Councilman Calls for New Canaan To Make Decisions on ‘Under-Utilized’ Town-Owned Buildings

A member of New Canaan’s legislative body is calling for municipal officials to examine whether it’s time to offload town-owned structures that she described as “under-utilized.”

Town Councilman Penny Young said Monday that “it is really time to look a little more in-depth” at “some of these buildings which are under-utilized or which we should be offloading.”

“Other than the swing space for a possible need for the police, what do we do with the Irwin House?” Young said during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. “Because it’s really not that great a structure. So maybe the recommendation is that after the police have use of it, it’s demolished. So I think we really need to take a good look. What is happening with Vine Cottage?

Town Awaits Bids on Waveny House ADA Project as Major Funding Decision Looms

Municipal officials say they’re eagerly awaiting contractors’ bids this week for a major multi-part project at Waveny House, as the town decides whether and how quickly to redress the historic structure’s noncompliance with ADA standards. Originally believed to be a project of narrow scope costing about $1 million, a multi-year project now expected to cost $2.8 million would include creation of ADA-compliant bathrooms and installation of an elevator so that disabled people could access Waveny’s second floor—where the Parks & Recreation Department is located—as well as required upgrades to a fire escape and entrances to the brick mansion from its west porch and rear balcony. 

While some municipal leaders have said they support the project, including First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, others—including some members of New Canaan’s legislative body—have voiced concerns about spending the money while much of the large structure itself still has no clearly defined long-term use or identified revenue stream beyond the roughly $100,000 to $140,000 generated annually through renting it out for events such as weddings. “We have got to make some decisions about this project, because if we have no project, we probably don’t have a Waveny House,” Moynihan said Monday during a meeting of the Selectmen’s Committee on Facilities and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. 

The Board of Finance and Town Council are expected to vote next month on whether to authorize the funds (the issuance of bonds to pay for the project, and attendant public hearings, would still need to follow). Bid packages expected to arrive Thursday could make a major difference in the town’s decision, officials say, especially given the prospect of cost-savings with contractors finding less work now amid the COVID-19 public health emergency. “The numbers will help us decide,” Moynihan said.