To the Editor:
I am afraid that your reporter misrepresented why Darien residents objected to the Parklands Three (P3) development in her February 16, 2022 article.
The very vocal opposition by the public had nothing to do with affordable housing. The only mention of affordable housing was by two Planning & Zoning (P&Z) commission members. Commissioner Jim Rand seemed to think it was an effective scare tactic to convince the committee to pass his good friend Bob Gillon’s 86,000 square foot complex. (He was asked to recuse himself early on from this matter and chose to stay put.) The other commissioner was Adam Balgach, who was willing to overlook every environmental, safety, and logistical data point to get one more affordable unit. Balgach only got 8 in the final resolution and could have pushed for more if he had listened and understood what was going on throughout the hearing and deliberations.
The opposition to this proposal by the Darien public had nothing to do with affordable units.
Here is what some of the opposition was about:
1. The size. Bob Gillon proposed an 86,000 square foot complex to replace the current 34,000 square foot office building. The height of the new facility will overwhelm surrounding neighborhoods and be an eyesore to those who enjoy walks and outings in the Selleck’s and Dunlap Woods nature preserve which is next to the new building.
Bob Gillon and his team wrote the special overlay zone so they could submit a proposal for a multi-family apartment to replace the office building. The problem is Team Gillon exempted themselves from having to submit an environmental impact study. The 86,000 square foot new structure includes lots of new hardscapes, non-native plants, and a design that does not consider the nearby preserve.
Darien’s P&Z Committee should have, at least, required an EIS, which given the world’s focus on climate change, should be mandatory.
2. The traffic and flooding. Bob Gillon presented the town with other studies just a few years ago when he proposed the “monstrous,” Jim Rand’s word choice, 120,000 square foot assisted living facility next door to P3. Neighbors familiar with Gillon showed evidence of faulty assumptions and inaccurate conclusions of these earlier studies and did the same with the more recent P3 submissions. Team Gillon claims that traffic would not be impacted on the one road leading out of Parklands at an intersection with Old Kings Highway North and an entrance onto 95 North. Team Gillon claims the proposed stormwater mitigation system would prevent further flooding caused by increased storms and climate change. The study did not address the east side of the nature preserve, which regularly gets flooded from Dunlap Lake overflow.
Darien P&Z saw no reason to delve deeply into the matter to determine the truth. They accepted Gillon’s studies at face value and never questioned his results.
In nine hours of hearings, the public did not bring up an objection to affordable housing on this lot. Our elected officials, Jim Rand and Adam Balgach, were the only ones who raised the issue.
If you want to read the 9 hours of public comment, the P&Z staff compressed the entire public portion into six lines. One of the commissioners thought it should be “beefed up” but then decided not to push it since ‘no member of the public was likely to read this resolution anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter.’
Guess what? We read the final resolution and listened to the final vote. It does matter.