‘This Definitely Does Not Look Like New Canaan To Me’: Selectman Voices Concerns About Proposed Redesign at Canaan Parish

Selectman Kit Devereaux on Tuesday morning voiced concerns about the aesthetics and appropriateness of early-stage plans for the redevelopment of a privately owned, 1979-built apartment complex on Lakeview Avenue. 

Pointing to a rendering of proposed new buildings at Canaan Parish from a Stamford-based architecture firm, Devereaux said at the meeting that she “saw this illustration and I am so hoping it is not the final design and that there will be some kind of public input on design.”

“This definitely does not look like New Canaan to me,” Devereaux said during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, held at Town Hall. “I am hoping it will look more like New Canaan than this.”

Officials for nearly two years have talked about whether Canaan Parish, a Section 8 complex, could be rebuilt with more density—a key toward achieving relief in the future from a state affordable housing requirement. 

Early-stage plans call for the 60-unit Canaan Parish complex at Route 123 to get to about 100 total units, Housing Authority officials have said. Devereaux’s comments came as the selectmen considered—and ultimately approved by a 3-0 vote—an allocation of $125,000 toward the redevelopment project from a fund that is comprised of New Canaan Building Department fees. 

She appears to refer to a June 13 meeting of the New Canaan Housing Authority, the sole publicly noticed meeting of the agency last month. Minutes from the meeting note only that a consultant “updated us the redevelopment of Canaan Parish.” She also referred to renderings from Amenta Emma Architects. Housing Authority Commissioner Bernard Simpkin, secretary of the agency’s board, said the rebuilding project is “a matter of getting the proper density and the proper area without it being over-dense and blend in with the community.”

“The idea is to maximize what we can on that property without going overboard, to make it as amenable to the community and to the people living there, and some public input from the people living there as well as the surrounding community is very important, and the town.”

The selectmen asked Simpkin whether public input will be had on the project (yes), whether the the rendering’s yellow-and-black colors were changeable (yes), who will make final decisions regarding design (a committee that includes members of the Housing Authority and New Canaan Neighborhoods, which owns the buildings), and whether it’s true the windows would only open three inches (not immediately clear).

Town Starts Allocation of Funds for Denser Redesign of Canaan Parish Affordable Housing Complex

Officials on Tuesday took a step toward securing four additional years of relief from a widely criticized state law that allows developers to skirt local planning decisions in towns such as New Canaan, where a low percentage of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s narrow definition. The Board of Selectmen voted 2-0 to approve $170,000 to be transferred from a specially designated town fund to the New Canaan Housing Authority. That agency is working with Canaan Parish, a Section 8 housing complex at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123, on plans to redevelop the apartments there with greater density in order to better use the land there and help New Canaan achieve a second four-year “moratorium” under the state law. Early-stage plans call for the 60-unit development to get to about 100 total units, Housing Authority Board Secretary Bernard Simpkin told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall. “We’ve already chosen an architect and now the next stage is doing the design, the engineering and all those things,” Simpkin said.

‘It’s Going To Be Hard’: New Canaan Faces Long Odds on Achieving Third Affordable Housing Moratorium, Officials Say

Though New Canaan this summer qualified for four years of relief from a state law that allows developers to skirt local planning decisions by designating a certain percentage of units in new projects as “affordable”—and could be positioned to achieve a second four-year “moratorium” under that law—it’s unclear now whether or how the town will be able to continue doing so. The major difficulty, according to the chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority, is the high cost and scarcity of land in town that could take a fair-sized (say, 20-unit) affordable development. “Land of any sort of sizeable acreage that is on sewer and water, is certainly subject to an [affordable housing] ‘cramdown’ from a developer, and it’s also therefore valuable to them,” Scott Hobbs told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission during their regular meeting, held Aug. 29 at Town Hall. “And knowing that someday we will run out of moratorium time, so the odds that we could buy a piece of property like that, is going to be hard.

‘It’s a Win-Win’: New Canaan Earns Four Years of Relief from Developers’ Loophole in State Affordable Housing Law

New Canaan on Tuesday received state approval for four years of relief from a law that allows developers to skirt local planning decisions by designating a certain percentage of units in new projects as “affordable.”

The Department of Housing issued the town a “Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion,” according to a notice published in the Connecticut Law Journal. It provides for a temporary moratorium from the requirements of the Affordable Housing Appeals Act—a state law often referred to by its statute number, “8-30g,” that long has loomed over New Canaan and other lower Fairfield County towns. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi called the moratorium—earned by New Canaan because it has added a significant amount of affordable units to its overall housing stock, almost all at Mill Pond—a “home run on two fronts.”

“Not only do we get the pressure out from beneath us from outsiders who may not have a New Canaan-centric desire to build housing that’s not in keeping with the feel of the town, but we also got an increase in our affordable house stock, and can offer housing to more people than we could six or seven years ago,” Mallozzi said. “So it’s a win-win and we were able to do it on our own terms, and that is huge.”

New Canaan has added about 90 units of affordable housing since 2010, Mallozzi said. The specter of 8-30g loomed over the Planning & Zoning Commission at the time New Canaan approved the redevelopment of Jelliff Mill into condos—an agreement that followed a lengthy, contentious legal battle and in the end required the builder to put money into a town fund that’s used for affordable housing development.

‘We Felt That It Was Not Humane’: Housing Authority Rescinds ‘Declawing’ Requirement for Residents’ Cats

Responding to concerns from animal welfare advocates, officials from the New Canaan Housing Authority say they’re moving away from a requirement that residents of affordable rental units at Millport Avenue have their cats “declawed.”

Banned in many countries, declawing typically involves amputating the last bone of each toe on a cat—the equivalent of cutting off each finger at the last knuckle on a person, according to the Humane Society of the United States. As detailed within an otherwise standard “Pet Addendum” to lease agreements that had been inherited by Stamford-based property manager WinnResidential, the rule required that “cats must be de-clawed and written proof of de-clawing is required.”

When New Canaan-based nonprofit rescue group Strays & Others learned of the policy, representatives reached out to WinnResidential as well as the Housing Authority’s commissioners—and got an immediate and decisive response. “We were so pleased to hear that the Housing Authority rescinded the policy for the management company, asking that their residents’ cats be declawed,” Strays & Others President Claudia Weber said. “It was the right thing to do.”

The declawing requirement had been a carryover from the Millport Apartments’ prior property manager, officials said. It isn’t clear exactly how many cats were declawed as a result of the policy, but it’s been rescinded effective immediately, according to commissioner Bernard Simpkin.