Saying a formal application has not yet been filed for a large multi-family development in the neighborhood, the town is denying a petition from residents in the area of Brushy Ridge Road to revoke a permit for a 16-foot-wide driveway.
According to a group of neighbors calling itself ‘New Canaan Residents Against Destructive Development,’ town officials knew for years that the owner of vacant parcels at 17 and 23 Hill St. (also known as lots 72 and 812) intended to construct a 101-unit affordable housing complex there. In filing a March 17 petition with the town to revoke the permit, the property’s owner— Hill Street-72 LLC—“submitted inaccurate and conflicting information regarding the area of disturbance in the wetlands” when seeking the wider driveway four years ago. The property owner also “has engaged in construction activities on the Property that exceed the limitations of the Permit and the conditions on which it was granted,” the group’s attorney, Frank Silvestri of Westport-based Verrill Dana LLP, said in the petition.
Yet, according to Town Attorney Ira Bloom of Westport-based Berchem Moses PC, the claim “fails for two basic reasons.”
“First, no application for a multi-family development has been filed in the four plus years since the crossing was approved,” Bloom wrote in a response dated April 8 that was obtained by NewCanaanite.com.
“As you know, the law is clear that the Commission is not permitted to speculate beyond what is provided,” Bloom said in the response letter. “Second, and more importantly, the Commission’s authority was to review the crossing (driveway). It was beyond the Commission’s authority to review the use of the land beyond the activity that was presented. In other words, what happens on the property outside of the regulated activity is irrelevant in the context of a wetland review of a driveway. The applicant was nor required to disclose the property’s ultimate use as part of the review of the driveway’s possible impact on wetlands. Consequently, any representations as to a potential future use of the property were not relevant, and as a matter of law there could be no reliance by the Commission on any such representation. It may eventually be that the approved driveway will not be wide enough if any different use is proposed in the future, and in that case the applicant would be required to return to the Commission for a new approval. In our opinion, at this time there is no basis for revocation based on misrepresentation.”
The ownership LLC at 17 and 23 Hill St. has the same address as local developer Arnold Karp of Karp Associates. Karp recently filed an application for an affordable housing development at another property he owns in New Canaan, at Weed and Elm Streets. The town’s Water Pollution Control Authority and Planning & Zoning Commission are expected to take up that application in the coming weeks. (First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, a neighbor of the Weed and Elm property, has said he is recusing himself “from the governmental process” with respect to the application.)
New Canaan had achieved four years of relief from such “8-30g” affordable housing applications from 2017 to 2021, and is applying now for another four-year “moratorium” from the state law, which allows developers of projects where a certain percentage of units are set aside as affordable to skirt local zoning regulations in towns (like New Canaan) where less than 10% of the housing stock qualifies as “affordable.”
Bloom in his letter said “we acknowledge the concern many residents in New Canaan have regarding possible construction of large multi-family projects in their neighborhoods.”
“We respect this concern and the rights of citizens to voice their objections,” Bloom said. “However, the Town must ensure that the laws and regulations are properly followed at all times.”
Regarding the petition’s claims that Karp is in violation of the Inland Wetlands permit, Bloom said, “The Wetlands Agent, Kathleen Holland, is current reviewing the matter to determine whether there are any violations.”
“If violations are found, appropriate action will be taken, and Ms. Holland will refer to them to the Commission for review,” Bloom said. “Non-compliance, however, is not a basis for revocation without prior attempts at enforcement. Applicants have the right to receive notice of violations (if any) and to correct the violation prior to any thought of revocation. Until the compliance investigation is complete, there is no basis for further action, including, of course, revocation.”