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Town's village character attracting new residents

Abigail Skidmore grew up in Texas, where she said she was lucky enough to experience the suburban lifestyle that she so appreciated. But she later moved to New York City, where she spent 12 years, married and had children.

Last year, when Skidmore was expecting her third child, she decided she wanted her kids to have the same lifestyle she had growing up.

"We started to realize that raising three kids in New York City was not how we wanted to live our life," Skidmore said.

So in the fall, she and her family moved to New Canaan.

Skidmore is one of many families who have made such a decision in recent years.

Between 2010 and 2013, New Canaan saw a population growth of 2.2 percent, according to a newly released U.S. Census Bureau report.

Most recent estimates show that New Canaan's population was 20,194 in 2013, or 426 more than in 2010.

The growth is in line with the rest of Fairfield County towns and cities, according to the report, even as the population rate in other parts of the state has shrunk during the same period.

Fairfield County's population grew by more than 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2013, or by about 23,000 people, the report shows.

Town officials and realtors credit the latest influx to New Canaan's widely respected school system and its rare village character.

Tucker Murphy, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the town continues to attract people who seek a peaceful community environment.

"Our town is so rich in culture, history, and (there's) also the fact that we have this quintessential village with wonderful schools and low crime rate," Murphy, who's a member of the Town Council, said.

New Canaan real estate agent Barbara Cleary, of Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild, said people are moving here because of the town's "ideal of a village environment" and the schools' "tremendous reputation."

"The schools, safety, the small village environment are very pleasing for growing families," she said. Read Full Article 

Anne Emson, who also left New York City for New Canaan last year, said when she and her husband decided to leave New York City, they researched small towns where he could still commute to his job in Manhattan.

"We looked to other places around the area, but we saw that New Canaan had a really cute quaint town," she said, "and lots of family activities. This seemed like a very family friendly community."

Emson, who has two daughters, one who's 2 and another who's 9 months old, said the town's public schools also helped in the decision.

"The school system was a big pull for us," she said. "Because New Canaan obviously has really good public schools, that makes it all the more worthwhile to live here."

Both Emson and Skidmore are members of the Newcomers Club of New Canaan.

Emson, a West Road resident, said her family loves the library and Mead Park and they plan to join the Waveny pool this summer.

Another reason the couple chose New Canaan to raise their children is the fact that the town reminds them of Europe.

Emson's husband, Thomas, is British and they lived in France for six years.

But not everything is perfect here, the new residents pointed out. Emson is not pleased with the lack of parking downtown.

"My husband works in New York City and he has to wake up early to go get a spot and that's really frustrating," she said.

Skidmore, who lives on Wahackme Road, has been disappointed with the cellphone service in New Canaan.

"The cellphone reception was a bit of a shock," she said. "When we moved in, we just couldn't believe it."

Roger Williams, a member of the Town Council, noted that as the population increases, the demand for services, especially at the schools, also increases.

"It puts pressure on our school system, depending on how many are school-age children," he said. "It puts pressure on class size, number of teachers."

First Selectman Robert Mallozzi sees the steady growth as "a manageable direction." Though it's difficult for the town to quantify and notice an impact to public services, Mallozzi believes it would take many more families moving in to New Canaan every year "to cause a tipping point."

Mallozzi said he's not surprised the town has seen more than 400 new residents since 2010.

"They certainly must like the lifestyle that they envision here and the lifestyle that they can introduce their growing family by moving to a town like New Canaan," he said.

Cleary noted that there is a big number of houses priced between $1 million and $2 million in New Canaan, which she said is the price range many families are looking for nowadays.

Skidmore said she's excited "to go back to her roots" and raise her children in a suburb. She noted that "the ability to work in New York City and offer our kids the same environment as we grew up with" is why she knows she's in the right place.

"I would say every single thing in our life is different now," she said. "It took some time to get used to, but as a lifestyle, it's a lot more pleasant."

noliveira@bcnnew.com;

203-330-6582; @olivnelson

More Information

A steady increase
New Canaan's population estimates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:
2010: 19,768
2011: 19,948
2012: 20,098
2013: 20,194

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