Until future use determined, no renovation for New Canaan’s Vine Cottage
Updated 1:33 pm, Wednesday, March 29, 2017
NEW CANAAN — A roughly half-million dollar proposal to renovate Vine Cottage has come at the wrong time, according to some members of Town Council, especially given the recent formation of the Building Assessment Committee.
“While we think that it’s a useful building, I think that it would be advantageous to wait until the Building Assessment Committee looks at all buildings before we decide to move forward with this,” said Town Council member Joseph Palladino during a Wednesday, March 22 meeting of the group. Palladino is also a member of Town Council’s Infrastructure and Utilities Subcommittee.
The Building Assessment Committee is tasked with reviewing current and potential future uses for town buildings such as Waveny House, the former Outback Teen Center, the Playhouse Theater and, notably, Vine Cottage, and is in the process of doing so over a six month period. Their findings are expected in September.
Vine Cottage, located at 61 Main St., is currently home to the Department of Health and Human Services, but has fallen into disrepair over the course of many years. A $550,000 bond request would address peeling paint on the exterior of the building, cracked shingles, low-quality windows and issues relating to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility.
In Infrastructure and Utilities Subcommittee meetings leading up to the March 22 Town Council meeting, Palladino, Sven Englund and Cristina Ross reviewed the proposal in an attempt to weed out only the most critical repairs to Vine Cottage that could keep the building running and mitigate future costs.
“I think we’re tightening our belts and we’re presenting a counter offer,” Ross said.
However, council members, such as Jim Kucharczyk and Chairman Bill Walbert, felt it was not the job of the council to determine the specifics of a project or work to scale down a project presented — as it was by Superintendent of Buildings Bill Oestmann and Carl Rothbart, an architect with New York-based firm WASA/Studio A — and instead decided the vote would have to be on the existing renovation as proposed.
“This is one of the buildings at the top of our list to evaluate. And I think even approving — whether it’s $550,000, or if they come back with $100,000 that needs to happen before it falls to the ground — makes an assumption that we’re going to hold on to this building, which may not be the case,” Kenin said.
The Town Council voted unanimously not to approve the project but asked that Oestmann and Rothbart return with any structural or safety issues in the building.