Police Commission Chairmanship Turns Over at Heated Meeting

The appointed municipal body that oversees the New Canaan Police Department elected a new chair Wednesday night during an awkward organizational meeting. Paul Foley, a member of the Police Commission since December 2013, was elected chairman by a 2-1 vote following a heated exchange between his predecessor in the role and the town’s highest elected official. 

Sperry DeCew, a member of the Police Commission since June 2012, had served the past two years as chair. 

As per section 15-3 of the Town Charter, the three-member Commission meets “promptly after” Dec. 1—typically in January—for the election of its own officers “at the call of the First Selectman.” 

As First Selectman Kevin Moynihan opened the organizational meeting, held during the Commission’s regular meeting at police headquarters, DeCew said, “Let’s get on with this circus. Nominations for Commission chairman.”

Commissioner Jim McLaughlin—himself appointed one year ago to the Police Commission—nominated Foley. DeCew called for any other nominations.

‘I’m Not Optimistic’: State Rep Says New Canaan Likely To Lose Parking on Main Street 

New Canaan likely won’t be able to negotiate a way around losing several parking spaces on Main Street downtown, as per a state statute that prohibits spots near crosswalks, officials said this week. After speaking with Connecticut Department of Transportation officials, state Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125th) said that “obtaining waiver is probably not likely.”

O’Dea told members of the Police Commission during their regular meeting Wednesday that he intends to schedule a meeting with the DOT that includes New Canaan’s delegation to the General Assembly. “It is a statute, or regulation, that we have to try to get an exemption from,” O’Dea said during the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department. 

“What we are going to try and bring up is what other possible things we can do to address their safety concerns with having crosswalk and parking spots where they are currently, whether that be some sort of lighting or some sort of reflective things, but I would say I’m not optimistic I will be able to change their position.”

After a town resident complained to the DOT regarding New Canaan’s failure to observe a 1949 state law that prohibits parking within 25 feet of a marked crosswalk at an intersection, state officials pushed for immediately compliance. (The stretch of Main Street from Cherry to Locust Avenue doubles in parts as state Routes 106 and 124.) The town hired a Fairfield-based transportation consultant to study the area, and that firm returned last month with a new parking configuration that would limit the loss of parking to six net spaces. The Commission decided to hold off a vote on that plan, pending O’Dea’s input. 

O’Dea said the response from the DOT regarding its insistence that New Canaan comply with the law where perhaps other municipalities are not is, “Well, we have not received complaint or we are not aware of them, and they don’t have the staff to go inspect this situation.”

“So that is kind of where we are,” he said.

Police Commission: Don’t Remove Any Main Street Crosswalks Yet

New Canaan shouldn’t remove any crosswalks on Main Street until a traffic study is in hand and the town attorney reviews a legal opinion that could preempt the need, officials said last week. The Police Commission, New Canaan’s local traffic authority, during its Sept. 18 meeting voted unanimously to request that the town attorney look at a legal opinion challenging the notion that a state law required the municipality to lost 13 parking spaces on Elm Street irretrievably last summer. That same legal opinion—which finds, in part, that the town could preserve some parking through local ordinance—also bears “tangentially” on a more recent finding that New Canaan must lose 10 to 12 spaces on Main Street because they’re located within 25 feet of a crosswalk, according to Commission Chair Sperry DeCew. “If we had some municipal parking regulations, which are indicated… that could possibly help us with the Main Street issue,” DeCew said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held in the training room at the New Canaan Police Department.

Police Commission Turns Down Request for Road Closure for Proposed Street Fair on Forest

Saying it could set a bad precedent, town officials this week declined to approve a request to close Forest Street on a Sunday next month for a street fair with live music, games and activities such as face-painting. Though proposed with good intentions, as a way to bring the community together and showcase an area that’s not always featured in other downtown events, the street fair is not insured, has no sponsoring organization and isn’t designed to raise funds for a charitable cause, members of the Police Commission said. “To be honest, I do not like the precedent of closing a street for private use,” Commission Chairman Sperry DeCew said during Wednesday night’s regular meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department. “There is no overriding Chamber of Commerce approval or anything else. This is really to close a street so we can enhance business, and I think that is a dangerous precedent.”

DeCew and Commissioners Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin voted 3-0 to table the item to a future meeting.

Town Recommends Reducing Speed Limits to 25 mph Throughout Three Local Roads 

Town officials last week voted to recommend lowering the speed limits on three local roads so that they’re 25 mph throughout. 

The Police Commission voted 3-0 at its June 19 meeting to establish the new speed limit throughout Old Norwalk Road, Wahackme Road and Weed Street. “They should be uniform,” Chairman Sperry DeCew said during the regular meeting, held in the training room at the New Canaan Police Department. “Almost all of them [local roads] are 25 [mph].”

Commissioners Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin also voted in favor of the change. The change is meant to create more uniformity among local roads, which would then be 25 mph throughout New Canaan. (State roads such as Routes 106, 123 and 124 allow for higher speeds.) After residents of Silvermine Road complained about the 30 mph speed limit there, the town lowered it to 25 mph despite warnings from police and others that doing so would not change motorist behavior.