Tense Meeting Yields New Officer on Key Municipal Group

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The volunteer municipal body that oversees the preservation of New Canaan’s historic district—God’s Acre and the buildings around it—had a new officer appointed to its commission during an odd, tense meeting Thursday.

The former secretary of the Historic District Commission, Terry Spring, who had served on the five-member group since 2005, wasn’t reappointed by town officials earlier in the week. Instead, the Board of Selectmen appointed alternate Carl Rothbart as a regular member.

Spring’s ousting meant that a new secretary had to be elected. Yet she attended the commission’s Jan. 25 meeting at Town Hall, and during a public comment period voiced her eagerness to be restored in some way.

Addressing Chairman Janet Lindstrom and the commission, Spring said she would like to be considered for appointment as an alternate.

“I think that would be just fine because I think that the commission to me is a very, very important part of New Canaan and it is something that I want to follow and want to be involved with and I think planning and advice and whatever I could do to help that situation is something that I would like to be involved with,” Spring said.

“And I am sorry that I do not have the support of the chairman of the commission. I regret that. And I was not aware of the fact that I did not have the support of the chairman and I possibly could have sat down with you, Janet, and discussed this, because I am very much interested in this commission and I hope that I will be able to continue under the basis that [First Selectman] Kevin [Moynihan] suggested and I look forward to lots of changes that we may have to be more active and more involved in the district.”

Spring referred to a conversation she said she had with Moynihan where he, hearing how unhappy she was to be dropped from the commission, suggested she rejoin as an alternate.

Moynihan himself presided at the start of the meeting over the election of officers, where Lindstrom was re-elected chairman and Marty Skrelunas vice chairman.

For the secretary position that Spring used to fill—a role that largely involves keeping meeting minutes—Lindstrom nominated commissioner Dick Rose, saying he has kept minutes in the past and “done a very admirable job.”

Yet Rose pushed back on the nomination, saying he was the “secretary of so many darn things” already and disadvantaged on this day because he left home without his hearing aid.

“Can I pass on that, because I am the secretary of three organizations and I am going nuts?” Rose said. “I am sorry.”

Commissioner Tom Nissley suggested in a raised voice that the town provide outside help for the meeting minutes and asked Rose whether he would agree to serve as secretary under those terms.

“I will do it,” Rose said. “It’s just I will not pick everything up.”

That business settled, the commission turned to a discussion of historic district properties now “in play” in one way or another. Most of the commission’s work involves reviewing applications from homeowners or church officials when they want to make alterations to the public-facing exteriors of buildings in the historic district itself.

The commission in recent years has kept a close eye on a vacant and dilapidating Greek Revival-style home at 4 Main St.—a property owned by a local doctor that a developer has shown interest in restoring, but is tied up in the appeals of foreclosure proceedings—as well as the former Red Cross building at 51 Main St., purchased last year by a limited liability company managed by the same developer, and Vine Cottage, a town-owned building just beyond the historic district’s boundaries that is adjacent to number 51.

Lindstrom, addressing the plan for Spring to return to the commission as an alternate, said it would be “perfectly acceptable.”

“What I would like to say is the one thing I request if you continue on is that you observe Robert’s Rules and that is one of the things—for instance, we usually speak when we are called upon not just randomly,” she told Spring.

In response, Spring said that the commission often forgets to approve its own agenda or otherwise follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

“I would just like to contribute because I think the Historic District is extremely important to the community as well as to me and I think it is very important to many of us sitting around the table,” she said.

4 thoughts on “Tense Meeting Yields New Officer on Key Municipal Group

  1. Its interesting that you can be even an alternate to a Town of New Canaan Board while you sue the Town, cause the Town of New Canaan to spend thousands of hours and dollars on foolish and time consuming FOI requests. Additionally, being nasty and belligerent to Town employees should not acceptable.

  2. Mr. Rothbart is an architect who works in the preservation field, so to me, it is wonderful that he got the opportunity to move from Alternate to Member! Every town body should have a balance of longer established members who can provide institutional knowledge and experience alongside newer additions who provide fresher perspectives. Also, just in case it isn’t clear to readers, all of the Boards and Commissions in town are volunteer. So, let’s give a big thanks to Terry for her decade+ of service and her passion for preserving the history and architectural integrity of New Canaan!

    • Agreed, Jane, regarding new blood on these very important town bodies, and your observation about the volunteer work that municipal board members and commissioners put in on behalf of the town is well made. Equally important to note here that we seem to have high demand for opportunities to fill these positions, whether it be on a more obscure group such as Historic District Commission or our more visible legislative body, the Town Council, which tonight will vote on filling its recent vacancy after multiple interested candidates came forward. We should question any assertion that New Canaan struggles to find residents willing to volunteer for its influential, highly regarded and deeply rewarding boards and commissions.

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