The 10-acre Allen O'Neill housing development will receive some financial help from the town of Darien after the boards of Selectmen and Finance unanimously voted this week to loan $250,000 to the project, pending Representative Town Meeting approval.
Three years ago, the Board of Selectmen was charged with re-purposing a federal grant from Housing and Urban Development that would be directed to redevelopment, but the agreement to provide Allen O'Neill with the $250,000 was never executed, said First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.
The grant was initially provided for affordable housing at 35 Leroy Ave., which is now the site of the new Board of Education building.
"For good reason, the town decided to not accept this funding," Stevenson said. "The administration decided that grant would have been more financially burdensome on that town than the grant itself."
When the 35 Leroy Ave. affordable housing project was abandoned, Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao said, the selectmen decided to assign the grant to the Darien Housing Authority with the anticipated purpose for the redevelopment of the Allen O'Neill property, which includes affordable housing units, but the agreement never came to fruition.
Stevenson said the town has a "moral obligation" to fulfill funding that it was previously willing to provide to the Allen O'Neill redevelopment. The housing project costs $30 million, according to Stevenson. It has received $5 million from Citigroup for funding as well as other private investors, including the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Darien Housing Authority, Arthur Anderson -- one of the project's partners -- and other private investors.
"This is a very, very small piece of their financing," Stevenson told the Board of Finance.
Stevenson said the town has also made contributions to the project in the form of tax abatements and the abandonment of a roadway that runs through the development.
When the project commenced construction, the developer asked Darien to "make good" on the money.
"We were looking on giving this funding to support the larger infrastructure issues of the redevelopment -- that being the drainage alterations on the site that need to be done," Stevenson said at the Board of Selectmen meeting.
Selectman John Lundeen asked Stevenson if there would be any sort of repayment to the town since none was laid out within the motion the board approved.
There is a possibility the loan would be paid back within 15 to 30 years, according to Stevenson.
"Conceptually, it means that we do have a stake and the folks on the Board of Finance 30 years from now will get the money back without interest," Mao told the Board of Finance.
The RTM may be asked to approve the appropriation, which will come from the general fund, at its September meeting.
email@example.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews