Town Seeks Public Input on POCD via Online Survey

Town officials are asking for the public’s input in a community-wide survey as they prepare to update the major guiding document for land use decisions in New Canaan. By state law, the Plan of Conservation and Development must be updated every 10 years. In New Canaan, the POCD underwent its most recent major update in 2014. The document informs P&Z “of how we should alter or stay the course” in the appointed body’s decision-making, said Town Planner Sarah Carey. 

She continued: “This is your chance as a member of the public to give us your opinion of: What are we doing well as a town? What do we need to improve on?

Downtown Development, St. Luke’s Campus Highlight Final Public Hearing on POCD

Though he lives just 400 feet from the heart of downtown New Canaan, Mark Noonan of St. John’s Place said he rarely walks into the heart of our village. Based on his own experience, Noonan said during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday night that it’s a mistake to think erecting multi-level residential buildings in areas such as nearby Grove Street—for older town residents seeking smaller housing in town, say—would lead to those same people walking into town. While Noonan praised the focus of a proposed Plan of Conservation and Development or “POCD” on areas such as downtown parking and preserving our village’s character, he added, “The height is such a sensitive issue.”

“Opening the door at all to height changes I think is really harmful to the town because it encourages greater density, greater packing and there’s always losers and winners when height restrictions change,” Noonan said during a final public hearing on the POCD, held in the Sturgess Room of the New Canaan Nature Center’s Visitors Center. “And certainly it can dramatically change the town character.”

The updated POCD—an advisory, state-mandated planning document designed to guide generally the future of development in the community (as opposed to a set of regulations that determine what must or must not happen)—has been in development since last year.

Letter: Seeking Clarification in Plan of Conservation and Development

Dear Editor:

One important zoning change in the 2014 “Plan of [Conservation and] Development” is still not clarified by P&Z in its language & use: “Planned Development Districts” or “institutional use of land in residential areas” such as: YMCA, St. Lukes, Silver Hill, Jelliff Mill, etc.  This is about to be approved in the Plan of Development for the obvious reason that it’s meant to be applied in the future – but the ramifications are not clear.  If it was never intended to be used – why put it in? What needs greater clarification is the legal affect on neighbors and interested parties versus advantages for the Town. Does it reduce the bargaining power of neighbors by insulating P&Z from future court actions? Once a district is designated under the new zone, P&Z can freeze the district (YMCA, Jelliff Mill, etc.) in place.  However, at their discretion P&Z can then either keep it frozen or opt to expand it. Apparently, P&Z is then insulated from legal action in the courts which appears to limit neighbor’s options.  This would also mean that even if public meetings for input are held before the expansion – the new zone will not compel the P&Z to take any particular action on behalf of the neighbors.