Even after Merritt approval confusion over burial ground remains
Updated 11:46 am, Tuesday, December 6, 2016
NEW CANAAN — Even after the approval of M2 Partners’ scaled back Merritt Apartment redevelopment, the future of a plot of land known as Parcel P and its legal standing should interments be found is still a cause of debate.
“State statute says, very clearly, you can have private property that has an interment. It doesn’t become a cemetery, it’s still private property. Lots of properties, especially in Connecticut, have that issue, ” said Arnold Karp, M2 principal.
He said on Wednesday state law will allow the owner of the property to maintain the land so long as record is kept of any remains found or removed.
In its 65 conditions — not yet available to the public or developer as of Wednesday, Nov. 30 — discussed over the course of several meetings, the commission sought to possibly protect the parcel and cemetery by stipulating the developer must shield the existing cemetery throughout construction. They also stated that if during construction any burials were found on Parcel P — which non-invasive ground radar survey conducted in March did not find evidence of — M2 would cede ownership of the plot, would have to cease construction and submit a new application not including the parcel.
Karp had offered during the application process to protect the acknowledged cemetery throughout construction and has worked with State Archaeologist Brian Jones, though he was not legally required, to conduct further testing.
Karp and his attorney, Steve Finn, however, said they do not agree with the commission’s interpretation of state statutes that prohibit the building over burial grounds, if interments should hypothetically be found.
“The statute was enacted after the cemetery had been in existence for many, many, many years. In general, General Statutes do not apply retroactively,” Finn said.
On Wednesday Karp said, though he had not seen the conditions yet, he could appeal to Planning and Zoning any cemetery conditions mandated by the commission considered unlawful by the developer.