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Letter: 35 Leroy Ave. Should Not Be Sold

DARIEN, Conn. – The following letter to the editor was written by John Sini Jr., a member of the RTM Planning, Zoning and Housing Committee and treasurer of the Republican Town Committee. Sini lives at 36 Birch Road, Darien.

As the Board of Selectmen presents its facilities transfer proposal it's important to outline some key facts related to the acquisition of 35 Leroy Ave.

In June 2007, during a presentation in front of the RTM, Darien's former first selectwoman outlined the "extraordinary opportunity to vote 'yes' to purchase the library property [35 Leroy]." The presentation noted that the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed that the purchase was: "Consistent with the use in the Town Plan; Controls the use and development; Offers town support for the new library; Is the number one priority of the BOS – to acquire land, and; The purchase has broad community support for the acquisition."

Even though the previous Board of Selectmen wished to use property for affordable housing, not one board, commission, or the RTM included it as a condition of final approval. The plan faced significant push-back – as some opposed called for the sale of the property. Yet, the Board rightfully dismissed this idea.

The Darien Times reported on Sept. 4, 2008, that "the selectmen nixed two other uses – upscale senior housing and selling the property because they don't result in some public advantage." The first selectwoman stated "municipal needs should be the focus in assessing uses rather than what is the best use of this site."

On Sept. 22, 2008, the Board of Selectmen outlined its plan via its presentation to the RTM, which included the following:• Only public uses were considered for the site;• Why? Municipalities typically purchase land for a public benefit;• A public use results in some public advantage, benefit or enhancement of public welfare;• Sale of the property at this point delivers no real public benefit;• Sale in an adverse market would likely require a long holding period and carrying costs or sale at a loss to the taxpayer.

Under First Selectman Dave Campbell, the current Board of Selectmen is now pursuing a different course for 35 Leroy which will serve a municipal need for Darien as part of its facilities transfer plan. This plan has also attracted its critics – ironically, also calling for the sale of the property. Yet, it's clear that the arguments for the sale of 35 Leroy are as flawed now as they were three years ago.

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