Without specifying just how it would happen, New Canaan’s highest elected official said Thursday that the century-old brick structure at the northern edge of Mead Park—a former fuel depot that historic preservationists want to save while others want to raze—will be demolished.
Referring vaguely to “a process” regarding what preservationists call the “Mead Park Brick Barn,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during a press briefing in his office at Town Hall that “it’s going to play out and then the building is going to come down.”
The most recent town body to weigh in on the future of what has also been called the “Richmond Hill Garage,” the Planning & Zoning Commission, voted unanimously at its Oct. 30 meeting to “abandon” the building—checking off a box required by state law in cases where a municipality divests itself of real property. Yet P&Z’s vote appears to have no bearing on a separate decision that falls to the Board of Selectmen—namely, to approve the contracts for a company to physically knock the building down and cart away its remains. The selectmen during their Oct. 23 meeting decided to forgo a vote on those contracts, and the matter did not arise at the Board’s meeting this week.
Asked by NewCanaanite.com about the process he envisioned, Moynihan said only that “it will go to other town bodies before it comes back to the Board of Selectmen.” He declined to say what town bodies those might be.
Regarding P&Z’s decision and fallout for the Barn, Moynihan said “I think it has implicit consequences as to what they [P&Z commissioners] would be willing to do about use of the property.”
One local nonprofit group dedicated to historic preservation here, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, has proposed converting the lower level of the Barn into low-impact office use. Doing so would require P&Z approval for a change in the use of the building, and Moynihan said “you can extrapolate” from the Commission’s decision about abandoning the structure about how it would vote regarding the proposed new use. After a unanimous decision to abandon the Barn, it would be “pretty inconsistent then to permit a use,” he said.
Moynihan long has spoken in favor of demolishing the Barn. Selectman Kit Devereaux has said she has great respect for the NCPA’s view on the matter. Selectman Nick Williams has said the building must either have its exterior restored very soon or come down, and indicated that he would be willing to give the NCPA 90 days (until some time in mid-January) to find the funding it needs to restore and maintain the structure—that’s the length of time that the successful bidder for the demolition job is bound. In making his arguments, Williams has referred to the importance of encouraging and respecting such public-private partnerships in New Canaan.