Town may fund efforts to save historic house
NEW CANAAN — Town officials are still exploring ideas to save and obtain the 19th-century house on 1124 Valley Road and that may include taxpayer money.
“I’m still working aggressively to try to save the Grupes House on Valley Road. That may require some town funding if we are going to participate with partners who are putting up over $1 million to try to preserve (the house),” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said at a board of selectmen meeting July 24.
Moynihan was referring to the 1124 Valley Road house which sits on a 4-acre property abutting the Grupes Reservoir Dam and is owned by the First Taxing District of Norwalk.
Officials from both municipalities have been in back and forth talks since April back when the house was slated for demolition thus drawing the attention of several preservationist groups in town.
New Canaan officials have floated the idea of enacting eminent domain — a government’s right to purchase private property for a fair-market price — which led to the Taxing District withdrawing its demolition permit earlier in May.
Moynihan filed a Freedom of Information request with the First Taxing District in late May— a rare occurrence between government bodies — seeking documents regarding projects involving the water treatment plant and the 1124 Valley Road house.
Democratic Selectman Kit Devereaux asked Moynihan last Tuesday if he had received a response to his FOI request.
“They have given us a total of one memo and three emails which I do not think is very responsive to our request,” Moynihan said.
James Fulton, attorney and trustee for the First Taxing District, said that statutes exempted them from providing certain information.
“The water statutes in the state of Connecticut provide many, many exemptions,” Fulton said July 31. “Any instrument or document or reference that would reveal the specifications for what we would want to do or reveal the precise location is exempt from disclosure for security reasons.”
Fulton referred to the memo provided to New Canaan where District enginners had recommended to commissioners at the end of last year that the 1124 Valley Road house should form part of the water treatment operations.
“We’re not going to disclose to him or to anyone specifications for water treatment facilities or precise locations,” Fulton added. “I thought the memo would satisfy his curiosity.”
Fulton said that he and First Taxing District officials would be happy to arrange a meeting with New Canaan representatives though with the caveat that lawyers be present.
“I don’t believe that the town will imprudently attempt to exercise rights of eminent domain for our land because I believe that they would be prevented from doing so by a court of law,” Fulton said.
Moynihan said that the house is a cause “worth fighting for.”
“They operate in this town through the good graces of the town of New Canaan and I don’t think they seriously understand their obligations under FOIA but we will get to the bottom of what their plans are and what the status of the house is,” Moynihan said.