Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Long Range Planning Committee’s choices for New Canaan’s municipal future are beginning to crystallize. In a surprise special meeting at 4 p.m. last Thursday, with only 24 hour public notice, the entire committee, the Town Planner and three consultants met to discuss the alternatives that would be presented to the public at a workshop next Monday.
If the committee follows its consultants’ lead, the view from Main Street will include several new buildings and at least three new parking structures to accommodate larger footprints and loss of surface parking. My best guess as to what is most likely to be recommended, based on handouts and what was said at last Thursday’s meeting is: A new , 50% larger with underground parking, relocated to the Center School lot, and a rebuilt or Town Hall/Board of Education combo building which will share a 250-plus parking facility between Park and Main Streets, and finally, a new parking structure for commuters at the lumberyard.
What may be the most important element in this house of cards — what happens to the current library ‘block’, is not being discussed by LRPC. ....“Will there be a land-swap?” asked a member of the public in attendance at last week’s meeting?
According to LRPC, there will not be any land-swap because the library needs to sell to build new. BFJ consultant Frank Fish was quick to observe that the present library property would accommodate a 50-unit apartment complex and maybe more if a new ‘portable’ was extended to this location. The matter is being studied by another ad hoc committee of members, Laszlo Papp, Scott Hobbs and Chuck Berman.
If consensus is their goal, it appears the LRPC has hung its hat on the single issue on which there is general agreement, cost. Public opinion is clearly against moving the library or overbuilding the Town Hall. The committee will present these options ‘as a savings to the taxpayer.’ New construction will cost less than renovation. Sharpen your pencils because the LRPC has spent $13,500 dollars on an estimator who will be on hand on June 27 to illustrate this and answer your questions.
Most of us are fans of the library, but compromising our integrity as a town to provide a new site for the library may be just one step further than many of us are willing to go. Now that it is becoming clear that a dense apartment development in the center of town may be another step we are asked to take, how many of us will be left to be friends of the library?
What is being suggested is a complete reshuffling of our municipal services and construction of three new parking facilities to support them. Are we investing in ‘wish lists’ or economic realities? How about the historic buildings and lawns which provide green spaces within our downtown? Are we willing to give these up and risk losing the ambiance of our town? Will it be worth it?