‘I Have No Inclination’: Police Commission Rejects Proposed Parking Meters on Main and Elm

New Canaan’s local traffic authority voted unanimously Wednesday night to reject a proposal to start charging for parking on Main and Elm Streets. 

The Police Commission voted 2-0 to deny the proposal for metered parking in the heart of the business district. 

Chairman Sperry DeCew noted during the Commission’s regular meeting that officials are still investigating whether the business district can gain back 13 spaces lost last year due to the town’s decision to observe a state law regarding buffers near crosswalks. “It was changed 50 years ago for pretty good reasons, and people have gotten used to having that enticement to shop and everything else,” DeCew said during the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department. He referred to the fact that Elm Street used to have parking meters. 

“I have no inclination to change the current situation,” DeCew said. 

He and Commissioner Jim McLaughlin voted 2-0 to deny the recommendation, which originated with the New Canaan Parking Commission. That appointed group had voted 3-2 at a meeting earlier this month in favor of the change, with advocates saying it didn’t make sense to offer up the most coveted spaces for free while charging for parking further out, and that it was the only way New Canaan would get employees of downtown businesses, stores and restaurants out of the free spaces designed to served shoppers and diners. Asked for her opinion by the Police Commission, Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg, a guest at the meeting, said she personally didn’t support it. 

“I don’t believe it would be beneficial to merchants or anybody coming into town to park,” Miltenberg said.

Police: Temporary Sign at Nursery Road Has Created New ‘Safety Concern’ in U-Turning Motorists

The new ‘No Left Turn’ sign preventing northbound motorists from turning from Marvin Ridge onto Nursery Road during the morning commute is creating an entirely new safety hazard, according to police. Drivers seeking to avoid Merritt Parkway traffic between Exits 38 and 37 are traveling just past the sign and then pulling into private residential driveways—including those that serve as bus stops for local schoolchildren—in order to swing back around to make the right-hand turn down Nursery, according to New Canaan Police Deputy Chief John DiFederico. “I can confirm that is happening frequently, every minute or so there is another car that is northbound that pulls into [a Marvin Ridge Road woman’s] driveway, backs out into traffic, goes down southbound and turns right onto Nursery,” DiFederico told members of the Police Commission during their March 20 meeting, held at police headquarters. “That is a pretty serous safety concern, in my opinion, that now we have cars going onto private property that are school bus stops and backing into traffic. And that is something that we never had before with just high-volume traffic on Nursery Road.

‘I Don’t Think the Public Knows’: Police Commission Calls for Renovation of NCPD Headquarters

Though it may look perfectly fine to those driving past on South Avenue, the New Canaan Police Department building has defective plumbing, mold, crumbling masonry, 16 broken windows, a leaking skylight, a sewer fly problem in the men’s locker room, loose and broken tiles in the women’s and poor or non-existent ventilation throughout, officials said Wednesday. Two of four men’s jail cells have been closed due to plumbing issues, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said during a regular meeting of the Police Commission, and the old-style cell bars in them also must be replaced with flat plexiglass doors because prisoners have tried to hang themselves by the bars. 

Several offices in the building are not connected to its centralized HVAC system, and 48 windows require hardware that’s no longer available because the windows themselves are so old, he said. “There is moisture in some rooms—that’s not a good thing,” Krolikowski said during the meeting, held in the training room at police headquarters. “Ventilation in processing areas is nonexistent and we often get narcotic smells in our hallways due to evidence storage and no way to ventilate that.”

The comments came during a general update to the Commission, as the police building itself—though multiple town bodies have acknowledged the pressing need for renovation—sits as-is while town officials consider a complicated, multi-transaction proposal that would see the department relocated downtown (more on that below). “I don’t think the public knows any of this,” Police Commissioner Jim McLaughlin said, referring to the problems enumerated by the chief during his brief presentation.

Police Commission: Let’s Take a Second Look at Parking Changes That Cost Elm Street 13 Spaces

Members of the Police Commission said Wednesday night that they’re willing to take a second look at a decision they made last summer to comply with a seldom-observed state law, leading to the elimination of 13 parking spaces on Elm Street. 

Prompted by a local attorney’s assertion that there appears to be a relevant 1950 opinion letter from the state attorney general and an appellate court case that could empower the town to find relief from the statute, commissioners said during their regular meeting that they would ask for a formal opinion from municipal counsel. New Canaan lost 13 spaces on Elm Street after a resident put town officials on formal notice about the town’s lack of compliance with a state law requiring a 25-foot buffer between crosswalks and parking spaces. Though local officials at the time asked transportation consultants and the state about what New Canaan might to do find a way out from under the restriction, no path to exemption materialized, and the Police Commission—the town’s on-street parking authority—voted 3-0 at its July 18 meeting to change Elm Street’s parking configuration. 

Merchants in the heart of New Canaan bemoaned the loss of parking. 

A guest at this week’s Commission meeting, Richard Stewart, said the change has upset him. Saying he’s seen a high number of vacant storefronts on Elm, Stewart told the Commission, “I know they are all under attack from Amazon and the Internet but in New Canaan that is such a vital thing for our town—we don’t have like Darien has a waterfront, we have the 100-acre cent er of town with the retail space and everybody comes in and it becomes a friendlier town.”

According to Stewart, an opinion issued by the Connecticut attorney general in 1950, one year after the statute in question took effect, could give municipalities the ability to pass an ordinance that allows them to get out from under the 25-foot rule. Stewart said he would investigate the option which while it “doesn’t have the power of law, still has power.”

He added that he found an appellate court case where a man fighting a $90 parking ticket was told by the court that he would have the ability to be exempted from the parking rule but that his city didn’t have an exemption on its own books, “so let’s make sure our town does that.”

Stewart said he would return at the Commission’s April 17 meeting with the information.