Letter: Hold on, That Edgerton Street Property Is Valuable

There are costs to losing the Edgerton property to senior housing, which is one reason why MariLu Cleary opposes the proposed Shuffle plan, she writes in a letter to the editor.

Wasteful spending of taxpayer money is never a good thing, no matter what the excuse. It is particularly offensive when people are suffering from economic hardship. I believe the "shuffle" represents first and foremost wasteful spending and I fully support the Stop the Shuffle effort.

As we approach Tuesday I have one final important observation which concerns the "third" stage of the shuffle: the use of the Edgerton property for senior affordable housing. I am a strong supporter of affordable housing for Darien. I also believe affordable housing should be balanced with other needs of the town. 

Darien owns two pieces of property that could be used for affordable housing: Edgerton, an eight-acre property adjacent to our Middle School (MMS); and 35 Leroy, a two-acre property adjacent to condominiums and houses, and walking distance to downtown Darien.

IF the town is truly committed to developing affordable housing, why would the choice be to give away property next to our school??? Currently, all the school buses for MMS run through the Edgerton property every morning and afternoon; the lower playing field adjacent to Edgerton property is used every afternoon until dusk and on the weekends; the site is also used for overflow parking for the many MMS nighttime and weekend events that occur at the school.

In the future, the town may find itself in a situation where we need to expand our schools. To me, leasing away this property would be debilitating to surrounding neighborhoods faced with overflow street parking today, and extremely short-sighted and severely limiting in the town's ability to address potential school needs in the future.

Clearly, 35 Leroy is a far better choice for affordable housing. (And in fact there exists a fully developed plan for the affordable housing at 35 Leroy, which was unfortunately singularly dismissed by the First Selectman in 2009 with no public discussion or debate).

I will vote No on Tuesday. Vote No to stop wasteful spending of taxpayer money; vote NO to stop unnecessary and expensive expansion of government services; vote NO to stop the loss of strategically important town property adjacent to our middle school; vote NO to STOP the shuffle.

MariLu Cleary


Editor's note: Here are some Web links on this topic:


Websites for each camp:

From the town website:

Joyce Ishimata December 12, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Tony, Just to address your amusement, I read the article here and it says 44% in favor and 23% undecided, 33% opposed, resulting in a plurality in favor. Why are you amused that Mr. Sini still believes that those opposed are in the minority? From what I read , only 33% are opposed. If th RTM vote was 56-30 or then those opposed seem to be consistent with the survey. You are using semantics to try to portray a different picture than was drawn "less than half suport the shuffle" Mr Sini could easily say only about 1/3 of the survey opposed.
Tony Imbimbo December 12, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Joyce: My first point was that the Republicans who oppose the shuffle do so because it's a waste of taxpayer money. My second point was that there is not overwhelming bipartisan support for this, as some suggest. Implying that a 58-28 vote in the RTM reflects the level of support in the community would be inaccurate, based on the survey. There's only a 44-33% approval rating among Republicans, according to the survey. If Republicans in the RTM voted yes at a ratio of 44% to 33%, the Shuffle resolution would have failed in the RTM. The opinions of the 33% of Republicans who oppose the Shuffle, which weren't represented in the RTM vote, will be better represented in the referendum vote tomorrow.
kathy December 12, 2011 at 08:49 PM
How about you scope out a 12 to 16,000 square foot senior center instead? Your insistence that the seniors need 18 -22,000 square feet to meet their programming needs is part of the reason that you have forced the shuffle of people and spaces. www.stoptheshuffle.com
Joe Pankowski December 12, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Ms. Finnegan: trust me, after more than a decade involved with the Senior Center, I can tell you that nobody is "forcing" anything. This was a process that lasted nearly two years, was approved by numerous town boards and, ultimately, will be voted on by the taxpayers tomorrow. I believe that this is an excellent solution to a difficult town problem. You don't. We'll agree to disagree and see what happens tomorrow.
Deb Ann December 12, 2011 at 09:03 PM
**their singular desire to put affordable housing at 35 Leroy.** There you go again. There is no conspiracy, truly. It's a strange assertion. The question of Leroy should have always been separated from the questions about a new Senior Center. They should never have been considered in one package. In conversations I have had with nonpartisans, I have heard a wide range of alternatives for Leroy. Commercial use. The Marshman solution--luxury senior with set asides. Affordable. Re-look (and why cannot we re-look at an alternative?) at moving seniors to Leroy.
donkeybuster December 12, 2011 at 11:55 PM
If the "just say no" crowd loses tomorrow, can we make them fund the tens of thousands of dollars they wasted in pushing this to a referendum? To use their specious reasoning, think of all the school books, educational materials, rainbows and puppy dog kisses we could have spent that on. For goodness sake, don't they care about the children?!?! True comedy. Like watching my 3 year throw a tantrum. It passed directly/indirectly four times. What's next, a referendum on what ply toilet paper we put in the public restroom at cherry lawn. Me thinks the "no" crowd doth protest too much.
donkeybuster December 12, 2011 at 11:57 PM
PS I very much hope that darien's current and future seniors remember the democrat parties eager dare I say enthusiastic drive to keep them from modern facilities. I don't care how old you are, 5 years is a long time to wait. The democrats of Darien would like our seniors to wait longer. Remember that.
Joyce Ishimata December 13, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Mr Imbimbo, As I said, I am an Independent, I was opposed. The survey says 161 people support 120 oppose 85 are undecided. If you are saying, Mr Imbimbo, that all Democrats are a NO, and the Republicans are split, then this is more a political question than a referendum on the costs and issues. Which, then I am very upset about. This would be very very wrong if this was a political debate hidden under the guise of a referendum for our senior citizens.
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 07:05 AM
No, Joyce, that's not what I'm saying. My main point was that there wasn't "overwhelming bipartisan support." Less than half of Darien Republicans support the Shuffle, according to the Republican Club's survey, and yet 84% of Republican RTM members voted in favor (a 49-9 spread). If the Republican RTM vote matched the 44-33 ratio of the survey, the resolution would have failed because the majority of independent and Democratic RTM members (but not all) opposed the Shuffle. The RTM vote no longer matters because we have a referendum on Tuesday. But I'll be voting no because I don't think it makes sense to spend $2.6 million to move the Board of Ed into a $4.2 million building when it's not at all needed for a new Senior Center. If we vote no, I'm confident that the Board of Selectmen will move quickly to have an architect draw up plans for a stand-alone senior center at Edgerton or a Senior Center at Town Hall (leaving the Board of Ed where it is).
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 10:20 AM
@ Tony: I wish I was as confident as you about alternative plans if the No vote wins today. After trying to pull the Senior Center programs out of their dilapidated building for over a decade and seeing individuals on Patch like Charley who want "NO COMMUNITY CENTER", I don't share your optimism. If you win, as an RTM member, you are perfectly aware that it'll be years before we reach a resolution. Meanwhile, our seniors will be stuck in a building that began its life as an elementary school in 1954 and which still has child-sized toilets. And, for the record, I've yet to see a legitimate plan for squeezing a Community Center into the Town Hall Annex with the Board of Education. There's not enough space or parking by a long shot. It's poor "options" like this that make me worry about what happens to our seniors if the Mather Center doesn't become a reality. I'm looking forward to casting a Yes vote today and ask others to do the same. Let's just get the job done.
John Sini December 13, 2011 at 10:23 AM
Tony, like I said, the small sample size, limited distribution and skewed age demographic does not make the survey a mathematical representation of the average Republican voter, much less the average Darien voter. Remember, this is a Republican Club survey, not a Republican party survey. We'll see in a few short hours how this plays out. That said, I was asked by a Republican Club member last night if you'd like a free membership given how much validity you have given the survey. As for plans for a stand alone Senior Center, they already exist, and will run past $7 million. So under the opponents "plan" It looks like we'll be spenging just as much, but getting much less in return. http://voteyesdarien.com/More_Information_files/Darien%20Senior%20Activities%20Center%20%282007%29.pdf
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Joe, the reason I'm confident we'll have a new plan quickly is that every member of the BoS and BoF have voiced support for a new senior center, and so have each of the RTM subcommittees. In fact, during the campaign the First Selectmen candidates even said that if the Shuffle resolution failed they would work quickly on another plan. What many people don't support is spending $2.6 million to move the Board of Ed into a $4.2 million building. The reason you haven't seen a "legitimate plan" for putting the Senior Center at Town Hall with the Board of Ed is because the BoS didn't ask the architect to provide one, despite assurances that they would. There is one architect on the RTM, and that person recommends that we seriously look at this combined approach. Parking would not be an issue since Town Hall has twice the number of parking spaces as the current Senior Center. I counted them. There are 37 parking spots at the Senior Center and more than 70 empty spots not being used at Town Hall on a typical day. Parking is NOT a problem.
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 12:43 PM
@ Tony: I'm confident our seniors will have a new Center, too, but for a very different reason than you. Today's the day to make it happen....VOTE YES DARIEN!!!
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 12:57 PM
John, thanks for the free membership. That $7 million figure is not the cost of a 12,000-15,000 square foot building, which is more in line with the size of most of the neighboring senior centers. It would be nice, as an RTM member, to be able to compare the costs-benefits of a stand alone center at Edgerton with a combined facility at Town Hall. And in either case, we'd still own 35 Leroy, which we could either use, or lease, or sell to help pay for the senior center and whose property tax revenue could offset operating costs.
John Sini December 13, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Tony,that archetect of your's must also be a great magician to get even 15,000 square feet into 7,000 square feet. As for your republican strategist skills, we'll let the final vote tally and number of voters be a judge of that.
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 01:52 PM
John, obviously if a slight expansion of Town Hall is required to fit a smaller Senior Center, that could be done for a fraction of the cost of the $7 million Shuffle. Plus, we'd still have 35 Leroy AND the Edgerton property to use, sell or lease as we see fit. We would be maximizing the value of the Town Hall property, as well as the two other properties and saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Or, a stand-alone Senior Center at Edgerton at 12,000 sq ft would only cost about $4.2 million, and we'd still have 35 Leroy to use, sell or lease. The BoS and RTM chose the most expensive option. Today, we have an opportunity to begin the process of choosing less expensive alternatives.
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 01:58 PM
@ Tony: no more studies, no more delays, please. VOTE YES DARIEN.
Michael Brennan December 13, 2011 at 02:26 PM
I wonder that too. I won't hold my breath however waiting for the funds to come from "Stop the Shuffle" though they clearly have the funds to cover all the advertising they have done. One has to wonder where all these people who were so concerned about school spending were when the $18 million police station expansion was approved (and for the record I fully support and respect our police in Darien just don't understand the need for the monstorous addition to the police station). Also, what about the the warming hut for paddle tennis at Weed Beach. Why are we spending money on that? I would think that will be used by well less than half the town. My kids don't go to Tokeneke, why do I have to fund a new school building for them? Are we going to have a referendum everytime a vote doesn't go the way we want? The BOS and RTM were voted in to office by citizens of this town. If you don't like the way they voted,VOTE THEM OUT or better yet get in front of them before they vote on something and voice your opinion. Don't wait until after years of studies and votes and then waste everyone's time and the town's money.
Joyce Ishimata December 13, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Mr Imbimbo I think no one would ever have thought that moving BOE to 35 Leroy would cost that much. How are you sure that an "expanision of town hall could be done at a fraction?" Does that include expanding parking lot? What will happen to the fields? This is a sham, I am realizing? There is no plan. You are making it up as you go. This is so unfair to the people of Darien. To schedule a referendum on costs and then make it really just about 35 leroy being available for affordable housing. Not fair .
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 05:44 PM
@ Ms. Ishimata: if you haven't voted yet, may I suggest a "Yes"? We do have a comprehensive solution to the Senior Center problem. It isn't perfect, but is excellent.
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Hi Joyce. See the following link for answers to your questions regarding more fiscally responsible options for a Senior Center: http://stoptheshuffle.com/otheroptions/ ... and don't forget to vote.
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Ms. Ishimata: please watch this video before voting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGOTHTEN9nk
Debra Ritchie December 13, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I think Joyce has probably gone to the polls already. Thank you, Joyce for asking excellent questions - you have done your homework on this issue.
donkeybuster December 13, 2011 at 09:00 PM
The "no" crowd remind me of the wizard of oz. "pay no attention to that little man behin the curtain! The great oz has spoken." The little man is the truth, and the "no" crowd wants you to ignore it by making a great deal of sound and fury...signifying nothing. I think our seniors deserve better. It's been years. Let's not play politics with the quality of people's lives. And seniors, please remember that the democrats wanted to delay this for what would have undoubtedly been several more years of additional debate. and for the no crowd, next time you strike out looking for your hearts desire, remember you don't don't need to leave your own back yard. There's no place like home....there's no place like home.
John Sini December 13, 2011 at 09:16 PM
...that curtain was lifted yesterday.
Chris LaJaunie December 13, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Tony, none of the "options" listed on that website (the "non-," "half-," "un-" and "sort-of shuffle") is economically feasible or realistic if you do the math on them. The cost estimates listed in these options are unrealistically low and clearly have not been vetted by anyone with real estate experience. As been explained a number of times publicly, using 35 Leroy as a Senior Center does not work in its current configuration, and selling it is much more complicated because of the P&Z restrictions on zoning, density, the cost of actual development, and because the property is currently bonded. It is amusing, however, that three of the four options include building affordable apartments at 35 Leroy.
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 10:29 PM
From today's Patch: "The town operating budget, which includes all other town expenditures, would increase from $37.3 million this fiscal year to $39.3 million in the next fiscal year, a $2 million increase. Most of that increase—$1.3 million—comes from debt service, including the controversial Shuffle plan. The shuffle plan would cost taxpayers an extra $263,000 as a first-year payment which would then only increase to more than $500,000 a year in the next four years." http://darien.patch.com/articles/state-of-the-town-b68e9caa Knowing that we can build a Senior Center for millions of dollars less, I think it's a shame to burden Darien taxpayers, including Darien's senior taxpayers to this degree. I'm just really glad this went to a referendum. If taxpayers want to incur the extra costs, they can. If not, they won't have to.
Tony Imbimbo December 13, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Chris, I guess I just disagree with you on each of your points. Perhaps if the Board of Selectmen had asked the architect for alternate plans, gotten appraisals, etc., you would have more confidence in these estimates. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But it's not too late. It's not 8 PM yet. Also, the Shuffle includes affordable housing too -- at Edgerton Street, next to Middlesex Middle School, the playing fields, the bus traffic, the parking lots. That was the original point of this letter, I believe.
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 10:52 PM
@ Tony: a tip of the cap to you for fighting to the very end. I think your cause is misguided, of course, but the voters will tell us soon enough whether they wish to overturn the RTM's landslide vote.
donkeybuster December 14, 2011 at 04:18 AM
It's over. Darien seniors...present and future....always remember the Democrats wanted to make you wait longer. Looking at the money wasted on this referendum, I'm reminded of the scarecrow...."with the thoughts I'd be thinkin'...I could be another Lincoln....if I only had a brain."


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something