35 Leroy: Campbell's new plan
Darien First Selectman David Campbell wants to explore the option of moving the Darien Public School District's central offices from the Town Hall campus to 35 Leroy Ave., and filling the new vacancy with a community and senior center, he said on Wednesday afternoon.
"We're going to explore the Board of Ed moving to the [former] library, and their space in the Town Hall building would go to the senior center. Then the senior center would be torn down and turned into another playing field," said Campbell, a Republican.
The previous Board of Selectmen discussed moving the center from its current location at 30 Edgerton St. to 35 Leroy Ave., but was told by the Planning and Zoning Commission that the former library could not adequately meet the facilities needs, such as hosting a swimming pool.
Campbell said that his plan -- which is currently in the exploratory phase, and will be discussed publicly for the first time in Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting -- involves constructing a pool with private donations. The Town Hall campus has a gym that could be made available to seniors; it is also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said.
"The driver of this really started with the senior center, because it's in such terrible shape, and can't be renovated with any reasonable amount of money," he said. "I have a feeling that the seniors would be better off near Town Hall, and could get more services here with the Health Department and Social Services at Town Hall.
"Where they are today is kind of out of sight, out of mind, and that's not a good situation," Campbell said.
The center would serve seniors -- one in eight Darien residents are over the age of 65, according to a town profile published by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. in 2008 -- as well as the rest of the community, Campbell said.
"Over the years, there's been a lot of talk about a town pool and there have been a lot of people who said they would build a town pool. So if people want a town pool, I don't think the town has the money or should be building a town pool in light of the economy, but if people want to look at it, we're perfectly willing to put it at the Town Hall," he said.
Building a new senior center would be too costly for the economic climate too; a study from two years ago quoted the price of constructing a new senior center at about $7 million, Campbell said.
"I think we can do what we want to do there for a lot less money," he said.
Nothing is set in stone, though.
"This is the very beginning of exploring the whole idea. It may never happen. We may find out it's too expensive or that people don't want it, but you have to start somewhere," he said.
There has been much discussion about the possibility of using the Leroy property for affordable housing, in an effort to help the town reach a moratorium under 8-30G, a state mandate that requires Connecticut towns to have 10 percent of all housing qualify as "affordable."
"We will probably get the moratorium in January with the approval of the Garden Apartments," Campbell said. "With the approval of that, we add 11 more units. We've done a study, P&Z checked with state, we've gone through all our numbers, and we will meet the moratorium."
"That takes the heat off," he said.
This proposal as well as other possible alternative uses for 35 Leroy will be on the agenda for the meeting, which will be held Monday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. in Town Hall room 206. The board is also expected to approve its priorities for 2010 at that meeting, Campbell said.