds of people who have gone through the program, and it can be difficult to keep track of everyone involved,” Barnard said. “But with social media, everything has been made much easier.”
Brian McGregor, who works in IT Solutions at Bankwell in New Canaan who is from Stamford and attended Horizons through middle school, said he lost contact with fellow participants after they went off to different high schools. “After Horizons we would take SAT and ACT test prep, small programs to keep us together after graduation and help with the college process,” McGregor said.