By Jarret Liotta

Hoping to reduce the waiting list for permit parking at the town's railroad stations, the Board of Selectman plans a public hearing next week on proposals to ease the long-term backlog.

The hearing, set for 8 p.m. Monday in Town Hall, also will be a forum for discussion of finding more parking potions for downtown visitors.

Under the proposed rail parking revisions, the Grove Street parking lot spaces would be designated for hourly parking and any parking permit holders would be relocated to the Leroy West parking lot, which would be restricted solely for those with permits.

The selectmen will also hear reaction to imposition of an annual $10 fee for residents to keep their names on the lengthy waiting lists for commuter parking permits at both Darien and Noroton Heights stations, which have waits of about 10 and 7 years, respectively.

Another change proposed would allow allowing daily parking in unoccupied commuter spaces at both the Noroton Heights and Leroy West lots after 10 a.m. during the work week.

"Like everything in a representative form of government, we have to take the feedback of all interested parties, and we want to give commuters the opportunity to weigh in," said First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who said the board has spent a great deal of time studying the issue.

"Should there be an outcry in a negative way about any of the proposals that we're suggesting, we'll have a good dialogue at the public hearing," she said. "We will give our rationale ... but at the end of the day if we hear people say that the consensus is it's a bad idea, then the Board of Selectmen has to listen to that."

"I think we all agreed the purging is critical," Selectman Susan Marks said at a recent meeting, referring to the long waiting lists, which include approximately 2,700 names. "We really are trying to help people, even though it doesn't seem like we are."

"The $10 fee to stay on the wait list is not really about the money," Stevenson said, but a motivation to "do something proactively to stay on the wait list." At this time if people don't respond to a question about whether they want to remain on the list for a permit, they're simply left on it.

"Leroy West is town-owned property unlike some of the other lots which are leased property that is owned by the state," explained Karl Kilduff, the town's business administrator. "Leroy West is predominantly used by permit holders, but there are 98 daily parking spaces."

"The permit holders using the 57 spaces in Grove Street would be relocated to Leroy West," he said. "The remaining spaces would then be sold to individuals on the wait list."

"Ultimately we may realize through the parking study that's going to be taking place soon that we need to try and build more parking, or procure land to build more parking, but that's really a decision for a day in the future," Stevenson said.

She said she'd like to see up to 300 parking spaces, as the board has considered in its capacity as the Parking Authority, switched to permit parking to bring the Darien stations more into alignment with other towns along Metro-North's New Haven line.

"However," she said, "I do understand that that's a lot of change for our community, so rather than doing all 300 at one time, we'll start with the 90 spaces -- plus or minus -- in Leroy West and we'll see how the community embraces that idea."

"You're never going to please everybody and I understand that," the first selectman added. "There are certain parts of this proposal that will undoubtedly make certain people unhappy, but if we're serving the greater good of the majority, that's what we need to be doing."