Planning and Zoning denies Roger Sherman application
NEW CANAAN — Visibly angry, the developer looking to rework the landmark Roger Sherman Inn site into a housing development lashed out at the Planning and Zoning Commission just before his plans were voted down.
Andrew Glazer, of the Glazer Group, audibly called the proceedings “bullshit” from his seat in the crowd several rows back from the commission. At another point, Glazer told a woman in the crowd, whose attention he had drawn, forcefully to “turn around.”
After some debate at its March 28 meeting, the commission voted seven to two to deny a plan to build five residential homes and convert the existing Inn into a sixth unit on the 1.7-acre Roger Sherman lot.
With the Inn still open temporarily, but seemingly on the brink of closure, plans for the future of the historic structure and lot at 195 Oenoke Ridge are up in the air.
“The concerns of the commission are ones of density, not so much that it’s housing,” Commissioner John Kriz said.
Since debuting his plans to redevelop the site — originally with eight homes — Glazer’s proposal has been significantly scaled back to six, two-story homes, but has nevertheless continued to meet with opposition among members of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Glazer’s proposal hinged on an interpretation of zoning regulations that allows the conversion of a nonconforming use — the operation of the inn and restaurant — in a residential zone, to a less objectionable conforming use — six residential units. The claim was supported by a traffic study, presented in fall 2016 by Frederick P. Clark Associates of Rye, N.Y., that showed conditions would be eased if operation of the restaurant were to cease.
Commissioner Laszlo Papp, who had previously expressed support for the project, acknowledged his fellow commissioner’s anxieties about the density of the project and suggested a denial without prejudice — which sends a signal to the proposed developer that the commission may be open to the project with the resolution of a few stated issues — as opposed to an outright denial.
“My recommended solution is to deny this application without prejudice and allow the applicant to come back with a revised plan that would answer all the questions raised concerning the density of the site,” Papp said.
Some members of the commission, including Claire Tiscornia, however, worried denial without prejudice might give “false hope” to the developer, and were hesitant to send a signal that a slightly less dense reapplication of the project would result in approval down the line.
“I don’t see any reason why there can’t be one house,” Commissioner William Redman said.
Others, too, worried that allowing the conversion from non-conforming commercial to conforming residential could set a precedent and allow for other, similar projects elsewhere in town.
“I don’t think we should support this kind of spot zoning because that’s what it is,” Commissioner Dan Radman said.
The commission voted to deny outright with Papp and Dick Ward voting against the motion.