DARIEN, Conn. Darien has approved the $6.97 million plan to build a new senior center at Town Hall and move the Board of Education offices to the old library at 35 Leroy Ave. The project, better known as the Shuffle, was accepted by the Representative Town Meeting on Tuesday night in a 58-28 vote.
The special meeting of the RTM included presentations from the heads of most of the body's committees, including Finance and Budget, Education, Public Works, Public Health and Safety, and Planning, Zoning and Housing. Every committee recommended approval of the shuffle.
First Selectman Dave Campbell , Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Fred Conze and Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao all expressed support for the project. Campbell reiterated that the Senior Center discussion has been going on for 12 years, with 30 studies conducted. He said it was time to act.
But Selectmen Callie Sullivan and David Bayne spoke out against the shuffle, saying that there has never been a demonstrated need for the community center that will be created as a result. They cited a lack of data about the costs of running the new facilities and said the Board of Education never asked to move its offices.
Conze said that if the 35 Leroy property were sold to an affordable housing developer, as has been suggested, it would likely result in an 8-30g development, over which the Planning and Zoning Commission would have no control. He said it could result in a large residential complex that dominates much of downtown.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Eric Voigt said the project has not gone through the special permit application process required by the town's zoning laws. He reminded the RTM that the Planning and Zoning Commission's involvement has been limited and that it is possible the plan could be modified before the seniors are moved to Town Hall.
Campbell has said he hopes the Board of Education will move to 35 Leroy this summer and that the new senior center will be open by the beginning of 2013.
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