Selectmen favor Hecker Ave. land purchase
Published 1:09 pm, Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The Board of Selectmen showed strong support for a plan to accept $137,500 from the Darien Land Trust to buy a piece of open space on Hecker Avenue to potentially connect a path between Town Hall, the police station and library.
If purchased, the balance of the $275,000 acquisition cost for the 1.245-acre parcel along the Stony Brook River would be paid for with a $137,500 Open Space and Watershed Protection grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection this fall.
The proposed deal to purchase the land from the Spring Grove Cemetery Association will be voted on by the board in late January and also requires approval the town’s Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting, officials said.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she has long favored the purchase to mitigate flooding but also believes the use of the land to develop a wooded path linking the Town Hall property to the police station and Darien Library makes the town more livable and walkable.
“We have some issues and concerns with our town with stress, health concerns, and even substance abuse,” Stevenson said. “How can we as a community continue to build an environment that allows residents to have the healthiest experience while living here? To the extent we can acquire a small piece of land that one day allows us to build a walking path that encourages people to get outside; this is exactly what we should be doing.”
If approved the town would retain ownership of the land, and could collaborate with the Darien Land Trust to design and build a path or other uses for it, officials said.
Chris Filmer, a trustee for the Darien Land Trust who made a brief presentation on the proposed gift, estimated the cost of clearing a path and removing invasive plants would be in the area of $10,000. The Land Trust might pick up some of that cost, he said.
“Some might see a vacant and neglected wooded lot with no public value but we see a wooded 1.2-acre lot with the three requirements for a wildlife sanctuary however small: food, cover, and water,” Filmer said. “The town could be about to gain a wonderful pocket park but we need a few people who care and will use a little imagination to make it so.”
Stevenson said the town is notifying neighbors within 300 feet of the proposed land about the planned acquisition and hopes to meet with them Tuesday, Jan. 19, to discuss its potential use and any concerns.
“I think it is a win-win situation and I see no downside to this at all,” Republican Selectman Susan Marks said. “Whatever we can do to expedite this through the boards we need to do and I’m personally committed to doing that.”