P&Z To Merritt Village Builder: We Thought the Retaining Walls Would Have Different Materials

Saying they’re disappointed that the materials they thought a local builder would be using for a retaining wall are not what has materialized along Park Street, members of the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night asked the developer of Merritt Village whether similar “faux-looking” structures could be expected. 

Weeks after addressing the matter of the retaining wall with New Canaan’s legislative body, Arnold Karp of Karp Associates came before P&Z to during the appointed group’s regular meeting. 

According to Karp, a second retaining wall above and behind the one that’s caused so much fuss is to be built, and there’s also one that curves around where motorists will enter Merritt Village from Park Street. 

Even so, Karp said, the retaining walls will be capped and partially hidden by plantings, and the buildings themselves—which feature natural stone and cedar shingles—will be the focal point for passersby. “I have to get a little more of the project on down the line before I have 18,000 architects who live in town telling me how it is going to look,” Karp told the Commission during its meeting, held at Town Hall. 

As P&Z itself includes architects Laszlo Papp, Dan Radman and Kent Turner, Karp added, “I wasn’t counting anybody on the commission in the 18,000,” drawing laughter from the room. Radman said, “But it’s only these three that you have to worry about.”

Merritt Village, a 110-unit apartment and condo complex approved by P&Z two years ago, following several months of hearings and a record-high number of conditions, is still about 18 months away from completion. 

Even so, Chairman John Goodman said that P&Z has received “a fair amount of feedback from the community” regarding the retaining wall, and therefore asked Karp and Karp Associates COO Paul Stone to address the matter. 

Karp said he takes P&Z’s comments to heart. 

“It’s not like I’m going to build this and disappear,” Karp said. “I’m here for the duration.”

Speaking of the retaining wall in its current state, he added: “We are looking at something that against this backdrop is very noticeable. They are not finished.

P&Z Approves Plan To ‘Abandon’ Richmond Hill Garage; Future of ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’ Still Unclear

Saying the abandonment—and, by implication, demolition—of a century-old, vacant brick building at the northern edge of Mead Park has been approved by multiple town bodies in the past, would improve the view there and is consistent with development guidelines for New Canaan, the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night voted unanimously to support a plan to relinquish it. Because the “Mead Park Brick Barn” or “Richmond Hill Garage” at 64 Richmond Hill Road is a town-owned building, P&Z approval is required under state law to “abandon” it. 

Even with P&Z’s 9-0 vote, however, the future of the building remains as unclear as it has since last week, when the Board of Selectmen decided to forgo voting on contracts to demolish it and dispose safely of its remains. During an interview after P&Z’s vote, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, a proponent of demolition, said the contracts must come back to the selectmen for a vote (the Board is scheduled to meet Nov. 6). Referring to parts of New Canaan’s periodically updated Plan of Conservation and Development or ‘POCD,’ P&Z Commissioners asserted that clearing the area of the brick structure offered advantages that outweighed what could be gained by preserving it. 

Chairman John Goodwin said the POCD requires New Canaan to “make some tradeoffs” with respect to historic buildings such as barns.

Real Estate Signs: Town Council To Propose ‘For Sale’ Sign Regulation to P&Z

Members of the town’s legislative body said on Monday that they would debate whether and how widely posted ‘For Sale’ signs in New Canaan may be phased out through regulations, and then would bring a recommendation to the Planning & Zoning Commission. In discussing the future of real estate signs in New Canaan, the Town Council itself first would hold what members expect to be well-attended public hearings, as would P&Z, officials said. “Ultimately I would see one of the best attended P&Z meetings that you have ever had, because it would be a big decision and you would have to hear both sides of the argument,” Steve Karl, co-chair of the Town Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee, said at the group’s special meeting, held in Town Hall. “And ultimately you would make the decision on whether to amend the policy or not. It’s not going to happen over one meeting.

Bank Use Proposed for Former ‘Mrs. Greens’ Space

The owners of the former Post Office building at Park and Pine Streets, most recently home to Mrs. Green’s grocery store, have applied to the town to allow for the prominent structure to be used as a bank. The owners of 2 Pine St. have entered into lease negotiations with Bank of America Corporation/Merrill Lynch to take over the space, according to an application filed Oct. 1 with Planning & Zoning. 

“In connection with the change of use to a bank, relatively minor changes to the building as detailed on the plans submitted herewith are planned which will result in a more elegant looking structure,” said a site plan statement filed on behalf of the property owners by attorney Steve Finn, a partner at Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky. The 6,320-square-foot property “is located at the corner of two highly visible gateways to downtown, Pine and Park Streets,” Finn said in the site plan statement.

New Owners of ‘Beval Saddlery’ Building Seek First-Floor Office Use for ‘Second Ring’ of Downtown New Canaan

Saying the change would help commercial property owners, retailers and the wider community, a local land use attorney has applied to the town to allow first-floor offices in a business zone that skirts the center of downtown New Canaan. Representing the new owners of the former Beval Saddlery building on Pine Street, attorney David Rucci of Main Street’s Lampert, Toohey & Rucci LLC is seeking to amend the New Canaan Zoning Regulations to “re-establish first floor office use with site plan review in the Business A zone.”

“The Business A zone was created in 1985,” Rucci wrote in an application filed Monday with Planning & Zoning. “It is the largest of the business zones and represents the second ring of the core. While there is a prohibition on new first floor office use today, over 50 percent of the zone serves first floor general office use. The remaining properties serve retail, bank, medical, second floor office use and single purpose type of business use.”

The application continued: “By re-establishing first floor general office use in the Business A zone, we believe the zone would become more economically viable for both A zone building owners and the Town of New Canaan.