Letter from Tom Cronin, President of the Board of the New Canaan Land Trust
March 7, 2022
We wanted to let the public know that the New Canaan Land Trust submitted a bid on December 2, 2021 to purchase Vine Cottage. While our bid has been declined, Land Trust’s Board of Directors thought it’d be helpful to outline the reasons why we believe our offer makes tremendous sense for the town of New Canaan and its residents.
In developing our proposal, we began with the guiding principle that preservation of Vine Cottage, a historic treasure of New Canaan, is essential to the town and many of its residents. We believe that the Land Trust can play an important and unique role in protecting this local landmark.
By way of background, historical preservation is part of the Land Trust’s DNA. While the Land Trust is best known for conserving open space, preservation of historic sites has been part of our mission from the start. The Land Trust’s 1967 Articles of Association permits the “preservation and conservation of…historic sites.” Additionally, our 2020-2040 Strategic Conservation Plan emphasizes our intent to preserve the character of New Canaan which can include protecting historic and culturally significant properties.
Our proposal to acquire Vine Cottage solves four important needs of the Town of New Canaan:
- Eliminates taxpayers’ financial burden in maintaining Vine Cottage;
- Properly restores and renovates the historic building;
- Offers a flexible deal for the town; and
- Creates a use for the space that benefits the New Canaan community.
Let me discuss each of the above points.
First, the Land Trust will take on the responsibility of raising the needed funds to restore Vine Cottage. The Land Trust is a financially sound organization with over 500 supporting members, and a track record of identifying and completing conservation projects that have a positive impact on the community.
Second, our proposal details a restoration plan in four phases over the next two years that will establish Vine Cottage as the Land Trust’s administrative and program headquarters. The plan starts with the sorely needed exterior renovations (including repainting), advances to interior renovations, and finally to improvements that include ADA compliance.
Third, the proposal addresses two issues important to the Town: losing control forever of a building that’s strategically placed next to Town Hall; and the loss of valued parking spaces. The proposal is reversible. We offered a 55-Year Call Option on the building and land – giving the Town the opportunity to buy the building back. In addition, the proposal includes an easement of six parking space – delivering the needed parking spaces for Town Hall during the day, and Main Street restaurants at night.
Fourth, as the permanent home of the Land Trust, we will rehabilitate the property for use as our headquarters, as well as a creating a new, desirable home for other non-profits by leasing excess office space. We envision that the renovated office space and larger meeting rooms will enable us to further foster the connection of the New Canaan community with the mission of the Land Trust. As stated in our 20-year strategic plan (2020 to 2040), it is imperative for the Land Trust to engage the New Canaan community in our mission through strategic outreach efforts, including educational programs, events, and access to relevant information so to spread a conservation ethic across our community. Vine Cottage would help us achieve that important goal.
With a mission that is carried on in “perpetuity”, the Land Trust can play in important role in preserving, restoring, and making the Vine Cottage accessible to all town residents. While the Health Department has a near term need for the building, the Land Trust would like to be part of the long-term vision for this cherished landmark.
This letter was published in the New Canaan Advertiser and NewCanaanite (HERE)