Neighbors upset about potential New Canaan Y expansion
Updated 5:49 pm, Monday, February 13, 2012
The New Canaan YMCA, which is located in a residential zone on South Avenue, is seeking a special permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission in preparation for a potential expansion. Under normal conditions, the YMCA would be required to obtain a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals and present plans to the Planning and Zoning Commission in order to expand.
Ted O'Hanlan of Robinson & Cole, representing the YMCA at a Planning and Zoning meeting Jan. 24, urged the commission to give the organization the special permit, an exemption which was given to Silver Hill Hospital back in 2007. As of right now, the YMCA only has plans to upgrade its two pools, which could expand the building an additional 2,000 square feet. The pools have not been updated since the 1970s.
O'Hanlan argued the variance procedure would seriously hinder the expansion process, which he said would be limited to a 4 percent increase, because of the YMCA's location in a residential zone. Since it is in a residential zone, one neighbor has the potential to stop the project with concerns under a variance he said.
"What it does is it arms an opponent unfairly," he said. "One neighbor can appeal and that one appeal can likely overturn the whole thing."
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Tom Schulte represented the neighbors and spoke out at the meeting against the YMCA's appeal.
"It all comes back to comfort," he said. "The Y is not comfortable with the law as it currently stands."
Schulte argued the YMCA should not be given a special permit when they have not yet proposed specific plans regarding its expansion.
"They have to demonstrate what it is about this request in this context that satisfies this standard to change the rules," Schulte said. "And they haven't done that. They've talked a lot about what they want to do. We understand that and the fact of the matter is they provide all their good community minded services and activities from their current physical plans and current footprint. Now it does need to be updated. They do need to renovate. We get that. But from our perspective and the absence of knowing what exactly they want to do under the special procedure, we don't think they have shown the necessary finding in order to change this regulation."
Planning and Zoning Chairman Lazlo Papp said many of the YMCA's points were well taken but he worried about opening "Pandora's box" with a potential exemption. The commission will vote on the matter and issue a decision at their next meeting Feb. 28.