NEW CANAAN — A plan to tear down the existing 38 units known as Merritt Apartments on Park Street and replace them with up to 123 units went before the town for the first time last week at a Planning and Zoning Commission Public Hearing.

A large number of New Canaan residents and the commission listened to “a thorough and informative presentation” on the proposed redevelopment at Town Hall on June 28, said Laszlo Papp, a Planning and Zoning Commission member. The commission heard a request made on behalf of M2 Partners, the architectural firm proposing the redevelopment, for a zoning change that would allow increased density in the area.

In addition to the 123 residential units — many of which would be four stories high and built with empty-nesters in mind — the plan includes subsurface parking, a focus on pedestrian friendliness and green spaces.

Those most vocal at the meeting were owners of neighboring homes concerned with the effect the size of the new units would have on property value, the commissioner said.

“The concerns were basically that the proposed buildings were too big and out of character for the town and they may create traffic issues,” Papp said. “The commission always looks at both sides of the application as neighbors, not only the neighbors around the applicants, but the applicant itself is a neighbor.”

Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce Tucker Murphy said she looks forward to the idea of increased foot traffic in town, but she believes concerns about such a development need to be weighed.

“From the chamber’s perspective, certainly we’re always encouraged by anything bringing more people into town. Having said that, we’re very aware of the character that this town exudes to people,” Murphy said. “It’s a charming village, so the balance of those two is something that P&Z and everyone here strives for.”

The plan is “intended to add to the diversity of the housing types in New Canaan located within walking distance (less than 1,000 feet) of the Metro-North train station and downtown, and in the area that has the potential for transit and local demand for shops and services,” according to the application submitted by M2.

The concept, Murphy said, is something the chamber fully supports.

“We’re trying to look ahead many years and see what will happen if an application is approved, or disapproved, or changed,” Papp said. “How this will work out in the future.”

Discussion on the proposal by the Planning and Zoning Commission will continue July 26.

justin.papp@scni.com; newcanaannewsonline.com