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Town Council Votes 6-5 to Submit Lumberyard Application

New Canaan will find out in October if it will receive a $495,000 study grant.

Following a public hearing Tuesday night, the Town Council voted 6-5 to submit a Transportation-Oriented Development grant application to study the feasibility of adding tiered parking and senior housing at the lumberyard parking lot.

Town Council chair Mark DeWaele and Council members Ken Campbell, Beth Jones, Tucker Murhpy, Tom O’Dea and Penny Young voted to give permission to submit the application. Council members Kit Devereaux, John Emert, Paul Foley, Bob Hamill and Chris Hussey voted against. Steve Karl abstained.

The vote was taken two days before the Sept. 15 . The town is asking for $495,000 for the study.

Opponents of the application said their concerns range from losing control of the town-owned lumberyard property, to a single special interest group — in this case, seniors — being given special consideration, to the disruption displaced commuters would face while construction is underway.

said he confirmed with the Office of Policy and Management that the town is under no obligation to accept the grant if it is awarded, and said the grant is specifically to study options for the lumberyard space.

 “I wouldn’t see it as making recommendations,” he told Patch. “It’s a feasibility study to see what’s possible.”

Foley said he was disappointed by the 's decision, and said he thinks the study proposed by the grant application is unnecessary.

“This is just one giant wrecking ball right down town,” he told Patch. “If you want to clean up the lumberyard, make it more attractive, we don’t need a study to do that. The goal here is to get it for senior housing. The senior housing group has been looking for a location for a long time. They looked at the Waveny mulch pile, then the library, then they looked at Merritt Apartments and decided that’s too expensive. Now they’re going to grab some free land at the lumberyard.”

Selectman Rob Mallozzi said he has received calls from residents concerned about the conditions of the application.

 “It certainly seemed to me that we are not opening up ourselves to development by the DOT,” he said. “People feel there are more encumbrances to the grant application. I don’t know that that’s true.”

Foley said he questions the use of the grant money for this project.

“We’re wasting taxpayer money and participating in that waste,” he said. “It was a noble cause to promote residential development near transportation sites along the main line. To take these funds from the state and and then to use them to promote senior housing in New Canaan so people in New Canaan have affordable housing is a misuse of funds.”

 

Four Jacks September 14, 2011 at 11:50 PM
That is totally inappropriate!
patrick swearingen September 15, 2011 at 02:28 PM
If the town gets the money, and moves forward, we'll soon see what the rest of the citizens think. It is a major town asset, and all citizens have the right to be heard on its use. It has proved invaluable for commuters, and made New Canaan a much more convenient place for commuters to live, allowing many with New York salaries to live in town. It was acquired for that purpose and to prevent development of the same kind of project being proposed by the sr policy committee. That said, everyone has the right to his or her view. The problem with the process so far is it has been one-sided, with input only from the sr policy committee, with the town planner appearing to side with them. It's worth a serious discussion as to the appropriateness of a town employee seeking to influence the votes of duly elected officials, as Mr. Kleppin did on Tuesday's vote – that’s a fact (he sent an email on 9/12 where he did so). This is an opinion: There was no one in that room on Tuesday evening who wanted a "yes" vote more than he did. He also referred to some in opposition as "crazies" - these people happen to be citizens who help pay his salary. We need someone in the middle without any agenda, who can aggregate, analyze, and present information in an impartial and objective manner. I'm not at all questioning his integrity, and we all say things at times we regret, but can we rely on him to provide the right advice to our elected decision-makers?
G McEvoy September 15, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Below is the content of email sent by commuter (it's our "sandbox") opponents to grant that was approved ..someone tell me where there is any truth in these incinderary comments? In particular, and stated many times, any housing for Seniors would be designed to be SENIOR FRIENDLY ... NOT subsidized! And, in what way, shape or form is the current 3+ acres of blacktop "traditional New England character"? New Canaan Commuters: Your train station parking permits are at risk! New Canaan to become a "regional transit hub"? Lumberyard Parking Lot to be turned over to private developers, to build taxpayer-subsidized senior housing? proposal in front of the Town Council would turn New Canaan into a "Regional Transit Hub." Part of the plan would involve construction of subsidized senior housing on the site of the Lumberyard Parking Lot. Costly scheme could involve either the temporary closure or severe downsizing of the Lumberyard Parking Lot next to the train station--at a time when commuter parking spots are already in severe shortage. Worse, the scheme would increase traffic, increase congestion, and change the character of downtown forever. > Tell the Town Council to maintain New Canaan's traditional New England character! **** > Tell the TC No to taxpayer-funded senior housing schemes! > Tell the TC No to New Canaan becoming a "Regional Transit Hub"! > Tell the TC No to a Lumberyard Parking Lot giveaway to private developers!
JL September 15, 2011 at 03:22 PM
what is the upside of this proposed development? all i see is decked parking which no one wants and can be dangerous. we will have increased congestion in the area and possibly have to widen the street to acomodate traffic. we will give away prime real estate in order to build housing that will not guarantee that actual new canaan seniors get to live in. plus, i'm sure the medical facility that stamford hospital wants will go somewhere in there to take care of these seniors. someone on our town council or higher up has a financial stake in this. otherwise it makes no sense why this is getting rammed down our throats at a time when we should be cutting back on expenses.
marilyn September 15, 2011 at 03:52 PM
This is an insane request for funds from CT---and there is no upside to this proposed project for NC residents/taxpayers.
Ilovenewcanaan September 15, 2011 at 04:21 PM
What makes this high-density housing any different than Avalon at this location? The citizens of New Canaan didn't like it back then, and from all the public comments, they don't want it now! Sorry, that Town Planner, Steve Kleppin was unable to research anything about Avalon, since he said he wasn't around back them. It's there, if you look in the right places. Yes, this is a spot to put Penny Young's pet project of senior housing, but what does that have to do with transportation? (Remember the first attempt this summer during LRPC swapping center school lot for the library and the library becomes the site for senior housing- that didn't go over well.) I find this a disingenuous use of state funds, and the First Selectman and majority of the town council should be ashamed of themselves. Trying to twist a grant application to fit senior housing in is pathetic, and what happened to the other sites- Merritt Apartments, etc. that were also to be considered? It's the old Walker bait and switch. Other sites were mentioned at the Selectman's meeting, but not it's only the lumberyard. Thank you Robert Hammill and Christine Hussey for being so thoughtful on your vote. Most of the others, part of the 7/8's think it's ok to just waste money, because someone else will get it, if we don't use it. Remember these votes, when these candidates are up for re-election New Canaan! They are not representing the wishes of their constituents.
Rose Osterndorf September 15, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Did you read the TOD grant proposal? Transit hub language is in the proposal and "envision a transit hub like Stamford" is in an email from Mr. Kleppin to a New Canaan citizen. As far as subsidized housing, the TOD mentions the possibility of a scholarship fund to appeal to those across the economic spectrum (and perhaps those from outside of New Canaan). Who will fund the scholarship? Taxpayers or will supporters for TOD help raise the money? Transit-Oriented Development Area is a state term, and the state does have eminent domain powers over municipalities. Why give the state any opportunity by accepting this money? I hope supporters don't want their taxes raised if the state takes control and the town loses income from the permits. Lastly, the whole purpose of the feasibility study is to make it attractive for a private developer to step into a public/private partnership. The cost of the land is what is prohibitive for this type of project - that's what makes the Lumberyard so attractive. The problem for supporters of TOD is the opponents have done their research and are not misinformed, despite what one town council member thinks
G McEvoy September 15, 2011 at 07:44 PM
to Mr. Abramowitz, et. al as Lily Tomlin once said, "if love is the answer, would you please repeat the question" let's face it, you commuters might have to share "the sandbox" -- blacktopped ugly parking lot as it i -- and you feel threatened by this concept. you folks don't "own" it, nor do you have a divine right to exclusive use of it -- it belongs to ALL taxpayers. time for all to really see what the issues are, and what your agenda really is ... and think about the sharing notion.
spencer richardson September 15, 2011 at 08:19 PM
What I find so disingenuous about the argument that this grant is for a feasibility study only and does not in any way commit the town to anything is that by limiting the study to just one site, it will inevitably take on a life of its own. Doing the kind of in-depth study that a $495,000 grant will allow, thereby highlighting the supposed benefits of using this site (we all know that that is how the report will be written), will almost certainly foreclose discussion of any other alternative. Once the study is complete, proponents of the using the lot for sr housing will argue that this is really the only choice, as no one will have any appetite to fund a detailed study of any other alternative. What I and everyone else opposed will have to hang our hats on is the fact that there will be a referendum on this (if we can muster enough signatures for a referendum for a $600,000 expenditure on sidewalks, ya think there won't be one on this?). Then we'll see what appetite the voters have at that time for squandering town assets, incurring greater indebtedness, creating a real environmental problem from increased traffic flows, all to enable some savvy developer to pocket a nice profit selling high-end housing to wealthy seniors. I'd rather spend the $10,000 for the referendum now, and save us taxpayers $485,000 in the process.
spencer richardson September 15, 2011 at 08:25 PM
If anyone has any difficulty imagining what this kind of structure will look like, take a look at the new Avalon development in Norwalk (Cross Street and Belden Avenue). Apartments over a tiered parking structure. Maybe the aesthetics will be gussied up some, but that has to be the general idea. With no disrespect intended to Norwalk's residents, that building is unattractive even by Norwalk standards; it will be a monstrosity by New Canaan's.
Rose Osterndorf September 15, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Please don't forget Kit Devereaux specifically saying it was not right to put the town through this (I'm guessing after sidewalks and the "bridge"). Of course, we can count on Paul Foley and John Emert to watch out for the citizens' best interest. Interesting that 3 of 5 NO votes are Democrats and 5 of 6 YES votes are Republicans. "Yes" to wasting taxpayer money for a feasibility study that a select few want. What's wrong with this picture? As far as Steve Karl abstaining, I wish he had not participated in the hearing at all: http://www.ecode360.com/NE0075#NE0075.

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