Darien is steps closer to adding more land to the town's open space stock after the Board of Finance approved a $1.925 million appropriation to purchase 4 Short Lane at its Thursday, Dec. 19, meeting.
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told the board.
The .57-acre plot, which is privately owned, is immediately adjacent to the Nearwater Lane sewer pump station and is surrounded by Weed Beach park property. The property is the only privately owned parcel within the "greater Weed Beach campus," Stevenson said.
The Representative Town Meeting must approve the spending for the land.
The acquisition of open land is in line with the Darien Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan and the Weed Beach Plan.
Part of the 1996 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan addressed the need for more open space in town and recommended that by 2010, "approximately 26 additional acres of parkland would be needed to meet the residents' needs," according to the memo.
The plan identified 12 parcels that the town should seek to acquire; however, the town chose to not pursue six properties when they became available, which are now "lost opportunities," according to a memo submitted by the RTM Parks and Recreation Department on Sept. 25.
The Short Lane parcel is one of the remaining four parcels that have yet to be purchased.
Stevenson said the parcel was originally listed at $2.1 million, but an appraisal of the property listed it at $1.4 million. Though the parcel is surrounded by wetlands, the property is considered waterfront, Stevenson said.
She added that once the property was purchased, it would be handed over to the Parks and Recreation Department for its management and control.
The parcel has the potential to be a revenue-generating piece of property for the town, and Stevenson had charged Sue Swiatek, head of the Parks and Recreation Department, to think outside the box in terms of what can be done with the land.
Some of Stevenson's suggestions include: paddle board or kayak rentals; a picnic grove; high-ground storage; installing a boardwalk and nature trails. The one thing Stevenson isn't advocating is using the land for additional parking.
"We already have good overflow parking," she said.
Stevenson said she believed the single-family home would be demolished. She said Karl Kilduff, the town administrator, provided a conservative estimate of $90,000 to $95,000 for the demolition of the home. A formal hazard analysis is included in the demolition costs.
"It does sound very high, but it's very conservative," Stevenson said.
The Board of Finance intends to bond the purchase, but if further conversation reveals that isn't the desire of the town, other avenues will be reviewed.
"This is a purchase for the next 100, 200, 300 years," said Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao.
Stevenson told the Board of Finance the Board of Selectmen is still pursuing parcels at 32 Hoyt St. and 41 Hecker Ave. and that the town is seeking a potential open space grant from the state for the Hecker Avenue land.
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