P&Z Denies Grace Farms’ Bid To Host Other Organizations’ Sports Programs

Saying it would be a slap in the faces of concerned neighbors and citing the awkward timing of the request, officials on Monday night turned down Grace Farms’ bid to host other organizations’ multiple youth and adult sports activities in its own gymnasium over the next six months. Grace Farms already had applied to amend its operating permit in order to allow for wide-ranging activities that have been taking place on its Lukes Wood Road campus, and OK’ing the use of its gym by other organizations—in this case, the New Canaan YMCA and St. Luke’s School—would be very bad timing because that application is pending, according to members of the Planning & Zoning Commission. Though P&Z may, under Grace Farms’ current permit, make special allowances for such a use, “if there was ever a time you would not want to do it, it is now, while we are considering altering a special permit for Grace Farms,” P&Z commissioner Jack Flinn said during the group’s special meeting, held at Town Hall. “I think it is not incidental.

‘Desecration Is Illegal’: Cemetery Expert Says Neighbor of ‘Merritt Village’ Has Paved Over Burial Plots

Rather than search for violations connected to a proposed 116-unit apartment-and-condo complex, where no cemetery exists, leaders and historic preservationists in New Canaan should focus on the “high level of desecration” that has affected known burial plots next door, an expert in the field said Tuesday night. The eastern portion of the historic ‘Maple Street Cemetery’—not the portion owned by hopeful ‘Merritt Village’ developer M2 Partners—includes plants and mulch placed directly over known graves, and “what makes matters worse in terms of demonstrating the desecration” is a driveway that has paved over the burial sites of Rufus St. John and Richard Fairweather, according to Andrew Mellilo of Greenwich-based RVDI, a land use consulting firm. “We know there are bodies in those plots and it has been paved over,” Mellilo told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission during a special meeting, held at Town Hall. He told the commission that an underground surveying company determined that there has been no disturbance in the soil on M2’s property, such as would be caused by a decomposing body or the presence of graves.

‘A Reasonable Compromise Has To Be Worked Out’: P&Z Weighs In on Merritt Village Proposal

Questions about the viability of a new parking system, guarantees regarding the set-aside of some below-market units and the potential that a condo-and-apartment complex could loom conspicuously over parts of Park Street rank high among outstanding concerns regarding the proposed development at Merritt Apartments, the chairman of the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission said Tuesday night. Most of all, perhaps, the Merritt Village as proposed—a plan that would see 123 units built on a combined 3.29-acre parcel at the edge of downtown New Canaan where 38 now exist—raises questions about “the density of the whole project,” P&Z Chairman John Goodwin said during a public hearing. “One component is—is four stories the right answer or should it be three?—which effectively becomes three-and-a-half [stories] with a roof,” Goodwin said during the hearing, which drew a standing-room only crowd at Town Hall. “And as the planner has noted, there is the issue of how many units. The planner has shared with the commission his analysis that if we were to apply the current most dense project in New Canaan to [the Merritt Village] project, the number that would fall out would be 95 units, so that is a challenge.

High Praise for ‘Respectful’ Renovation and Expansion at Hoyt and Main

A newly renovated house on a prominent Main Street corner is earning high praise for its preservation of the original 1903 structure that stands there and consideration for the neighborhood’s streetscape, as well as a respectful expansion that a series of prior owners had failed to execute, experts say. The recently completed alterations at 224 Main St. follow a stripping-off of additions and siding to get to an original “skeleton of the house” that was retained and then expanded on “in a way that looks as though they grew it over the past 100 years, like a natural progression of architecture, and that’s fantastic,” said New Canaan resident Martin Skrelunas, an architecture and landscape preservationist. “The parts that the developer tore off were themselves very insensitive, they had no relationship to the antique house or the neighborhood,” Skrelunas continued. “What I would say they’ve done—and I hate using these words because they’re not easy to translate—but they’re respecting the original building and ‘maintaining the hierarchy.’ So the antique portion of the house is the most important and largest in this case, and as each new function was designed and built, it recedes a little bit.

Parking, Traffic Concerns Arise as Forest St. Construction Nears

As the start of a major construction project along the narrow, one-way stretch of Forest Street draws near, planning officials are urging those in charge to coordinate and communicate with police and merchants on matters of parking and traffic. Construction will start this summer of a three-story mixed residential-and-retail complex at 21 Forest St. The project will see two commercial spaces, seven residential units, a pocket park and 48-space parking lot go in where The Farmer’s Table (now across the street), Forest Street Deli and a long-vacant parking lot have been located for years. The street will be “shut down for hours at a time,” Planning and Zoning Commissioner Dan Radman said Tuesday at the group’s meeting. “You’re going to be staging, bringing steel in, and cement trucks and everything else,” Radman said at the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room of the New Canaan Nature Center’s Visitors Center.