P&Z Chair: Those Advocating for State Affordable Housing Laws ‘Have Largely Ignored’ New Canaan’s Ongoing Efforts

The chair of New Canaan’s Planning & Zoning Commission said during the appointed body’s most recent meeting that he’s given testimony on proposed state legislation regarding affordable housing. The arguments behind “a number of bills” under consideration by the Connecticut General Assembly is “that historical and current zoning regulations have and continue to propagate exclusionary zoning in the state of Connecticut,” John Goodwin said during P&Z’s regular meeting, held March 30 via videoconference. “Meaning the argument is they keep housing costs high and then exclude lower income families from more affluent communities. One of the key bills is Bill 1024 some of the key provisions of that bill is 50% of the downtown area or 50% of an area within a half-mile of a transit station—that is, the New Canaan Train Station, in our case—would be subject to four or more unit housing as-of-right, meaning that if somebody came in and wanted to build a four-unit project there’s little that the Planning & Zoning Commission could do to control that development. In addition there would be no parking requirements for that development.

‘A Potential Signature Change for the Town’: P&Z Opens New Canaan Library Rebuilding Application

New Canaan Library through many early design iterations sought to include the original 1913 building, the organization’s executive director said last week. Yet in acquiring an adjacent South Avenue property in 2017, opening up new possibilities for the best possible design, as well as a fundraising feasibility study “and a careful assessment of the functional needs for the building and grounds, the design could no longer incorporate the original facade into the building within these parameters,” Lisa Oldham told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission during their regular meeting. “The library then began to explore how it might retain the original structure, freestanding on-site,” Oldham said during the March 30 meeting, held via videoconference. “Several options for relocating it on the green were explored. In weighing these options, the library considered the following: First, the cost to rebuild the structure.

P&Z File: 100 Letters Submitted Regarding New Canaan Library’s Rebuilding Plans

The town has received 100-plus letters regarding New Canaan Library’s applications related to a widely discussed plan to rebuild the downtown facility, according to documents published on the municipal website. 

Listed along with the library’s voluminous applications under the site’s Planning & Zoning section, most of the letters call for officials to preserve the original 1913 structure, though 24 of those—nearly half of the total—are identical form letters whose signatories identify themselves in many cases as out-of-town or out-of-state. In some cases those submitting the form letter to various town bodies appear to have copied and pasted it without taking the further step of filling out their own names at the end, so that the signature still reads “Name Email Address.” One person, Nancy Odell Rombach, signed form letter with her name and email, and then wrote “Used to be cedar lane, new canaan ,ct.”

The form letter itself refers to a “groundswell of New Canaan residents eager to keep our 1913 landmark library building in its original iconic location.”

Those advocating for approval of the library’s plans call the proposed new facility—as submitted, including a green space where the 1913 building now stands—transformative for the downtown, local businesses and wider community. The Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday is expected to take up the library’s applications to build a new glass-and-stone exterior facility that features an auditorium, outdoor terrace, café and public concourse, and reimagines use of the organization’s gateway block to the downtown. The library is applying for site plan and Special Permit approval, text changes to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations and an attendant zoning boundary change. The new library will cost about $35 million to build, officials have said, and construction will last for approximately two years.

Owner of Downtown Building Seeks To Convert 2nd-Floor Retail Space to Residential 

Saying demand for retail space in downtown New Canaan is low, the owner of a commercial building on South Avenue is seeking permission to convert its second-floor back into an apartment. For years, the use of both floors at 13 South Ave. has been retail, according to a site plan and Special Permit application filed with Planning & Zoning on behalf of the property owner by Milo Ceci of Greenwich-based MLC Development LLC. “An interior design shop, Cobble Court Interiors, occupied the unit since 2008,” Ceci’s Feb. 24 letter said. 

“Their lease ended as of January 2021.

‘I Am Optimistic’: Glass House To Reopen April 16

While they must continue to operate under public health-related restrictions that have impacted revenue, officials with an internationally renowned National Trust for Historic Preservation site on Ponus Ridge say they’re looking forward to reopening for the season next month. The Glass House in a normal season draws about 15,000 visitors, according to Executive Director Greg Sages. The figure declined to 5,500 visitors in 2020, and at a reduced per-person revenue, he said. “People were not coming to the Visitors Center in the numbers they had previously, so the Design Store was impacted, too,” Sages said. “It’s doing well but it has been impacted by access to throughput.”

Now, following a unanimous vote by the Planning & Zoning Commission at its Feb.