Letter: Offer from New Canaan Land Trust to purchase Vine Cottage

We wanted to inform the public that the New Canaan Land Trust submitted an offer on December 2, 2021 to purchase Vine Cottage. Although our offer was declined, the Land Trust Board of Directors thought it would be helpful to outline why we believe our offer makes tremendous sense for the City of New Canaan and its residents.

In crafting our proposal, we began with the guiding principle that the preservation of Vine Cottage, a historic New Canaan treasure, is essential to the town and many of its residents. We believe the Land Trust can play an important and unique role in protecting this local landmark.

As a reminder, historic preservation is part of the Land Trust’s DNA. While the Land Trust is best known for conserving open space, preserving historic sites has been part of our mission from the start. The Land Trust’s 1967 statutes authorize “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 may include the protection of properties of historical and cultural significance.

Our proposal to acquire Vine Cottage addresses four important needs of New Canaan City:

  1. Eliminates the financial burden on taxpayers in maintaining Vine Cottage;
  2. Properly restores and renovates the historic building;
  3. Offers a flexible offer for the city; and
  4. Creates a use of space that benefits the New Canaan community.

Let me discuss each of the points above.

First, the Land Trust will take responsibility for raising the funds needed to restore Vine Cottage. The Land Trust is a financially strong organization with over 500 supporting members, and a track record of identifying and delivering conservation projects that have a positive impact on the community.

Second, our proposal details a four-phase restoration plan over the next two years that will establish Vine Cottage as the administrative and program headquarters of the Land Trust. The plan begins with badly needed exterior renovations (including repainting), moving forward to interior renovations, and finally upgrades that include ADA compliance.

Third, the proposal addresses two important issues for the City: forever losing control of a building strategically placed next to City Hall; and the loss of valued parking spaces. The proposal is reversible. We offered a 55-year purchase option on the building and the land, giving the City the option to buy back the building. Additionally, the proposal includes a six parking easement – ​​providing the necessary parking spaces for City Hall during the day and Main Street restaurants at night.

Fourth, as the permanent home of the land trust, we will rehabilitate the property into our headquarters, as well as create a desirable new home for other nonprofits by leasing excess office space. We anticipate that the renovated office space and larger meeting rooms will allow us to further foster the connection between the New Canaan community and the Land Trust’s mission. As outlined in our 20-year strategic plan (2020-2040), it is imperative that The Land Trust engages the New Canaan community in our mission through strategic outreach efforts, including educational programs, events and access to relevant information in order to spread a conservation ethic in our community. Vine Cottage would help us achieve this important goal.

With a mission that continues in ‘perpetuity’, the Land Trust can play an important role in preserving, restoring and making Vine Cottage available to all residents of the town. Although the Department of Health has a short term need for the building, the Land Trust would like to be part of the long term vision for this cherished landmark.

Tom Cronin

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