The Planning, Zoning and Housing Committee of the Representative Town Meeting doesn't favor the proposal to purchase 1.25 acres of open space on Hecker Avenue.
The acquisition, which was supposed to come before the RTM Monday, was struck from the agenda before the meeting.
"The I's need to be dotted and the T's need to be crossed before it comes before the RTM," Sarah Seelye, the RTM moderator, said when asked why the item had been struck. The RTM Planning, Zoning and Housing Committee unanimously voted against the purchase at its Sept. 9 meeting.
"There were a lot of unanswered questions," Joanne Hennessy, chairman of the committee, said regarding the unanimous vote against the proposal. Hennessy said she was not inclined to put the purchase to a vote during the meeting, but a committee member called for a vote. The committee had questions, she said, regarding the conservation easement, which would establish how the land can be used in the future, how the property would be used and who would monitor maintenance. Hennessy said she couldn't guess how the RTM will vote without more information available, but feels having more information is necessary.
"It is consistent with the Town Charter and the Town Plan of Conservation and Development that encourages us to acquire open space, particularly when it's contiguous with other town property," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said at the Aug. 26 selectmen meeting. "And in my memory, we haven't done that and we have an opportunity to do that."
Stevenson cited several reasons why she believed the purchase is a positive move for Darien, including being used for flood mitigation and developing a path between the Town Hall campus and the library and police station. Additionally, a memo from Sue Swiatek, the Parks and Recreation director, sent to the Board of Selectmen also approved of the acquisition, which is "essential for making Darien a more livable community."
"The acquisition of the property could provide a much desired recreational benefit to the neighborhood and community at large," Swiatek wrote. "Darien should foster active modes of transportation such as walking and biking and help protect natural places."
The property is just north of the Stony Brook River. In 1997, a 10-foot-wide easement was obtained from the Spring Grove Cemetery Association.
Selectman David Bayne was opposed to the purchase and said that if a piece of property is cheap, it is cheap for a reason.
"I would rather see the town buy open space next to a park or next to a school where there is real potential for expansion of public facilities that the town can use," Bayne said.
Stevenson said in a phone interview on Monday, Sept. 23, that if more information regarding the property could sway some of the members of the RTM, that it would be "great."
"The property is a very good value," Stevenson said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for a public-private partnership."
Along with the Planning, Zoning and Housing Committee, the Finance and Budget committee did not take any vote at its Sept. 16 meeting because the committee was told it would not be considered at the RTM meeting. However, the committee discussed several aspects of the purchase, including the condition of the land, who would maintain it and why the town was purchasing it to be open space based on the fact that the land cannot be developed.
"The right answer is to get more facts," Hennessy said. "Will it change people's minds? I don't know if it will."
Stevenson said a presentation from the Darien Land Trust is being developed to be able to provide more information for the RTM.
There are no planned RTM meetings in October and business is not conducted in November and December because of elections and the State of the Town address.
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