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.”
As a member of the Executive Committee of NC RADD I was surprised and disappointed by the town attorney’s response. His correspondence frankly relies on an argument that lacks any common sense at all. The rationale he employs strains credulity. Both of his main points rest on his correct underlying contention that the IWC does not have jurisdiction over how Karp uses his land but this is not an argument that NC RADD has ever made and it is completely besides the point. On the other hand the idea that how the land is used doesn’t directly and dramatically affect how a driveway through the wetlands is used is utterly ridiculous. Two homes on that land mean perhaps 12-15 car trips/day over the driveway plus a couple of delivery trucks. A 101 unit apartment complex pushes that to well over 300-400 car trips/day with many more trucks and all of the pollution and run-off into the wetlands and on to the Five Mile River that activity will generate. If you don’t believe me listen to Mr. Karp… https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UZWcEl8tBE5JX5xwUTjZXP8HByJhFU1z/view?usp=drivesdk
It is impossible to believe that this impact is not within the purview of the IWC.
The fact that the IWC refuses to see this connection is galling at best and suspicious at worst. Also galling is the fact that the IWC is proposing to review our other claims of technical violations of the permit behind a veil of secrecy having denied our request to participate in their site visit to review our engineer’s findings. This is not how government should work!! After consultation with our attorney we will be taking further action to address what appears to be an egregious abuse of the town trust and its permitting process.
Very well said ,Jeff. This is extremely concerning and sounds like the Town is working in conjunction with Karp. Everyone in town knows what Karp is planning on doing at this site on Hill Street. Very sad when your own town government is working against the wishes of the vast majority of New Canaan Residents. I hope everyone that works for the town including the Town Attorney remembers, Arnold Karp does not live in New Canaan either – we owe him nothing especially willfully letting him violate wetlands ordinances without the necessary permits.
“Galling at best and suspicious at worst” perfectly sums up Karp cronies. They seem to work for someone other than New Canaan resident taxpayers.
Well said Jeff. This is truly shocking and concerning.
What is equally appauling about Ms. Holland’s response on behalf of the IW Commissioners is that they are saying it is fine to not be truthful in your applications to the IWC. Moreover the refusal of the IW Commission to address the substantive merits of the petition to revoke the permit allows the following serious issues alleged in the Petition to continue and go unanswered: 1. Mr, Karp did not have nor does he have today a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to have conducted the construction activities in the wetlands. In fact the Corps has advised NC RADDs that it has issued a notice of violation to Mr. Karp’s LLC for its activities in the wetlands on the Hill Street property and that it and the CT DEEP will be conducting an investigative site visit to the property. 2. Mr. Karp’s professionals for years seriously understated the square footage of areas in the wetlands to be disturbed by a series of applications that were filed for the permit and subsequent modifications. The areas went from 720 square feet in 2016 to beyond 17,131 square feet in 2021, 3. Mr. Karp imported from an illegal quarry/dump site in Monroe fill materials of an unknown origin and content and dumped them into the driveway on Hill Street in New Canaan. At the time these materials were taken from the Monroe site, the Town of Monroe had issued two cease and desist orders prohibiting any materials from being taken off the Monroe site. 4. The site monitor that is monitoring Mr. Karp’s activities on the Hill Street project and reporting to the Town his compliance or lack thereof with the permit conditions is the same engineering firm Mr. Karp hired to design the 102 unit developement on Weed Street and the 101 unit developement on Hill Street. Ms. Holland has been made aware of this serious conflict of interest and to NC RADD’s knowledge has allowed the engineering firm to continue in its role as site monitor for the Town. While Ms. Holland has claimed certain permit violations are under investigation, she has refused to allow any members of the public nor an independent engineering firm to attend a site visit on the Hill Street property. Is this New Canaan government at work for its residents?
Kathleen Holland cannot be willfully blind. She allowed a project to go forward without the required permits. Wetlands surrounding the Five Mile River can be Federal wetlands and require a permit. The Army Corp of Engineers needs to sign off on the project and the town must see this permit prior to work commencing. Arnold Karp did not have this permit. Plainly put, this project proceeded without the correct permits. How is this “following the laws and regulations of the town “? .
In 2012, Kathleen Holland actively participated in the Five Mile Watershed Plan (she is named contributor) that states that the wetlands associated to the Five Mile River are Federal Wetlands which require a review by the Army Corp of Engineers. The Five Mile River is a federally regulated waterway and the Army must review the proposed project and issue a permit, if required, or ask for changes. They also can refuse a permit. Why wasn’t this done? This is now the 3rd known time this has happened. She knows that the wetlands surrounding the Five Mile River are Federal.
It begs the question – how many other projects didn’t have the correct permitting and required review by the Army? This isn’t a one off. I think the Wetlands Commission should ask for an investigation on all projects starting in 2012 that occurred in the wetlands surrounding the Five Mile River that didn’t have the Army sign off. Ms. Holland allowed the Hill Street development to go forward without the proper permits. I wonder how many others there are.