DARIEN — Neighbors living on West Avenue are none too pleased with a proposal to demolish a Boy Scouts cabin on the block and build a new, expanded facility.
“We are very concerned about the flooding issues,” said Christopher Rowland, a neighbor to the proposed cabin Environmental Protection Commission meeting Sept. 5. “Obviously a lot of things we are concerned with are P&Z (Planning and Zoning) issues we aren’t going to discuss here.”
The new cabin is being proposed to meet needs resulting from the growth of the scouts, major structural issues with the current cabin and new FEMA requirements due to the Cabin’s location in wetlands, according to a statement from Rebecca Martorella, representative for the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust and Darien Boy Scouts.
The current cabin was built in 1998 to accommodate one boy scout troop of 60 scouts and adult leadership, according to Martorella. Today, it serves over 300 Darien youth through two Boy Scout troops and four Cub Scout packs. It also is used by the STEM Venture Crew, a co-ed program for high school students who lead Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education programs for elementary school students in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford.
The plan is to build a two-story, 8,000-square-foot cabin according to Jay Shutts, president of the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust.
Gary Plank, another neighbor to the cabin, said he believed the commission shouldn’t approve the applicant as presented because it violated the Darien Land Trust’s easement. Easements are restrictions placed on a piece of property to protect its associated resources.
“As stated in the easement the property must be kept as open land,” he said. “It’s very specific on what development is not allowed on this easement land.”
Plank said the easement is perpetual and can only be voided if the Trust seeks to exist.
Craig Flaherty, who represented the applicant, said the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust and the Darien Land Trust has been having conversations about revising the easement.
Neighbors gave a printed out list of requests and stipulations to the commission to review. One request was for a guaranteed maintenance and inspection schedule for the parking areas and driveways to be part of any permit.
Lucia Palmiero, a Darien resident, said parking is already a big issue. The proposal for a bigger cabin with the possibility of more activity also concerned her.
“I can’t tell you how many times my car almost got hit trying to back out of my driveway because they have parking all the way down the road,” she said.
Flaherty said neighbors were invited to informal neighbor meetings before the public hearing to voice their concerns. The list of requests and stipulations presented at the meeting was the first time the scouts were presented with such, he said.
“Nobody reached out to the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust after those neighbor meetings to start these negotiations,” Flaherty said.
Despite this, he said the trustees would review some of the requests made by the neighbors.
Gunnar Edelstein, a member of the commission, said his main concern was the number of trees being removed.
“If you take 19 trees out of that area you are taking an incredible amount of water absorption capability away from that property,” he said. “If they don’t replace them with something very similar it’s going to make the situation worse.”
Eric Joosten, chairman of the commission, said they can place a condition that they plant the new trees first.
The commission closed the public hearing and begin their deliberations at their next meeting on Oct. 3.