Selectmen clarify 'inaccuracies' states at last week's RTM meeting
Published 11:43 am, Monday, October 19, 2009
The Board of Selectmen spent the first hour of its Monday night meeting addressing the events of last week's RTM meeting.
"One of the issues with last week's meeting was that we did not have an opportunity to rebut the inaccuracies in the statement made by [RTM member] Sam Schoonmaker," First Selectwoman Evonne Klein said.
Members of the Board of Selectmen, as well as community members, were not able to comment on Schoonmaker's presentation about land-use at 35 Leroy Ave. at the RTM meeting because of language in the meeting's agenda.
Klein told the Darien News last week that she planned on including a discussion of the RTM meeting on the Board of Selectmen's agenda so members could add their comments to the public record.
"One of the issues and one of the facts that was misrepresented "� is that Sam Schoonmaker said that we do not have any property in town tied up for 200 years. In fact that's incorrect. The lease on Clock Hill is 99 years, and is renewable for another 99," Klein said.
"For me, that is the most important inaccuracy -- that in fact we have precedent for this type of an agreement, and for this type of lease, and I think it's important that the RTM also be aware of that," Klein said.
"I certainly appreciate the comments that Sam Schoonmaker made overall, and he and I spoke afterwards. I also respect the work of the RTM," Klein said. "Because we disagree on the issues does not mean there's a lack of respect. Just that there's a disagreement."
Selectman David Bayne, who is also an attorney, then addressed Schoonmaker's three proposed alternative uses for 35 Leroy Ave., which are a community center, a senior center or luxury condominiums.
"There is insufficient parking there under our parking regulations to have a community center," Bayne said. "There is no room for a gym "� if you can't put a gym there, you can kiss a pool goodbye."
The lack of room for a gym and pool also ruled out the usage of the land as a senior center, Bayne said, since the current senior center has a gym, and it would be counter-productive to move the center to a less-functional space. He also cited traffic issues.
"Do we really want to ask our seniors to drive through rush-hour traffic on the Post Road?" Bayne asked.
Luxury condominiums are not a possibility, Bayne said.
"Luxury housing -- that's not a municipal use," he said. "It's off the radar for what municipalities do and what you do with your taxpayer dollars."
"[Schoonmaker] also said that in June 2007, the RTM created a committee to study the best use of the property "� that's not true," Bayne said. "There was no vote that night and the RTM has been free to form any committee it likes "� they could have studied this property for all that period of time and as far as I know, they have done nothing to do so."
Selectwoman Linda Santarella said Schoonmaker was incorrect in saying that the Board of Selectmen has always been "for" affordable housing.
Selectman Seth Morton said he has not always been "for" affordable housing.
"Am I an affordable housing proponent? On the face of it "� no, my friends," he said. "But as an elected official, I don't have a choice here."
The Board of Selectmen then opened the floor for public comment.
Barbara Thorne, a former selectwoman and current member of the RTM from District II, told the board that she felt Schoonmaker's presentation was "neither fact-based nor up-to-date."
She spoke about the reasons the RTM operated as it did. She also disputed the argument that 35 Leroy could not be used as a community center based on parking issues; the new library on Hecker Avenue was moved forward without adequate parking facilities.
The discussion concluded with a comment from Bayne.
"I think we're all entitled to the opinions here "� there should only be one set of facts from which you base your opinions," he said.