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Town Powers Limited In Jelliff Mill Zoning [UPDATE]

"Normal rules of density, coverage and set backs are not in and of themselves sufficient reason to deny this application," town Attorney says.

UPDATE: Jan. 25, 1:52pm

The development plan for 41 and 47 Jelliff Mill Rd. may be denied by the town only if "it is necessary to protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters," according to

Furthermore, the burden is on the town to prove that those considerations "clearly outweigh the need for public housing," he said.

Attorney Tim Hollister, who presented the development plans to the and commissions on behalf of the owners, is asking for an amendment to the town's zoning regulations to allow for a Mixed Income Housing Zone at this location. Because the project includes five moderate income units, the application for a 16-unit three-building townhouse project is governed by the state's Affordable Housing and Land Use Act, which supercedes town zoning requirements.

As Jarboe explained to the commission and audience members at the P&Z meeting Tuesday, towns in Connecticut do not have any "inherent power" to enact zoning regulations. Any authority they exercise is granted by the state.

"The state giveth and the state taketh away," Jarboe said, in explaining that this statute, enacted in 1990, takes away the town's power to enforce its own regulations for a project of this type. "Normal rules of density, coverage and set backs are not in and of themselves sufficient reason to deny this application," he said.

Hollister and Jarboe both noted that towns in which 10 percent or more of housing qualifies as affordable are exempt from this statute. A town with 2.5 percent or more may qualify for a moratorium of four years from enforcement of the statute, Hollister said. 

Jarboe confirmed that New Canaan currently falls below that 2.5 percent mark, but said that if Hollister's figures were correct, it appears approval of the Jelliff Mill plan would enable the town to qualify for a moratorium.

The presentation made to the commission included several points on which Hollister said the public might be misinformed:

  • This is a "site specific" application. Hollister said that it is "simply not the case" that if this application is approved it will open the "flood gates" for similar applications elsewhere in New Canaan. Noting that this statute has been in place for twenty years, he said if it were going to happen, "it would have happened before this."
  • The mill which currently stands on the property, and which would be torn down, is a block structure built in the 1940's, not the original wooden mill, which dated from the 1700's and was destroyed in a fire shortly before the current building was built.
  • The dam on the property will be repaired by the current owner in accordance with the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection prior to residential occupancy. The estimated cost of $350 to $400,000 will be paid by the current owner and once done should last "for decades."
  • The application has been changed to recognize the historic value of the house at 41 Jelliff Mill Rd. They are, "ready and able to look at options to conduct historic preservation of all or part of the building," he said.

In addition to Hollister, Rob Frangione, a civil engineer from New Canaan, Michael Stein, an architect based in Norwalk, Kate Throckmorton, a landscape architect, based in Norwalk and Bernard Adler, an engineer who conducted traffic studies in conjunction with the 2010 office building application for the site, were in attendance.

They presented site plans and renderings of the proposed development, which are attached.

Regarding the traffic studies, several commission members questioned the conclusion that the current plan would result in less "trips" to and from the property than the previously planned office building.

Adler said his study indicated that the additional traffic from the complex would result in an additional 12 to 13 trips per day during "peak hours," resulting in an additional .10 second delay at the Ponus Ridge Rd. Jelliff Mill Rd. intersection and 1.7 seconds where Jelliff Mill Rd. meets Rte 106, which he said was, "basically a de minimus impact."

said prior to the presentation that questions would not be taken from the audience at this meeting. The committee will schedule another session with the applicants in the next few weeks to allow for questions from the public. He urged those present Tuesday to return prepared to ask specific questions, rather than simply offer an opinion, and to appoint several spokespersons in the interest of efficiency.

ORIGINAL STORY

A 16-unit two-building townhome development is the plan the owners of 41 Jelliff Mill Rd. and 47 Jelliff Mill are scheduled to present to town bodies later this month.

According to the application received by  on Dec. 23, the three structures on the property --- the mill, a house and garage would be demolished.

records indicate a mill has stood at this site since the early 1700's. In 1949 when the mill was destroyed in a fire, the concrete and steel building which now stands was built.

Bryan and Cheryl Gardiner, owners of 41 Jelliff Mill Rd. and 47 Jelliff Mill LLC, owner of the mill property are seeking an amendment to New Canaan zoning regulations for a "Mixed Income Housing Zone," the application states. 

Under the proposal, 30 percent, or five, of the townhome units would be price and income restricted as according to the state Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Act. This plan for residential development allows for greater leniency with certain residential zoning regulations, such as setbacks, according to .

to erect a wooden building and to allow a change from its nonconforming use as a mill to a nonconforming office building. 

At that time, concerning the flood plain, increased traffic and real estate property values, among others. That proposal was eventually withdrawn.

An email from Jelliff Rd. residents Howard and Lisa Smith, included in the current application file, opposes this proposal. They express safety and environmental concerns and the appropriateness of 16 housing units on a 1.6 acre parcel. 

The current proposal will be presented at the Inland Wetlands commission regular meeting on Jan. 23 and at the regular meeting of the Planning and Zoning commission on Jan. 24.

Tom McCarthy January 20, 2012 at 03:41 PM
There are 2 very important meetings next week as respects the Jelliff Mill High Density housing proposal. In summary, this particular site is perhaps the worst possible location for affordable housing for a variety of reasons. It's not convenient to town resources, it's in an area not zoned for this density or purpose, it's on a historically relevant property, it's adjacent to a body of natural water that flows to LI Sound, it's on a high traffic street with no shoulder or sidewalk, it's prone to flooding, it isn't serviced by town sewer or water and the site is too small to accommodate the number of units proposed. If the town approves this development it's hard to imagine a single property in New Canaan that couldn't be targeted for similar exploitation. Inlands Wetlands Environmental Meeting Monday 1/23 @ 7:30 at Town Hall Planning & Zoning Meeting Tuesday 1/24 @ 7:00 at Town Hall Please come and make your voice heard!!
Stacey Essex January 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I think we should read Judy Larson's letter to the Patch on July 29th 2010: "The last thing in the world I want is for people to worry.  Life is hard enough—especially lately—for us all.  With all the financial insecurity so many of us face, the last thing any of us want is to lose even more value in our homes than we have already experienced.  Or to have our lives made more stressful with worry about traffic accidents, crime, or anything else."
Stacey Essex January 20, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Judy's letter gets even better (btw she is one of the developers!) "This is a non-conforming lot that has been used commercially for three centuries—the only one in the area with the exception of the nursery on Route 106. The P&Z have no authority, clearly, to allow any change of use on any residential property.  It just can't happen, and it will not happen. "........see you at the meeting...
Tom McCarthy January 23, 2012 at 02:52 PM
REMINDER: Please try to have at least one member attend tonight and tomorrow night to show your support against the latest Jelliff Mill proposal! Please spread the word and join us at Town Hall as a show of your support AGAINST the site plan, zoning law changes and development of mixed income "High Density" housing (in this case 16 UNITS of approximately 35,000 square feet on one acre of buildable land) that are being presented by the developers/owners of 41 & 47 Jelliff Mill at the following Public Hearings: • Inland Wetlands - Monday, January 23rd at 7:30 pm in Town Hall • Planning & Zoning - Tuesday, January 24th at 7 pm in Town Hall
Tom McCarthy January 24, 2012 at 06:11 PM
REMINDER: Please try to have at least one member attend tonight to show your support against the latest Jelliff Mill proposal! Please spread the word and join us at Town Hall as a show of your support AGAINST the site plan, zoning law changes and development of mixed income "High Density" housing (in this case 16 UNITS of approximately 35,000 square feet on one acre of buildable land) that are being presented by the developers/owners of 41 & 47 Jelliff Mill at the following Public Hearings: • Planning & Zoning - Tuesday, January 24th at 7 pm in Town Hall
whynewcanaanwhy January 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM
That's great- here we go again, with a developer abusing the state's affordable housing statutes for their benefit. Developers and builders can game the system, and the town has no jurisdiction over this decision, even though New Canaan has a number of other units designated as "affordable housing". The Gardiners will push this through and then leave town, as I don't see why anyone would want to do business with them!
Four Jacks January 26, 2012 at 02:48 PM
This project should be denied on the grounds of the wetlands issue alone. These units will be using a septic system with a 24 hour battery backup! With all of the power outages in this area, this is definitely not feasible. I hope the neighbors prevail!
Nc mom January 26, 2012 at 03:08 PM
There must be a good EPA lawyer in town who will go up against this absurd plan! Not only are they destroying the neighborhood, the neighbor's property values but also putting the river and Sound in imminent danger!
J Bauer January 26, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Agreed - we should be mobilizing town resources to defend against this development. There are true merits as to why this project is misplaced in that location. The legal costs will probably be substantial... I think about all the people in town that were so enthusiastic about spending $600k on useless sidewalks and wonder if they would consider that money better spent paving or defending the town against greedy developers?
Gregory A Smith January 26, 2012 at 05:00 PM
This is just another reason why we can never let the lumberyard property ever be considered for development of any kind. The Affordable Housing and Land Use Act is great for urban locales, but they make no sense for a single family residential zone. We should just drag it through the courts and it will take years.
Bill m January 26, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Actually you all don't even know the builder or his family. They have lived in the area for longer than many. Years ago when this was first proposed as a restaurant this builder indicated that he would pay to move the historic structure that I believe he lives in on his own dime. As for the Mill. It is a cinderblock structure and hideous. I live right up the street and frankly think this is more of a nimby issue than anything else. Change the density if you need to, but when the house almost across the street is about to sell in the $500 K range I would suggest that the lower part of Jeliff does not hold up in terms of real estate value. How many of you actually live and own houses on Jeliff and on lower Ponus? As for the comment on who lives in low income properties have any of you thought about how expensive it is to live in New Canaan...how out of reach it is for our teachers, police, and firefighters? Curious as to the income levels required to purchase one of these. Would you feel differently if someone who works for the town gets to live and enjoy the benefits of the town?
Jon S. January 26, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Not relevant: whether or not anyone "knows the builder or his family." Not relevant: how long the builder has "lived in the area." Not relevant: whatever the builder "indicated" years ago. Not relevant: your dismissive comments about the value of homes on Jelliff Mill. Not relevant: your contradictory accusations that this is a "not in my backyard issue," but that the people who oppose this large scale development don't live in the neighborhood. Not relevant: your supposed concern for "low income" residents -- no one's against that prospect, it's the location and sheer size of this specific apartment complex relative to its neighborhood that makes it an exceedingly bad idea.
Gregory A Smith January 27, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Bill, We heard all those promises before with Avalon. That's the crutch the Affordable Housing Land Use Act is based on. In no disrespect, but how many teachers, police or firemen live Avalon in NC that was supposed to be set aside for them? The developers and lawyers use the loophole in every way possible to their benefit.
Hope January 27, 2012 at 04:22 AM
The buzz is, it is cheaper to buy then to build right now. Not sure how they will profit. Let them build however, that mill building almost washed away. Buyer beware!
J Bauer January 27, 2012 at 02:09 PM
It is cheaper to buy than to build a single family residence right now, ceterus perebus. That is correct when looking at our town and the local area, but the key to that calculation is single family home. Building a condo project like this will be very profitable for the Gardiners. The sale proceeds are expected to be north of $11mm. I am going to guess construction costs are in the $5mm range and add to that whatever the property cost plus demolition and I think they are looking at $4-5mm of profit. And, while I do not "know" the Gardiners like Bill does, I would say that it is obvious that they are simply greedy people with no regard for their neighbors. This project will probably get done because of the way the state laws are written, but I hope we do not allow it without taking the case up to the state supreme court and forcing the Gardiners to cut their profits in half by the time the legal fees are paid. I also would imagine that they are going to find a lack of willing friends in this town after this, so at least we can hope to get rid of these leeches. PS - I also would hope that the people of New Canaan be sure to boycott Gardiner Larson Homes for any future projects and to spread the word to their friends and family to do the same.
DB January 27, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Amazed that these people live in town. Also that the engineer is in town too. Apparently they don't care to do business here anymore.
Gregory A Smith January 27, 2012 at 08:37 PM
You know what we should do? We should all apply to the P&Z to tear down our homes and apply for the same mixed house zoning on our lots. Why not? If that's what Hartford wants. I'm in a two family zone, I could 4-5 townhomes on my lot, and I'll set aside two for low income.
Bill m January 31, 2012 at 03:54 AM
So Jon S - do you live in this part of town and would this proposal actually impact you? Or is that irrelevant as well? I actually do live in this part of town. In fact I live very close to the site. I actually know the values on Jeliff Mill and it is relevant to understand this situation in terms of land use especially to comments about building a nice home on the site. If you don't live in the area then not sure why you are so quick to judge. This project impacts MY property values so before you throw my comments under the bus because you don't like them, perhaps you should move to the area. In fact how many of you actually know where the site is and live nearby? I don't like the density of this project either, but wonder whether there is a compromise. I think the "Mill" is a huge cinderblock eye sore (looks like something you would see in the commercial area of Norwalk behind Main Street) so would not be upset for this structure to be changed. J Bauer, I am very interested in your numbers. Where did you get these figures? Are they public or did you work out the calculations?
Bill m January 31, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Oh and one more thing. My "supposed" concern for low income residents stems from being in a place of living on a fixed income. But perhaps, Jon S, you prefer to make snarky comments from your high horse.
Jon S. January 31, 2012 at 09:38 AM
@Bill M. -- I'm not "throwing your comments under the bus" because I don't like them, I'm just pointing out that few if any of your stated reasons have any bearing on a zoning board decision. I agree that the current cinderblock structure shouldn't be in a neighborhood of single-family homes, but neither should a busy apartment complex. That density of development belongs where it's zoned, not two miles out of town. You don't have to live near this proposed multi-family construction project to appreciate that the consequences will affect every property and every neighborhood in town. I'm not against affordable housing, but I do expect the Gardiners, as developers, to abide by the rules of the New Canaan community they purport to be a part of.
Tom McCarthy January 31, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Very Important Upcoming Meetings- Planning & Zoning hearing on Tues Feb. 21 (Tues after school vacation) and the Inland Wetlands hearing on Mon Feb. 27. Please put on your calendars and spread the word to show support AGAINST the site plan, zoning law changes and development of mixed income "High Density" housing (in this case 16 UNITS of approximately 35,000 square feet on one acre of buildable land) that are being presented by the developers/owners of 41 & 47 Jelliff Mill at the following Public Hearings:
Bill m February 02, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Tom, do you own the house next door to this?
Jon S. February 03, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Bill m -- you seem preoccupied with where people live relative to this zoning-busting development. You've told those of us who oppose this plan that if we don't live in the area, we shouldn't judge it. You've told us we don't know where this place is and that we should move there before we critique anything. You've told us you live close to this site, as if that renders everyone else's opinions worthless. And now, confronted with people who live closer than you do, you seem ready to cast them as selfish NIMBYs. Apparently, only your particular vantage point is viable for talking about this huge project. By the way, the selling price of the house across the street is NOT a comparable: it's a 100-yr-old fixer upper, being sold "as is," it has the Merritt onramp in the backyard, it's an undersized lot, and it's not on the water. If your point was to prove the Gardiners couldn't build a great house on their 1.6 acres because values "don't hold up," I think that's in no way a valid comparison or conclusion.
Bill m February 06, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Jon, not preoccupied at all. Never said the house across the street was a direct comparable however an appraiser will look at that sale as a value point. The fact is that houses along Jeliff that either back up to or have a view of the Merritt are not worth as much as houses that are further back along the roads that jut off of Jeliff - like Springwater. This was in response to a comment that someone should build a nice house on the property. If someone lives in the neighborhood, frankly I do think that their point of view has more weight because this directly impacts them. Imagine being the next door neighbors. If I were them I would be absolutely furious with the prospect of the construction and noise and the idea of Jeliff being a work zone for months is awful. So please do not put words in my mouth Jon S. Curious - what is your vantage point? Part of this forum is to be able to ask questions and understand people's viewpoints. Easy for people to post nasty things just for the sake of being nasty. My vantage point is no more valid than yours except that your property may not be impacted the way mine will based on where you live. You do live in New Canaan? The Gardiners are doing this probably because their original idea for the Mill was turned down. Wish there was a good solution for changing that structure because along with the Merritt and the noise, that building really brings down the values on that part of the street.
Jon S. February 06, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Sir, I can't make it any clearer: you're STILL claiming you will be impacted, while deriding people who are against this proposal because they don't know where the mill is, or don't live nearby, or don't live in New Canaan, or, conversely, live right next door. I don't care where you live, I'm just asking you to explain your apparent support of this development, without resorting, as you have repeatedly, to baseless assertions that opponents "actually" don't know the builder or his family, or "actually" don't know the neighborhood or "actually" don't live nearby, or don't want this big apartment house in their backyard [NIMBY= Not In My Backyard]. You should look honestly at the objections that have been raised -- people's objections to this big housing complex are NOT based on the potential for a few "months" of construction but upon an entire future of congestion at a place supremely ill-suited for it. To say nothing of the precedent this scheme would open for less scrupulous developers to rip apart, again and again, the very zoning that helps maintain the property values you cherish. You also seem to forget that the Gardiners bought the mill for $850,000 and the antique house for $1,198,000. This would seem to undermine your belief that there's little value to these two separate properties.
Bill m February 07, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Your response is so curious. I am not deriding anyone but clearly have hit a nerve with you... "sir" The Gardiners bought these properties years ago at a time when values were very different than they are today. Fact. People who are writing nasty things about running these people out of town do not know them which is typical in a small town. Fact. The people that are most directly impacted by this are the ones who live on Jeliff, Springwater, Old Stamford Rd. Fact. Should their concerns have more weight about this proposal than people who don't even know the street or live in the area. I think so but then that's just my opinion. Nowhere have I indicated my view either pro or anti the development so think you are reading into something that isn't on any posting I've made here. I am well aware of the objections and plan to be at the zoning meeting.
Bill m February 07, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Oh and one more thing about knowing the area Jon S. The house across the street that has just sold is not a 100 year old antique. If you drove on that street every day you would know this.
Jon S. February 07, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Just because you say “fact” after a statement doesn’t make it true. But we agree: the people who live closest to this proposed development should have their concerns listened to. Interestingly, not one of my friends who lives in this neighborhood supports this zone-busting development. Not one. I would also listen to those, like me, who need to get through the busy intersection of Jelliff Mill and Old Stamford Road every day on their way to work, to school, or to the train. Anyone can tell you, this intersection is not as wonderful as the Gardiners’ hired guns claim it is. And finally, we should listen to every New Canaanite who has a concern about what this kind of development leads to. If a 16-unit housing complex and septic system can be dropped into a 1-acre residential zone, it can happen anywhere in town.
Jon S. February 07, 2012 at 03:29 PM
The home across the street I’m referring to is 20 Jelliff Mill, Mr. Reid’s, which listed for $599,000. That’s the red house I drive by every day. It was built in 1910, and is being sold “as is” as a fixer upper. It’s in a 1-acre zone, but the lot is only .55 acre, with the Merritt Parkway on-ramp right behind it. And maybe you’re right, maybe a developer wouldn’t build a “nice home” there. But there’s no reason the Gardiners couldn’t build a “nice home” on the 1.6 waterfront acres for which they paid over $2 million just 8 years ago. The market hasn’t declined that precipitously, and there is real intrinsic value to that location.
Tom McCarthy April 09, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Very Important Meeting Tomorrow- Tues 4/10/12 at 7pm- Joint Planning & Zoning/Inlands Wetlands to review Jelliff Mill Proposal. This may be the last opportunity for the Citizens of New Canaan to have their voices heard. Please put on your calendars and plan on joining. Please spread the word to show support AGAINST the site plan, zoning law changes and development of mixed income "High Density" housing (in this case 16 UNITS of approximately 35,000 square feet on one acre of buildable land) that are being presented by the developers/owners of 41 & 47 Jelliff Mill.

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