New Canaan’s legislative body last week voted unanimously in support of a boundary set forth in an application to list Waveny on the National Register of Historic Places.
Once a matter of deep division and some agonizing among Town Council members, the elected body’s 10-0 vote marks a big step toward formally seeking the largely honorific designation for Waveny.
Worked out by a Pawtucket, R.I.-based nonprofit organization with input from the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, state historic preservation officials and others, the boundary that will define the Waveny listing encompasses much of the park as regular visitors have come to know it.
“The boundary reflects the development of Waveny lands over time from the 18th Century to the present day and the layers of settlement and agriculture and state and town park history that make it such an interesting and attractive place,” Rose Scott Long, co-president of the NCPA, told member of the Town Council at their regular meeting.
“As stated in the nomination documentation, Waveny is a testament to the town’s thoughtful stewardship of the property, in keeping with Ruth Lapham Lloyd’s wishes and use restrictions that she conveyed to the town for public benefit,” Scott Long said at the July 18 meeting, held in Town Hall. “Listing in the National Register is primarily an honor, makes properties eligible for owners to apply for public grants for preservation and consideration for fire and life safety code compliance alternatives.”
The boundary follows the Merritt Parkway to the south and South Avenue to the east. On the west side, it follows the Metro-North Railroad tracks to Old Stamford Road and runs north but does not include the Waveny Care Center property. The boundary also does not encompass the New Canaan High School property, though it includes the “panhandle” of woods just east of the high school and a strip of land running the length of the north side of Farm Road, with a “triangle” of woods at the corner of Old Stamford Road.
Though the town’s support of the 132-page draft application to list a piece of public land on the National Register of Historic Places is not legally required, Scott Long said it had been the NCPA’s practice as the lead organization in the effort to seek out that support through the Town Council, New Canaan’s land use authority.
Members of the Town Council voting in favor of the boundary were Liz Donovan, Joe Paladino, Vice Chairman Rich Townsend, Penny Young, Chairman John Engel, Vice Chairman Sven Englund, Steve Karl, Cristina A. Ross, Tom Butterworth and Mike Mauro. Councilmen Jim Kucharczyk and Christa Kenin were absent.
Councilmen asked Scott Long what difference their vote would make so far as what the town can do with Waveny (none), why the “frisbee golf” parcel is part of the nominated area (because Ruth Lapham Lloyd put covenants on it), why a Lapham Lloyd-conveyed parcel below the Merritt is not included (she put no covenants on that), why the Waveny Pool area is included (that’s not clear) and why the area with the platform tennis courts and Spencer’s Run is included (the “paddle hut” itself is an old building and there’s some “reversability” with respect to that section).
The Town Council in December 2014 voted 6-6 on whether to support the NCPA’s pursuit of listing Waveny on the National Register of Historic Places, a tie broken with a ‘Yes’ vote by then-First Selectman Rob Mallozzi.
One of those who voted against it back then—along with Young and former Councilman Kevin Moyinhan, now the first selectman—Karl said his major concern in the past had been that listing Waveny on the Register would empower some nonlocal person or entity to override what New Canaanites planned for the cherished park and its buildings.
“My biggest concern from the beginning was I didn’t want anyone sitting here to try to get something done at Waveny and hear a sentence from someone that says, ‘You cannot do that because this is on the National Historic Registry,’ and I do not ever want that sentence to happen to someone because I voted for this to happen, because there is no other property like Waveny,” Karl said. “New Canaan has nothing else — nor does anybody have something—that can compare to this.”
In talking to Scott Long, Karl said his fears have been calmed.
Young said some members of the nonprofit Waveny Park Conservancy had some concern about the application to list Waveny, and asked Scott Long for an update on talks regarding those concerns.
Scott Long said she had met with Conservancy members and it was “good to get feedback from them.”
“I think since 2014 for some reason there has been a perception in town that we were just doing the house, which is if you go back to the minutes from that meeting it has the house and grounds, so i don’t know where that has come from,” she said.
Scott Long added that there’s also a perception that the NCPA is seeking to wrest some sort of control or authority over Waveny House, which it is not.
“We are just not that active,” she said. “I know sometimes we are very verbal, but we just do not have that much time to be policing what is going on. That has never been my intention.”
A guest at the meeting, Luke Tashjian of Old Stamford Road, a Waveny neighbor, praised Scott Long for the “yeoman’s job” she helped accomplish in pushing for the application. He described the parcel of Waveny that’s split between Old Stamford and Lapham Roads, where the frisbee golf course is located, as “a very nice resource to the town” with walking trails.
“It’s great that Waveny is held together,” Tashjian said.
Engel read from a letter from NCPA founder Mimi Findlay, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting. In it, she described the extensive work that went into drawing up the boundary, and noted that the nomination in no way places “any more restrictions than already exist with Ruth Lapham Lloyd’s contract with the town.”
“It is an honor to be included in the National Register of Historic Places,” Findlay said in the letter. “The state already recognizes the significance of the property and has responded to a previously proposed cell-tower alteration through its own internal regulations and without notification from the town or its citizens. The only difference, if the property is listed in the National Register, is that it becomes eligible for matching federal funding for the planning and/or execution of architectural preservation—for an elevator, for example—garden research and/or restoration, or any preservation improvements to the listed outbuildings. There is no requirement to seek federal funding.”