Year in Review / New Canaan welcomes new first selectman, balances celebrity and financial issues
Published 12:00 am, Monday, January 1, 2018
NEW CANAAN — The town kept its spirit of debate alive in 2017.
From the retirement of the town’s chief financial officer to the overdue and over-budget New Canaan High School track and field project to the election of a new selectman by a mere 33 votes, New Canaan saw its fair share of news in the year.
Here are some of the year’s top stories:
‘Home is New Canaan’
“Come on over to New Canaan,” a promotional video seemed to say, particularly to younger professionals and millennials.
A conversation that began in September 2016 about dispelling myths and attracting newcomers resulted in three promotional videos spanning a total of five minutes that premiered at Waveny Park in August. Aerial shots of town landmarks and interviews with residents were featured in the video.
The town and the Chamber of Commerce Charitable Foundation funded 43 percent of the project, while the New Canaan Board of Realtors funded the rest.
Mallozzi loses Republican
primary by 10 votes
Robert Mallozzi III could have run for a fourth consecutive term, but then-town council member Kevin Moynihan won the Republican nomination by a mere 10 votes in July.
Mallozzi argued for a recount, but Patrick Donovan, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, rejected the idea, as recounts are only possible when a margin of five votes separates the candidates.
With the sole option of becoming a petition candidate, Mallozzi declined to participate in the process. Moynihan eventually won the first selectman race against Kit Deveraux in November.
Moynihan elected to top office; Republican sweep in New Canaan
Thirty-three decisive votes propelled Kevin Moynihan to the first selectman’s office. According to unofficial results from the Secretary of the State’s office, 40 percent of the town’s 13,626 registered voters came out to cast their ballots.
Democrat and runner-up Kit
Devereaux is now on the Board of Selectmen alongside Nick Williams, Republican, who ran for a fourth uncontested term.
Residents elected Andrew Brooks as town treasurer for a third term. Four Republican candidates for Town Council were voted onto the board.
NCHS track and fields renovation: Overdue
and over budget
It was supposed to be completed by summer of 2017. Now it’s slated for completion next summer.
The subpar conditions of the NCHS track and turf fields motivated a partnership between the town and the New Canaan Athletic Foundation, a nonprofit that raised $1.7 million in private donations, and the creation of the Fields Committee.
Miscommunication between departments and boards, along with technical issues on the fields, led to an additional $800,000 bill for the town and an additional $155,000 raised by the NCAF.
Though the track and one turf field are operational, the project will not be concluded until next summer.
‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough
Republican no more
“Morning Joe” anchor Joe Scarborough told Stephen Colbert on his show last summer that Donald Trump’s rampage through the Republican Party had made him reconsider his political party affiliation.
On Oct. 12, Scarborough officially renounced his Republican affiliation in a visit to New Canaan Town Hall. Unaffiliated Voter Registrar John Amarilios oversaw and verified Scarborough’s separation from the Republican Party.
Eversource invests $25M to bring natural gas
Two votes in favor of Eversource’s investment overcame a single vote against it in July.
Then-First Selectman Robert Mallozzi and Nick Williams approved the plan, while former selectman Beth Jones did not. Eversource plans to bring in natural gas to the southern portion of the town by next year.
According to Chris Luca, project manager at Eversource, the project is split into three phases. The first phase would include a natural gas pipe connecting New Canaan High School, Saxe Middle School and South Elementary School. The Waveny Health Center and the local YMCA would have the chance to opt in.
In Phase Two, the pipe would continue up South Avenue into the southern portion of downtown and end near East School. Phase Three would see further expansion into residential neighborhoods.
Still no full-time CFO
Chief Financial Officer Dawn Norton retired in May. Shortly thereafter, Sandra Dennies, a former CFO of Wilton and town administrator in Stamford, was approved by the Board of Selectmen as an interim CFO.
Three contract extensions later, Dennies remains interim CFO and the town is expecting to lock down a permanent CFO by April.
Town planner leaves
spot in less than a year
With less than a year in the position, Steve Palmer made clear his intentions to resign from the Town Planner position in August.
As head of the Planning and Zoning Department, Palmer oversaw the deliberations of applications including the Roger Sherman Inn redevelopment proposal and the controversial Grace Farms application.
Keisha Bigg Finks, who previously was town planner in Westport, was appointed as interim town planner in late September and remains in that position.
Grace Farms drama rages on
Grace Farms filed for a special permit in October 2016, but it wasn’t until September that the permit was approved.
Throughout the year, Grace worked with neighbors to resolve issues regarding noise and light pollution and tree coverage. However, neighbors wanted Grace to cut down its intensity of use and argued that Grace Farms’ application for principal uses was to continue its “overly intense use of its property.”
By the end of September, the P&Z approved a permit for Grace Farms, but with over 100 conditions of use.
a town priority
Residents and local officials agree that service across town is spotty, but lack of regulations and a “not in my backyard” mentality impede communication.
Residents previously opposed plans for 110-foot cellular towers at a public park and elementary school in April, saying the structures would ruin the picturesque landscape of the town.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan has said this will be his top priority going into the new year, with plans that may involve private and public properties.