Canaan Parish redesign still “doesn’t look like New Canaan”
NEW CANAAN — Saying the gateway into New Canaan deserved better residents of Canaan Parish, the affordable housing community on Lakeview Avenue slated for a rebuild, weren’t happy with the look of the new redesign.
“The town of New Canaan is unique,” Bally Veldhuis, daughter of distinguished architect John Black Lee, said at a Planning and Zoning public hearing Tuesday night. “This architecture is a mismatch.”
She wasn’t the only one.
Planning and Zoning officials called the conceptual design of the project “bland” and a deviation from the town’s established style.
“I don’t believe there is anybody in town more supportive to affordable housing than I am,” commissioner Laszlo Papp said at a public hearing on the redevelopment Tuesday night. “I agree (with the project) until you get to the architecture and appearance of the building.”
The renovation project of the affordable housing community on 186 Lakeview Ave., slated to take three years to complete if deadlines are met, is expected to include a building with 60 units and another with 40 units. Additional features include 150 parking sites, 37 covered parking spaces as well as a playground area for children who reside in the complex.
But the focus of the commissioners and the public, which included Selectman Kit Devereaux and residents of the affordable housing community itself, was centered on the building’s exterior.
“We have a problem with the appearance of this. The way it looks, it doesn’t look like a New Canaan building,” Papp said.
Members of the town’s Housing Authority and other companies involved in the planning and architecture of the proposal defended their work against a barrage of criticism from commissioners, residents and town officials alike.
“We have explored a number of options and they didn’t look so good,” Myles Brown, principal of Amenta Emma Architects, said. “The architecture language we’re trying to create here is somewhat that connects with nature and New England architecture.”
Brown added that the group had taken into account the addition of extended balconies and roof overhangs after a previous project rendition was publicly released a month ago.
Devereaux, who started off by thanking the Housing Authority’s work, critiqued the architectural style of the building as well.
“The irony is that the proposed development is what the community fears from outside developers,” Devereaux said.
Scott Hobbs, chairman of the Housing Authority, described the lengthy process of planning the redesign while taking into account input from the public.
“We faced a ton of trade-offs, you can’t have everything,” Hobbs said. “There has to be a balance between the size of the building, green spaces, number of units and the financial stability of this project. If we focus on one of these aspects it may end up killing the project.”
Hobbs also emphasized that the redesign project was an important step to help the town obtain its second 8-30g moratorium — a way to prevent private developers from bypassing town zoning laws if they pledge to establish a certain percent of units for affordable housing in their projects.
“The 8-30g is really destructive,” Hobbs said after public comment ended. “New Canaan Neighborhoods could come in three years and not even appear in front of Planning and Zoning. This is a long process and our issue is the town’s issue.”
The Housing Authority alluded to a September deadline necessary to request funding from the state if the town is expecting to work towards obtaining its second 8-30g moratorium.
Goodwin decided to give the Housing Authority more time and will continue the hearing for their meeting next month.
Hobbs said that the team would still be working on the design and would be incorporating input from the community and commissioners into the project.
“This is change, this is uncomfortable but we need to keep an open mind and work towards an improvement,” Hobbs said.