Jose “Joey” Diaz, a Norwalk resident and ninth-grader at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering in Stamford, originally planned to portray a hand reaching out in his submission for an art exhibition that opened this weekend at the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society. But “I kind of messed it up,” Diaz said Saturday from a second-floor gallery at the Oenoke Ridge nonprofit organization, standing near his acrylics-and-markers work titled “We All Bleed Red.”
“And I turned it into something else, which was a fist,” Diaz said. “I did a lot of blood on the knuckles and everywhere. It kind of shows how much people suffer, from police brutality, hate crimes. All of that.
A National Trust for Historic Preservation site on Ponus Ridge that draws architecture enthusiasts and other visitors from around the world is seeking permission from the Planning & Zoning Commission to reopen in a limited way, as per COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions.
The Glass House in May won P&Z approval to open under similar conditions for a limited period of time, has applied to the Commission for permission to have up to 16 visitors’ cars park at the 49-acre site itself, since the nonprofit organization’s small tour buses wouldn’t allow or social distancing, according to its executive director. “[T]he Glass House proposes that, for a finite period of time, visitors be allowed to drive to the site,” Greg Sages wrote in a Jan. 27 cover letter to P&Z. “On-site parking would be limited to 16 cars. Parking at West School is not available this year as in-school learning is in effect.
Despite concerns voiced by a Planning & Zoning Commission member who lives near The Glass House, the appointed body last week voted 4-2 to allow the organization to host a wedding this fall on its Ponus Ridge campus. Dick Ward, a P&Z commissioner who lives on Winfield Lane, .3 miles from the National Trust for Historic Preservation site, said approval of the Oct. 4 wedding “would, in my opinion, create perhaps an unnecessary and perhaps dangerous precedent, on two levels.”
“One is it’s been our longtime practice that financial considerations are not a criteria to support a Special Permit or an amendment to a Special Permit,” Ward said during P&Z’s regular meeting, held Aug. 25 via videoconference. “And it’s pretty clear that the request is based on a financial concern and I don’t think we want to open that door.
Saying they expect the state’s social distancing guidelines to remain in place as the COVID-19 virus pandemic persists, officials at The Glass House are seeking to extend to the end of the tour season a handful of special allowances from the Planning & Zoning Commission. P&Z in May approved a Glass House request to allow a small amount of parking on-site at Ponus Ridge, and to permit overflow parking in the nearby West School lot. Granted amid coronavirus-related restrictions on museums the Glass House officials said would make its regular operation prohibitively difficult—specifically, observing social distancing requirements in small vans used to get tour-goers from a downtown Visitors Center to The Glass House itself—the allowances are set to expire at month’s end. The organization is asking that they be extended through Dec. 15.
Saying it’s a reasonable request given the COVID-19 virus-related restrictions, the Planning & Zoning Commission last week agreed to make special allowances for The Glass House to operate this summer. Allowing a limited number of visitors to drive directly to the Ponus Ridge site and for others to park at West School (pending approval by the Board of Education) will help the National Trust for Historic Preservation site during a challenging time and will not have a negative impact on the neighborhood, P&Z members said during their May 26 meeting. Just the opposite, according to Chair John Goodwin. “I think quite frankly this will help the property values of the neighbors because we are not in the money business, but these guys need to make money and if they are not, and that property falls into disrepair it’s going to negatively impact the values of the properties of those neighbors,” Goodwin said at the meeting, held via videoconference.
Under rules that will be in effect through August with an option to renew them depending on guidance from the state, The Glass House will sell tickets online only for a “grounds pass” that provides access to the 49-acre site’s upper 13 acres and no building access. Other conditions proposed by Glass House Executive Director Greg Sages include that grounds passes will be limited to a maximum of 25 visitors at a time, with no group larger than five, and that on-site parking will be limited to 10 cars.