RTM Agrees to Buy House Beside Weed Beach for $1.75 Million

This house, at 4 Short Ln., will be bought by the town for $1,750,000.
This house, at 4 Short Ln., will be bought by the town for $1,750,000.
The town will soon own a 1955 house on about a half acre surrounded by town land, including Weed Beach Park.

After town officials ink the $1,750,000 deal with the property owner, the structure will be demolished. Town officials haven't yet decided what they want to do with the property.

Some ideas the Park and Recreation Commission have suggested for the property are using it for a new picnic area with a pavilion, a place to offer kayak and paddleboard rentals; a storage and launch area for light watercraft; a boardwalk or nature trail; storage and improved access for the Darien Junior Sailing program; and continuation of the walking loop at Weed Beach.

The Representative Town Meeting approved spending as much as $1,925,000 for the purchase, demolishing and possible financing costs if the Board of Finance opts to borrow money rather than using the town general fund.

"The Board of Finance noted that because the General Fund Balance is currently in excess of $17 million greater than the stated policy of a minimum of 10 percent of the annual budget (or approximately $13 million), they may elect to fund some or all of the acquisition cost with cash from the General Fund, which is currently earning near zero return in its investments," said James Palen, chair of the RTM Finance & Budget Committee, which endorsed purchase of the property in an 8-4 vote earlier this month.

The 12-room house paid $12,701 in taxes last year and was put on the market last July, originally for $2,100,000 (later reduced to 1,895,000). A description of the property says that it has six bedrooms, although three are 13 feet by 12 feet or smaller.

The house is located near the southern end of Weed Beach Park, just south of the parking lot.

The Town Plan of Conservation and Development in 2006 listed the property as one that would be good for the town to buy when it became available for sale.

In September, Director of Public Works Robert S. Steeger Jr. "confirmed to the First Selectman that any future use of the Short Lane property for a legitimate public works need is highly unlikely," Palen said in the Finance & Budget Committee's report, which he read to the RTM on Monday evening.

"[T]his property is a potentially important asset for our town that can benefit all of our town's residents," Palen said.

"Any delay in acting on this opportunity can seriously risk the town's ability to acquire the property," he said. "There are other parties who were bidding on the house, and if the town does not acquire the property at this time, it is unlikely to have the opportunity to do so again in the future."

Correction: The total potential cost of the project is $1,925,000, not $1,975,000 as originally reported.


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