Cross and Vitti Streets: ‘Ripe for Change’

Calling the area of Cross and Vitti Streets a largely neglected section of downtown New Canaan that has potential to serve the community better, officials on Tuesday sketched out a plan to re-imagine its use, density and streetscape, possibly even introducing a newly defined business zone. As it is now, most of the businesses on either side of Cross and Vitti are part of “Business Zone B”—a designation that allows for heavier-duty commercial use such as for garden supplies, hardware and lumber. But the way the area has developed—in some ways, as a kind of industrial park within New Canaan, with repair shops, car washes and print businesses—may not be just how it would be mapped out given a choice now, Town Planner Steve Kleppin said at a subcommittee meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission. “It’s ripe for change,” Kleppin said during the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room of the New Canaan Nature Center. “It’s the one area that I don’t know if there is anything that couldn’t change over there at some point in time, and there’s already talk of some new development over there, so I think it’s a good idea for us to be out front and really decide how do we want this area to look in the future, what’s the potential of it.”

Kleppin said he has money in the budget now to bring in a planning/design consultant to sketch out some designs and then oversee a series of public meetings and workshops for feedback from residents.

P&Z Approves Pool Pavilion Expansion at New Canaan Field Club

Town officials on Tuesday approved the widely discussed expansion of the pool pavilion at the New Canaan Field Club. The Planning & Zoning Commission’s vote followed two public hearings at which several neighbors, mostly on Glen Drive, cited what they anticipate to be increased noise and light, more frequent and new uses, and lower property values brought on by a significantly larger pavilion. P&Z placed 16 conditions on the approval, and though those conditions were not publicly available straightaway—since they were in draft form until the moment of the vote—they appeared to include that pavilion functions end prior to 10 p.m., that the club receive the town planner’s approval for a modified landscape plan designed to provide screening for neighbors, and that no noise-generating construction (nearly everything outside of painting) takes place on weekends. Commissioner John Goodwin said at the regular P&Z meeting that though neighbors objected to the size of the expanded pavilion—plans call for a 65 percent increase in square footage to its existing two floors, plus a new 2,322-square-foot floor and 1,078-square-foot outdoor deck—that the structure is in line with other clubs and appropriate for the Field Club’s property. Goodwin said he felt the style of the pavilion was attractive and that the club had taken some pains to ensure that porches generally were pointed away from the residential neighbors.

New Canaan To Seek Protection from Developer Loophole

While New Canaan may not be constituted to meet a rigorous state threshold that would forever protect the town from loophole-happy developers, it might be able to stave off unwanted development at least for a few years while alternatives are figured out, officials said Tuesday. A proposal that would double the number of affordable housing units at Mill Pond may trigger a three-year exemption from the Affordable Housing Appeals Act. Under that law, in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing qualifies as “affordable” by the state’s definition (see below—New Canaan’s is at about 2.4 percent), developers may bypass local planning decisions by designating a percentage of units within proposed new structures as affordable. Town Planner Steve Kleppin said at the Board of Finance meeting that it’s not realistic for New Canaan to get all the way to 10 percent. “The total number is just not there,” Kleppin said at the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center’s Visitors Center.

Downtown Development, St. Luke’s Campus Highlight Final Public Hearing on POCD

Though he lives just 400 feet from the heart of downtown New Canaan, Mark Noonan of St. John’s Place said he rarely walks into the heart of our village. Based on his own experience, Noonan said during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday night that it’s a mistake to think erecting multi-level residential buildings in areas such as nearby Grove Street—for older town residents seeking smaller housing in town, say—would lead to those same people walking into town. While Noonan praised the focus of a proposed Plan of Conservation and Development or “POCD” on areas such as downtown parking and preserving our village’s character, he added, “The height is such a sensitive issue.”

“Opening the door at all to height changes I think is really harmful to the town because it encourages greater density, greater packing and there’s always losers and winners when height restrictions change,” Noonan said during a final public hearing on the POCD, held in the Sturgess Room of the New Canaan Nature Center’s Visitors Center. “And certainly it can dramatically change the town character.”

The updated POCD—an advisory, state-mandated planning document designed to guide generally the future of development in the community (as opposed to a set of regulations that determine what must or must not happen)—has been in development since last year.

1908 New Canaan House Coming Down, Barn Staying


A 1908 barn near downtown New Canaan will be preserved though the house it has stood beside for more than a century will come down to make way for a far larger, new home. Despite concerns from neighbors that a new Federal-style home planned for 22 Green Ave. is out of character with their short street (it runs between Church and Oak), town officials last week felt compelled to approve a special permit that will—effectively—preserve a 525-square-foot barn on the property. (The special permit allows the site plan to go beyond the allowable size for structures on the .28-acre lot—since the new house, said to include a first-floor footprint of 2,373 square feet—will take up all of that space.)

Dan Conlon of Georgetown-based Daniel Conlon Architects didn’t mince words when a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday asked whether it would be possible to just make the house smaller so that the barn and house together fit into the allowable coverage area. “That’s certainly possible,” Conlon said at the commission’s meeting, held in the Visitors Center at the New Canaan Nature Center.