P&Z Chair: Expect Plenty Proposals to Redevelop in '14

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Susan Cameron giving her "State of the Town" message before the Darien Representative Town Meeting. In the background: Evidence that no matter how contentious a meeting may get nowadays, it's been worse in town.)
Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Susan Cameron giving her "State of the Town" message before the Darien Representative Town Meeting. In the background: Evidence that no matter how contentious a meeting may get nowadays, it's been worse in town.)
Expect downtown land owners to seek approval for redevelopment projects in the downtown areas of Darien and Noroton Heights, and improvement projects related to sports at Darien High School in 2014, new Planning & Zoning Commission Chair Susan Cameron says.

Cameron, who recently took over as P&Z chairman for Fred Conze after he stepped down from the commission, spoke Monday night before the Representative Town Meeting at its annual session for State of the Town addresses.


This is Cameron's State of the Town address, as prepared (without changing words, minor editing changes have been made here by Patch, and subheadings have been added in boldface):

Good evening Madame Moderator, Members of the RTM, other elected and appointed officials, and the people of Darien. I am pleased to give you this annual State of the Town address, looking back briefly on 2013, and giving you a flavor for what is in store for the next few years.

Planning and Zoning Commission membership

As many of you know, there has been turnover on the Planning and Zoning Commission. At this point, the majority of the commission has served 2 years or less. Our members, in order of seniority are: Eric Voigt, myself, Kevin Cunningham, Dick Didonna, Steve Olvany and John Sini. I look forward to working with this group, all of whom have expressed their desire to hit the ground running.

Of course, our appreciation goes out to those retiring Commission members who served for many years, Fred Conze, Joe Spain, and Reese Hutchison. Combined, they have attended over 900 land use meetings and put in thousands of hours of work outside of the formal meetings you see on TV. Their hard work and effort is much appreciated.

Storm Sandy

Looking back at 2013, there is no doubt that Storm Sandy had a large impact on the land use boards and the Planning and Zoning Department. In all of Darien, about 40 houses or outbuildings were damaged and permits were issued for renovation or reconstruction.

Property owners were anxious to move applications along quickly so they could get the work done and move back home. The land use boards and staff expedited these applications, waived or reduced fees and tweaked coverage regulations to allow for an improved process and result.

Hopefully, with many houses elevated or reconstructed at higher elevations, flood waters will now flow through properties without affecting the structures, greatly reducing the impact of future storms.

Upcoming Town Plan of Conservation & Development

Looking ahead to what we expect for 2014 and beyond, I see the commission doing some long range planning as we begin to work on updating the Town Plan of Conservation & Development.

The last update was completed in 2006 and state statute requires towns to do this every 10 years. Since this project usually takes 2‐3 years, work will start right away.

One of the first steps is to decide what specialists we need to assist us, and then include funds in the upcoming budget to allow us to hire them. For the last update to the Town Plan, two specialists were hired—one for traffic and transportation, and one for environmental concerns.

The opportunity to be part of updating the town plan again is particularly exciting for me. I participated peripherally in the 2006 Plan as a member of EPC.

Re‐examining the town plan gives us an opportunity to address a number of relevant issues before the town including public facilities, land use, traffic and parking. This work will guide us in planning and zoning decisions over the next ten years with the goal of keeping Darien a wonderful place to live.

The Commission looks forward to working with the community on this essential guidance document. I anticipate that we will begin this discussion at our first meeting in the New Year, so please tune in so you can be part of the process.

What's up for 2014

On the short‐term planning side of things, we anticipate a number of applications in 2014, including:

  • Improvements to the Tokeneke Club, as well as other clubs in town.
  • Restoration of Upper Pond and Upper Pond Dam by the Friends of Goodwives River. Upper Pond is the pond just above Gorham’s Pond. This is the fourth in a series of pond dredgings which began with Hope Pond on Overbrook Lane in 2004. The permits expired before they got this last pond done. It is good to see the completion of this work to improve such a valuable natural resource.
  • Continued improvements by the Darien Athletic Foundation on the high school property. The next application will be the proposed artificial turfing of additional fields. This application has already been submitted to the Environmental Protection Commission, which will be reviewing it in January—P&Z will likely see it in early March. Since this is a gift from the Foundation, it will ultimately require RTM review and action.
  • An important drainage improvement project in the Abbey/Intervale part of town.    It was recently approved by EPC [the town Environmental Protection Commission] and will be coming to P&Z. This project is designed to greatly reduce the flooding in this neighborhood.
  • The completion of the redevelopment of Allen O’Neill [now renamed "The Heights"]. This project redeveloped a property with about 50 single‐family homes that were generally at the end of their life‐span, into 106 deed‐restricted affordable housing units.
  • Continued work at the Kensett project off of Hoyt Street near Camp Avenue. This property operated as a gravel pit for many years. At its completion, there will be 62 market-rate three‐bedroom condominiums. I would encourage you to take a look at these two very different housing projects. In recent years, Darien has added significantly to the types of housing stock available.
  • Finally, it is my understanding that the Darien Housing Authority is in the early stages of considering redevelopment of Old Town Hall Homes on the Post Road.

Of course, applications of varying complexity for residential and commercial properties are always under review by the land use boards.

We won’t be surprised to see applications for redevelopment of commercial properties in Noroton Heights and downtown, as it appears that the economy has turned around and permitting is up over recent years, notwithstanding Storm Sandy.


I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our professional Planning & Zoning staff as well as members of the Department of Public Works who provide engineering review for some applications.

I have spent 11 years on land use boards in Darien and we are very fortunate to have such a hardworking group of individuals serving us on the front lines.

An extraordinary amount of preparation is required to provide the boards with materials to make informed decisions in each pending matter.

Staff participates in meetings with applicants and their experts to review surveys and plans; they prepare meeting agendas, minutes and subsequent resolutions; they prepare and deliver packets for each of the land use board meetings. They also keep track of all the legal filings, calendar and reporting obligations.

Wanted: another Zoning Board of Appeals member

There were 32 P&Z meetings this year. The Zoning Board of Appeals met 18 times. The Environmental Protection Commission met 16 times. The Architectural Review Board met 11 times.

As you know, these boards are comprised entirely of volunteers. Like the RTM, the local land use boards cannot function without the energy and enthusiasm of Town volunteers. In fact, there is a need right now for a Zoning Board of Appeals member.

So, if any of you or anyone watching on TV 79 are interested in this spot or interested in serving in the future, please contact the appropriate person on your town [political party] committee. The work is rewarding and interesting, and you will get to know some great people in the process.

I look forward to working with all of you over the next few years. Thank you.


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