M2 applies for amended special permit
Published 1:26 pm, Wednesday, January 11, 2017
NEW CANAAN — The fate of the proposed Merritt Village redevelopment may yet depend on the results of the most recent round of digging for burial remains.
As of Wednesday, Jan.11, those results were not yet available, despite a new application filed by developers M2 partners for an amendment to the special permit issued in November 2016 by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The application, dated Jan. 6 and filed on behalf of the developer by attorney Stephen Finn of Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin and Kuriansky, comes less than month after it was announced that remains were found in a section of Parcel P — comprised of Parcels F, G, H and I, collectively — causing some to question the validity of the project’s approval and prompting a resubmittal from M2.
Included in the application was a report, dated Dec. 20, 2016, from Westport-based Historic Perspectives, Inc., conducted under the supervision of the State Archaeologist’s Office detailing the results of two November digs of the plots within Parcel P on which ground radar showed anomalies. During the digs, three sets of human remains were discovered in Parcel I.
Based on those results, Historic Perspectives recommended the remains not be removed and that the burial locations be protected by a “ten-foot, no-impact protection strip” on all sides, that fencing is constructed to clearly mark the protection strip and that warning signs reading “Burial Remains” be affixed to the fence.
A modified site plan submitted with the application states the building nearest Parcel I “does not encroach on the David Law parcel (Parcel I) in any manner whatsoever.” If M2’s amendment should be accepted by the commission, the findings in Parcel I would not preclude building so long as no further remains were found in Parcels F, G, and H.
“Please note that under the auspices of the State Archeologist for the State of Connecticut that additional work is currently being performed to ensure there are no additional burials,” Finn wrote. According to the letter, additional information will be made available before the scheduled Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on the subject Jan. 31.
State Archeologist Brian Jones said Monday he has not received verbal or written confirmation of the completion of the most recent round of digging, but that once he receives a report, he will draft his suggestion for the consideration of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He said, however, that if more remains were to be uncovered, he believes it would be difficult for M2 to push forward with development.
“If there is a strong case that can be made ultimately for some kind of clear public safety need or some kind of really clear public good, some kind of eminent domain situation can occur. I think they (M2) are going to be challenged to reassign use of a cemetery if they’re claiming ownership as private individuals,” Jones said. Highways that need widening or dams that need building on the site of former burial grounds, Jones said, are more common examples, as opposed to private development.