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Officials: Shuffle Would Rid Town of Edgerton Building

At a public meeting Thursday in Town Hall, all of the town officials discussing the Shuffle plan who gave an indication of their view seemed to be in support. Several said they wanted to rid the town of the Edgerton Street building.

More elected officials than town residents attended a public informational meeting about the Shuffle on Thursday evening, just five days before the proposal is up for a townwide referendum vote.

About 10 people, including several town officials, were at the meeting in , at which the public was invited to ask questions about the plan. District 5 members of the Representative Town Meeting organized the public meeting, which was covered live on TV79, the town cable channel.

One very desirable part of the Shuffle proposal, Finance Board Chairman Liz Mao said, was being able to get rid of the building that now houses the Senior Center on Edgerton Street.

"As far as I'm concerned, tear down the building," Mao said. That would get rid of the maintenance and repair costs.

The Shuffle plan would move the from Town Hall to the site of the former Darien Library at 35 Leroy Ave. The would then vacate its current Edgerton Street address and move into the space freed up in Town Hall. The Edgerton Street building might then be torn down and some other use made for its land—probably affordable housing for seniors if a number of town officials have their way.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson pointed out that if the Shuffle plan is rejected in the referendum, there will be a cost to the town, including continued maintenance and upkeep of the Edgerton Street building—and those costs won't be able to be paid for through bonding, but through the operating budget, which would have an immediate impact on taxpayers, she said.

Extensive repairs are needed to keep maintaining the former school building on Edgerton Street, she said. The roof and boiler both need repairs, and work would need to be done on the foundation.

It was pointed out that the Edgerton Street building uses heating oil, which is more expensive than natural gas, used now at Town Hall and, Guimond said, possibly 35 Leroy Ave. in the future. Guimond said a request has been made to  Yankee Gas to install natural gas service to 35 Leroy.

Size of the Senior Center

Martha A. Banks, vice chairman of the Board of Finance, said she thought the size of the proposed Senior Center in the Town Hall annex was larger than the space that even bigger towns were using for their senior centers.

New Canaan's senior center uses 11,000-12,000 square feet, she said. Ridgefield, a larger town, uses 15,000 square feet. Wellesley, MA, also larger than Darien, has a study that recommends a 12,000-square-foot senior center, she said.

With 24,000 square feet proposed for the Mather Community Center, she said, "I think we've come up with an oversized center."

Guimond responded by saying the proposed space to be used by Senior Center programs in the Town Hall Annex is 16,000 square feet. Other Mather Community Center space would be used by the Darien Arts Center (about 2,000 square feet), youth services (1,000 square feet), and corridors and the mechanical room would take up the rest of the space, he said.

Joseph Pankowski Jr., chairman of the Commission on Aging is one of several people in a group who want to organize a transformation of the Edgerton St. tract where the Senior Center now stands and make it 20 units of affordable housing for seniors.

Pankowski's proposal is not officially part of the Shuffle plan, but it appears to have the support of a good number of town officials. He said that he never expected to get so much support from Republicans for affordable housing in Darien.

Editor's note: This article originally was posted at 6 a.m. Friday. The timestamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Darien Patch homepage.

Liz Mao December 13, 2011 at 04:17 PM
When the RTM was asked to approve the resolution of the Board Of Finance, it voted to remove the proviso that the property be used for affordable housing. The RTM wanted to leave all options open,
Jean Gillespie December 13, 2011 at 05:35 PM
If the Shuffle passes and the development of Edgerton moves forward with the committee that's in place (Joe Pankowski, Debra Hertz, Jenny Streeter, Caroline Murray, Bob Calve) who will own the property? How and when was this committee formed and by whom?
Joyce Ishimata December 13, 2011 at 05:37 PM
I am beginning to see that nearly all the stop shuffle people want affordable housing at 35 leroy and have no real plan for the future. I never heard a reliable answer with respect to limiting housing to age groups. That means , if Dave is right, we can exclude the elderly as well. I doubt that . I never said we SHOULD limit to Darien residents, but when you become exclusionary, you become exclusionary. The stop shuffle people I now realize have no real vision for seniors. They have no idea what the next step is. They want AH at 35 leroy, and are hiding their agenda, by claiming costs on the shuffle make it the issue. This is not fair to the people of Darien. You should be honest.
Joe Pankowski December 13, 2011 at 05:49 PM
@ Ms. Gillespie: the property will continue to be owned by the Town of Darien. Clock Hill Homes (near the Darien Train Station) is a great model for what we would like to do. To answer your second question, the committee was formed early this year, with Ms. Hertz and yours truly joining in the summer. We will be expanding the committee to include at least one person from the Edgerton neighborhood, as well as others who can be helpful to our cause. All of the above, of course, being contingent on getting a Yes vote today.....
Shay K December 13, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Joyce, I think it's unfair to assign motive to many of us who oppose the Shuffle. I am opposed because I see no need for the unnecessary development of a community center when we already have an abundance of unused community space around town such as our new library and existing town hall spaces. I hate the idea of further financial waste (and very little sense) of moving the BOE to 35 Leroy. But my greatest objection to the Shuffle is the loss of the Edgerton property. What sensible town with limited land resources would choose to give away 8 acres adjacent to its only middle school? I can't imagine why town officials would be so shortsighted not to realized the value of keeping that land for future needs.

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