Family & Community.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
- Helen Keller
Built by a decades-long influx of commuters, artists, young families and more, New Canaan is truly a community for all ages. A town that long ago existed mostly as a part-time vacation destination has grown stronger thanks to waves of newcomers who made New Canaan their permanent home. Early residents clearly felt strongly about building a robust community that future generations could enjoy: from education and public safety, to a thriving arts guild, to endowed nonprofit organizations that today provide inestimable support throughout the town — all around us, tangible proof of how much individual citizens cared about New Canaan.
Unfortunately, local leadership has not matched our forebears’ commitment to proactive engagement and long-term planning; as a result the town has failed to keep pace with the changing needs and preferences of those who live and work here. The demographic realities facing seniors, urban emigres, corporate transplants, empty-nesters, and young families are not the same as they were 20 years ago, and it is unreasonable to expect our nonprofits to fill the gap in services…especially without more explicit cooperation and coordination on the part of elected officials.
Town government is responsible for setting a responsive and respectful tone, for putting forth a vision that emphasizes the importance of an inclusive culture, and for ensuring that New Canaan will continue to attract new families and retain long-time residents. I am ready to answer the call.
Call to Action: “Re-imagine Residential”
Can New Canaan meet modern housing needs without sacrificing local character & charm?
we can answer that call.
Nearly 70 years ago, a cohort of visionary architects known as the “Harvard Five” understood that progress and tradition go hand in hand. Thanks to their insight, New Canaan is a prominent destination for fans of mid-century moderns. We would do well to follow their example.
PROPOSALS, CASE STUDIES, AND RESEARCH
+ DEVELOP A COMPREHENSIVE HOUSING STRATEGY
Current and future New Canaan residents deserve to know that the town has made thoughtful provisions to protect the value of their most significant asset: their homes. A comprehensive housing policy focused on inclusion, flexibility, and affordability could simultaneously ease short-term burdens faced by seniors and young families and create more predictable long-term value propositions for all homeowners.
+ PROMOTE INTERGENERATIONAL HOUSING
We don't have to choose between senior housing and starter homes, rentals and condos, affordability and luxury. As AARP astutely notes in its 2018 edition of Where We Live, "a truly livable community should and can be intergenerational." Let's focus on where the housing needs of those seemingly disparate demographics overlap. There is evidence to suggest, for instance, that downtown rentals would not only be attractive for young professionals opting for a "try, then buy" strategy, but would also appeal to downsizers for whom it makes more sense to maintain liquidity rather than tie up the bulk of their assets in another property.
The recent Newcomers' Survey was a step in the right direction; we should augment that data by conducting similar inquiries among empty-nesters and others approaching retirement age, as well as reach beyond our borders to solicit input from prospective buyers in the NY metropolitan narea who are still looking, or indeed those who decided NOT to move to New Canaan. A comprehensive analysis of responses among all these groups can aid the town in promoting residential options that will attract and accommodate a range of constituencies -- both near-term and in the future.
+ SIMPLIFY PERMITTING FOR "ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS"
Our homes are shaped by more than just the memories we make there. As our parents age, our kids graduate from college, and as we ourselves look for a way to age-in-place, the construction of an "accessory dwelling unit" may solve a number of challenges we face. While New Canaan does allow the construction of ADUs subject to special permit approval, there may be ways to make the process less painful. Neighboring towns such as Ridgefield have recently reviewed the local rules governing construction of ADUs, aiming to reduce overly-burdensome restrictions that stand in the way of modifications that, although relatively minor in the scheme of things, could make the difference between being able to stay in New Canaan or being forced to look elsewhere.
Call to Action: “Streamline Safety”
Can New Canaan be more proactive about public safety?
WE CAN ANSWER THAT CALL.
New Canaan is already one of the safest towns in one of the safest states, but we should always strive to be proactive rather than reactive, embracing evidence-based best practices in municipal health & safety management.
PROPOSALS, CASE STUDIES, AND RESEARCH
+ ESTABLISH A PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSION
While the Police Commission is an important law enforcement oversight tool, a Public Safety Commission would ensure more streamlined coordination across townwide entities including Police, Fire, EMS, Transportation, and HHS. This commission would act as a project manager around safety initiatives involving multiple town agencies -- such as the installation of cameras at Waveny and other public spaces, where both NCPD and the Parks Department are key stakeholders. A centralized Public Safety Commission acting as the liaison between departments would provide a greater measure of accountability, as well as enhance efficiencies that can save the town time and money.
+ MAKE NEW CANAAN MORE PEDESTRIAN- & BIKE-FRIENDLY
We should follow the lead of neighboring towns whose recent embrace comprehensive safer streets initiatives have earned them widespread praise. In 2015, Norwalk entered and won a federal "Mayor's Challenge" thanks to a collaborative Bike/Walk task force made up of stakeholders including residents, businessses, and town leadership. This group successfully developed a bicycle master plan, planned out safer crosswalks, and encouraged healthy activity by making dozens of neighborhood walking and biking routes available online. New Canaan could and should undertake similar efforts.
Residents of all ages would stand to benefit from additional sidewalks (where practicable), apps that make reporting damaged road and sidewalks simple, ordinances requiring the timely repair of walkway hazards, clearly marked bike paths, and more.
+ ESTABLISH A TOWN COMMISSION ON AGING
New Canaan's seniors are some of our most engaged community members, volunteering their time and talents -- often in leadership roles -- at nonprofit and civic organizations throughout our town. Residents over 60 also represent nearly 20% of New Canaan's total population (as of the 2010 Census), and that demographic is only expected to increase in size: by 2035, the US population aged 65+ is projected to outnumber children under 18 for the first time in US history.
If it's true that "demography is destiny", then we can't afford to be reactive rather than proactive when it comes to making sure that New Canaan is a community where seniors can safely and securely age in place. We should follow the example of peers including Greenwich and Darien and establish a Commission on Aging, which would be responsible for maintaining an active dialogue with New Canaan's retirees and using their feedback to design thoughtful propsals that town leadership can act upon in support of healthy seniors.
In addition to the housing innovations and safer streets initiatives described above, a commission on aging could serve an important efficiency function, acting as a dedicated liaison between Town Hall and the outstanding senior-focused nonprofits operating in New Canaan. The commission could also stay on top of successful models piloted in other municipalities, identifying those that might work well here: in some towns, seniors living alone can provide the police department with a house key to be used for quick emergency access should a daily check-in call go unanswered; other towns have started teen-senior lunch exchanges, with seniors acting as mentors and teens providing non-judgemental tech support. Solutions are out there, we just need to be intentional about finding and implementing them.
Call to Action: “Embrace Nonprofit Value”
Can New Canaan create a more collaborative relationship with local nonprofits?
WE CAN ANSWER THAT CALL.
So much of the work done by New Canaan’s charitable organizations may be invisible to us, but their services provide enormous value — both on a societal basis and a financial basis. As First Selectman, I want to ensure that our community is as supportive of our nonprofits as those nonprofits have been of our community for so long.