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With Long Range Plan, Emotions, Too, Are Building

Faced with the possible renovations of some historic New Canaan buildings, residents make a passionate plea to do the right thing.

The show and tell portion of the Long Range Planning Committee's goal of improving several town buildings in New Canaan was the first order of business at its , held at Town Hall on Monday night. 

The LRPC's to supply the town with information regarding the possible renovation and relocation of 13 buildings, including , the and , , and , began the evening with a series of presentations. 

"This one was a pretty good one," said long-time New Canaan resident Dick Bergman. "It was very thorough. I think we're finally getting closer to what will be a final report." 

After an array of consultants made presentations on everything from how much square footage is needed for each building, resolutions to the parking problems, and relocation options, a few members of the large audience, made passionate arguments against some of the things they heard. 

"I think we're having the tail wag the dog," said Roy Abramowitz, a certified public accountant. "You can have beautiful plans and a scenario of how you want to develop something,  but if the money is not there,  you can't do it. I think they should figure out what the community wants and find out if the town has the dollars."

The consultants presented "conceptual alternatives" which included the relocation of Town Hall to the Park Street or Center School lots, showed the library moving to town center, and the fire department changing its address to the the Locust avenue lot. It looked like real estate symbols moving across a monopoly board and that hit home with a lot of people. 

"We want to keep Town Hall our Town hall," Town Council member Beth Jones said. "It is part of the fabric of the community. I can't imagine losing it. I'm glad our ancestors and those who came before us resisted change. Thanks to them we have this lovely New Canaan village."

The consultants pointed out that, in most cases, renovation of a building can cost more than constructing one from the ground up. It was apparent from the meeting that many in town are not ready to say 'out with the old and in with the new.'

"There is a lot of character here that you just cannot duplicate," Bergman said."We have to be careful not to lose it." 

Dan Radman, an architect from New Canaan, garnered cheers and laughs from the audience when he spoke,  especially when he questioned what he considered to be a luxury for the Board of Education.

"The Board of Ed needs a new cafeteria? Really?" Radman asked with a tinge of sarcasm.  Radman also wondered why, in this day and age of downsizing, the consultants were suggesting increased square footage for buildings across the board. 

"Everyone is mobile and they use less of their desk," said Radman. "They don't need an office that is 10' by 15'. They  don't need a cubicle that is 10' by 10'. They need to be smarter about how they work." 

Christine Wagner, Chair of the LRPC,  reiterated several times that this public forum was not for proposals, but rather ideas. No decisions would be made until the people were heard from and the consultants have a chance to re-assess their plans. 

"We're not going to do this intuitively or anecdotally," Wagner said. "We hired professionals to do a professional job. One of the things they have yet to do is look at operational efficiencies and look at how we're using the buildings. And that's what they're going to do between now and the fall."

(Editor's Note: This article has been changed from the original version. Town Council member Beth Jones was incorrectly identified as Ruth Jones. Patch regrets the error.)

heavens sake June 29, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Latest news this morning is Moodys down grades Connecticut bonds to negative outlook because there is no prospect to repay over $14 Billion in obligations with projected State revenues. This while CT union problems persist with 7500 layoffs threatening {no doubt very few live in NC} . Timely example of what could be future financial New Canaan problem . In any case, there is certainly less chance for Town recieving grants and subsidies for building projects, as it did for bridge and sidewalk to a swimming pond . These factors must be considered before embarking on wild spending programs and hiring consultants for programs going nowhere under stressful economic times. Just because New Canaan has a famous glass house, doesn't mean our elected officials have to think that way.
Roy A. Abramowitz June 29, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Jane: In all do respect the visionaries need to work with the numbers people. Without that the process is bound to fail. What LRPC has done since inception is just that and their Universe is too large and not doable. That is a waste of Resources. To have the Town Planner Steve Kleppin spend his time on issues that will never be done because of budgetary restrictions is a waste of his time and town resources. For instance if the community does not want to replace the Library or Town Hall with a new building or new location from the get go why waste resources on a circular merry-g0-round. For years we have detoriating town facilities and all that is done is speak, meetings, consultants, reports, meetings, more consultants, more meetings and nothing is done and the infrastructure continues to erode and becomes increasingly unsafe. That is totally unacceptable. Stop the circular process and lets get something done. We could have concluded this cooperative what to do \cost analysis in a few months and been on with it already. The process is too drawn out and the universe is too large. No matter what your visions in our current economic climate what LRPC is addressing cannot be done. Look at today's WSJ "Wall Street Firms are laying off employees, looking to reduce costs as a trading slump batters profit and that will be a further hit to our community. By the way I must be a visionary I live in a Modern home and started my own firm 24 years ago.
Roy A. Abramowitz June 29, 2011 at 06:15 PM
As far as the bean counter response here goes: New Canaan currently has approximately 6800 households. AN ASSUMPTION: $100 million replacement of town hall, relocate Library (contribution of town land and Library keeps proceeds on sale of its current location inclusive of land) and other new facilities. Fund with a 30 year bond at 5% interest(assumed rate in the future based on rates up today as appetite for treasuries falls off since QE-2 ends, support dollar as world debt competes for investments).Tiered parking 450 spots at $25,000\spot (median between LRPC universe of $11,000 to $58,000 per spot) funded with 30 year bond at 5%. Year one cost: ------------------------ Amortize principal $100M \ 30 years $3,333,333 Interest @ 5% (simple) 5,000,000 ------------------ Total cost..........................................$8,333,333 ======== Cost per household year 1 (assume 6800 households).... $ 1,225 Add: ------ Tiered Parking (450 spots @ $25,000 per spot, cost $11,250,000) Amortization (year 1 $375,000\6,800) 55 Interest(year 1 $562,500\6,800) 83 Year 1 Total cost per household $ 1,363 Of course larger property owners will bear more of the burden. Smaller properties less.
SLJ June 29, 2011 at 06:53 PM
And CT just increased income tax rates, retroactive to Jan 1. New Canaan should start preparing for less state funding in all areas, residents with lower disposable incomes, and a continuation of a depressed real estate market. Stop the insanity!
heavens sake June 29, 2011 at 08:44 PM
State tax rates are up but also interesting monthly withholding tax receipts on national and state level are down. Our elected and appointed officials are living in a go-go dream world when there are clear signs it is time to be fiscally frugal. In addition interest rates will rise as bond credit ratings decline as happened today with Moodys downgrading CT bonds due to projected difficulty in repaying $14 Billion in obligations. Our Town officials need to be realistic before embarking on ambitious spending

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