Darien Looks For New Community Center, Schools Superintendent In 2014

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Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson highlighted a new community center, a renewed debate on affordable housing and discussions on downtown parking as the issues to watch in 2014. Photo Credit: File

DARIEN, Conn. – First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and other town leaders outlined some of Darien’s biggest issues for 2014 in their recent State of the Town addresses.

In her address Stevenson said the “top priority” would be the opening of the Mather Community Center, which is scheduled to be ready in February. Stevenson described the center as a place “where our seniors and the entire community can come together.”

Another big issue coming is Darien’s continued issue with Connecticut State Statue 8-30(g), which grants zoning exemptions to projects with affordable housing. Darien was granted a waiver to the statute in 2010 that is set to expire in October 2014.

Since receiving the first waiver, Darien has added sections of affordable housing at The Heights (formerly the Allen O’Neill Homes) and the Garden Homes on Post Road. Stevenson added that the Darien Housing Authority also has plans for changes at the Old Town Hall Homes senior housing complex.

Stevenson also said she wants to continue to push for expanding parking in the downtown area for both commuters and customers.  “We must provide improved parking to support our downtown if we want the kind of positive growth we’ve seen over the past 10 years to continue,” she wrote in her address.

Other issues Stevenson highlighted include encouraging the state to make renovations to the Noroton Heights train station, expanding natural gas availability in town, pushing Connecticut Light and Power to improve the electrical grid and adding new sidewalks.

On the education side, one of Darien’s biggest issues will be the search for a new superintendent. Joanne Pierson has led Darien on an interim basis since the resignation of Stephen Falcone, but the Board of Education will look to find a more permanent replacement by the summer of 2014.

“As with previous superintendent searches, it is essential to have our parents’ and community members’ input as the board moves forward with the most important decision for our town and the Board of Education,” school board chair Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross wrote in her state of the town address.

Darien Public Schools will also continue to deal with rising enrollment over the next few years. The town has formed building committees to work on expansions at Tokeneke and Royle elementary schools, but cost estimates for both projects are higher than expected. The town will discuss possible options for both sites in 2014.

Middlesex Middle School will also begin looking at how it can maximize the space it currently has, Hagerty-Ross said. Darien High will also convert more locker banks into classroom space as it gets closer to full capacity. Hagerty-Ross added that enrollment “will continue to be a concern over the next several years.”

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