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Shuffle Dominates Darien Candidate Debate

DARIEN, Conn. – The proposed " shuffle " project to move around the Senior Center and Board of Education offices was the most talked about issue in the debate Tuesday night among Darien's candidates for first selectman. Jayme Stevenson , Chris Noe and John Lundeen also discussed affordable housing and working together.

Republican candidate Stevenson maintained her position that building a new Senior Center at Town Hall and moving the Board of Education offices to the old library building at 35 Leroy Ave. would create a new amenity that would add "tremendous personal, social and financial value to all of our lives in the long run."

Ultra Conservative Party candidate Noe stressed the value of the 35 Leroy property, which some believe to be worth up to $4.8 million because of its proximity to downtown. He said Darien should do the most it can with the land. "To take this piece of property and use it for administrative offices would totally miss the boat."

Democratic candidate Lundeen said the property should be sold and the money be used to build a new Senior Center. The senior population in town is not increasing, he said, despite what others are saying. "Darien is the only community of its size in Fairfield County where, in the last 10 years, the population of people 65 and older has declined."

On affordable housing, Lundeen and Stevenson agreed it should be spread over town. Rather than picking one neighborhood to fill the affordable housing requirements, new housing developments should include a percentage of units that are affordable.

Noe took the opposite approach and continued to promote his idea for a 200-unit affordable housing complex for young people , which would fulfill all of the town's affordable housing requirements. "I'll spend my first hours as first selectman banging on doors in Hartford to file the application for this project so we can have it done in two years."

With unity as a major theme in the Democratic and Republican campaigns, the candidates talked about how they can better work together on a board that has often been divided along party lines in the past two years.

"I will make sure that we are all sworn in together in one ceremony," Lundeen said. "If we don't start out together, I don't see how that process can continue."

Stevenson said she had high hopes the current board would work together as a cohesive, nonpartisan unit when it was elected in 2009. "That didn't happen. But I believe I have the skills and the intense desire to make sure it does happen."

Noe said, "I'd just really love to see everybody work together. You see promises from both parties to work together, but that's not going to happen." He believes that having him on the board as a third party member would help members move past partisan politics and work together.

The three candidates will participate in another debate Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at the Darien Library. It will be moderated by journalists from The Daily Darien, the Darien Times and the Darien Patch.

What questions would you like asked of the candidates for first selectman? Post them in the comments here or email them to cdonahue@thedailydarien.com.

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