Officials Recommend Raising ‘Fee-in-Lieu’ Parking Rates for Commercial Projects Downtown

Saying New Canaan’s rates lag other towns and haven’t been upped in years, officials are recommending that the town raise its fees for those seeking to pay money into a parking fund in lieu of providing the required number of spaces for commercial construction projects. A committee of the Planning & Zoning Commission proposed at its most recent meeting that the baseline fee for the first “fee-in-lieu” space go up from $17,500 to $20,000, with increases in other categories to follow. “We have seen some resistance at $17,500 but I think it would not seem unreasonable to me to bump it a little bit this year,” Jean Grzelecki of the Plan of Conservation & Development Implementation Committee said at the group’s most recent meeting, held Nov. 28 at Town Hall. Going to $20,000 “seems pretty reasonable,” she said.

Cost- and Energy-Efficient LED Bulbs Coming to Downtown New Canaan’s Holiday Lights

In an environmentally friendly move that’s expected to save money for the town as well as supporting businesses and individuals, the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce next holiday season will start using new energy-efficient white bulbs in the trees downtown. The cost of installing, replacing and removing the bulbs that adorn trees on Main, Elm and Forest Streets is about $20,000 per year, according to Tucker Murphy, the chamber’s executive director. Officials have wanted to switch to LED bulbs but the only ones available in the past were “harsh blue-gray and we didn’t like the light,” Murphy said. “They’ve finally come out with a [LED] bulb that has that soft, warm, mellow glow, so we are starting to transfer over to LEDs,” she said. Murphy announced the switchover at the May 16 meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development Implementation Committee.

Did You Hear … ?

To help promote the 2015 Books, Blues, and BBQ party to benefit the New Canaan Library, the event’s committee members are encouraging residents to post on the library’s Facebook page photos of themselves wearing a favorite cowboy hat. “Over the years, cowboy attire has become associated with this important fundraising event,” Holly Parmelee, committee co-chairperson, said in a press release. “It is common that party-goers come decked out in cowboy hats and boots. So we thought it would be fun to encourage community members to show their support for the library and the event by posting a photo of themselves wearing their favorite cowboy hat.” See the gallery above for some familiar faces around town that are already participating. ***

Some disturbing news here: We’re hearing that some residents of Spring Water Lane last Wednesday discovered ‘#WhiteLivesMatter’ flyers, in Zip-loc bags and weighed down with rocks, on top of their mailboxes.

‘It Should Be Called Bank of Somalia’: Papp Slams Bank of America for Unkempt Property on Elm

The Bank of America property opposite the Playhouse on Elm Street is unkempt and unsightly, and New Canaan should have some mechanism—in its Town Code, budget or Zoning Regulations—to either force the bank to spruce up the area or empower the town to fix it promptly, officials say. If New Canaan doesn’t have the authority now, then the Town Council should adopt an ordinance that would force the Bank of America and other businesses whose properties front public sidewalks downtown to “do a decent job,” Planning & Zoning Commission member Laszlo Papp said Wednesday at a meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development (or “POCD”) Implementation Committee. “The area in front of Bank of America is atrocious,” Papp said at the meeting, held in the Training Room at the New Canaan Police Department. “Bank of America doesn’t even deserve the name—it should be called ‘Bank of Somalia.’ That is the way it looks.”

The criticism emerged during a wider discussion of improving aesthetics downtown, among members of the committee—an advisory group of elected and appointed officials, municipal employees and residents, charged with seeing through relevant recommendations of the recently updated POCD (see especially Section 4, starting on page 29 here). The parcel occupied by Bank of America is owned by a company, care of a separate company whose principal is a Danbury woman, according to records on file with the town Assessor and Connecticut Secretary of the State.

Parking Commission on Locust and Lumberyard: ‘We Need to Tier Those Two Lots’

The reopening of Town Hall, which started this week and will come in waves through the summer, will exacerbate a shortage of parking downtown—a problem that must be solved by decking the Locust Avenue lot and transferring some municipal employees into the proposed new structure, the head of the New Canaan Parking Commission said Wednesday. New Canaan for more than a half-century has acknowledged a shortage in parking for downtown visitors as well as commuters, and the tiering of Locust and Lumberyard lots is the sensible, minimally disruptive solution—projects that the town should pursue regardless of separate capital projects such as the proposed Saxe Middle School auditorium and classroom expansion, Keith Richey said during a meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development Implementation Committee. “Both lots fall away from the street so a single tier could be added at street level, negating any serious concern about having an ugly parking structure—a concern I share, by the way,” Richey said during the meeting, held in the Training Room at the New Canaan Police Department. “There is little controversy over the conclusion. There is no need for another study to tell us this would materially improve the situation.”

He continued: “We need to tier the Locust Avenue Parking Lot and the Lumberyard Lot.