DARIEN, Conn. -- Darien officials are taking steps to try to alleviate some of the parking problems throughout town, particularly for train commuters.
Darien's parking problems have long been a topic of conversation within the town. The Darien Board of Selectmen met Monday night for the first time in its capacity as the Darien Parking Authority. The board reviewed a presentation by Town Administrator Karl Kilduff on the current parking situation, as well as some possible ideas to consider moving forward.
Among the most in-demand parking in Darien can be found at the two train stations, where the wait for annual parking permits is seven to 10 years. Commuters who cannot get permits are forced to use daily parking vouchers, which cost roughly twice as much on an annual basis. The town also faces issues in the downtown area.
"Downtown Darien is the most complicated parking environment that we have," said Kilduff. The downtown shopping area has a mix of hourly parking, permit parking and voucher spaces, all of which are used by commuters, shoppers, businesses and their employees.
"Types of spaces, the location of the space, how it works, this all drives your downtown parking and it can be very difficult to manage expectations."
Kilduff brought up several ideas that have been floated in the past for the board to keep in mind when deciding how to deal with parking woes. Some of these ideas include converting more voucher spaces to permit spaces, charging people a fee to remain on the wait list for permits, removing commuter parking from the Grove Street parking lot and make it solely for downtown parking, or establishing a public-private partnership with downtown property owners.
Kilduff said the possibility has also been raised of building a parking structure, most likely in the Leroy-West parking lot near the Darien station. He said that location makes the most sense because it is on town property, but there are other issues including sight lines and potential stacking problems.
Darien resident and commuter advocate Jim Cameron said a conversation about parking in town has been a long time coming. He said the board would be making some difficult decisions, and likely ones that would not be popular with everyone, but that it is an important issue.
"I really worry that the lack of commuter parking in this town is affecting our economy and our real estate values," Cameron said. "So if we can address that issue and make those trains accessible to the people who want to be in our town, its just going too make our property values that much higher."
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the conversation was only the first of many planned.