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Sr. Housing Proposal for Edgerton St. Described, Debated

A plan to replace the Darien Senior Center with affordable senior housing was described for the Board of Selectmen on Monday, but neighbors told the board they'd prefer playing fields on the land .

Duplex houses that fit well into the neighborhood and wouldn't make it look too crowded are some of the features in an initial Edgerton Street senior housing plan presented Monday to the Board of Selectmen.

A group of neighbors representing much—perhaps most—of the neighborhood later told the board that they objected to senior housing on the site and have a different proposal for the town-owned property behind : They told the selectmen they prefer a playing field on the spot.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the board was willing to hear either proposal for the land. She pointed out that senior housing has long been the expected new use for the property when the moves to the planned Mather Community Center in .

The housing proponents with the Darien Senior Housing Initiative expect to return to the board in late July or August to get its approval for their proposed use of the property. Members of the neighbors' group told the board they also expect to return with a more detailed proposal.

Senior housing plan

The Darien Senior Housing Initiative proposes to build 20 units of affordable senior housing on 3.5 acres around 30 Edgerton St.

Architect Daniel Conlon told the board the one- or one-and-a-half story homes would each have about 1,100 square feet of space, two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room area, one bathroom and an entry area with a small, covered porch.

The houses would surround a central parking area with 38 spaces, or a bit less than two spaces per dwelling.

Conlon said the group expects that the heating would be provided by gas. All units would be either handicapped-accessable or convertable to handicapped-accessable status.

Selectman Jerry Neilsen asked how the group expected to finance the project. Bruce Hill, another member of the Darien Senior Housing Initiative, said the effort would be entirely privately financed, with no help expected from the town.

The project does hope to get a very low rent bill from the town, which will retain ownership of the land, Hill said.

The project cannot be restricted only to Darien seniors, Hill said, but given Darien's past history with similar projects, he expects most of the residents will be from town.

The next steps for the project will be to develop traffic and drainage studies to present to the Planning and Zoning Commission, although the next step will be to ask the Board of Selectmen for approval to rent the land.

Neighbors in opposition

Derek Lublin and Ken Fiveson, representing a group of neighborhood residents, told the board they have 62 signatures on a letter asking town officials to reject the bid for senior housing on the property.

Lublin said the neighborhood group has eight major reasons for opposing the project (see accompanying document), including the lack of a sidewalk on Edgerton south of West Elm Street—the route toward the Noroton Heights commercial district.

Neighbors also objected to the density of the project, which they believe would increase traffic too much in the area, and the loss of town land near the middle school.

Board members and members of the Darien Senior Housing Initiative had already seen the letter, which was dated June 2, and they answered some objections in it. Congdon, for example, said the density of the land would be less than the surrounding neighborhood and would be less than what is regularly permitted for senior housing.

Lublin told the board that his group has already spoken with officials in various Darien sports leagues who are interested in using the land for a playing field. One further advantage of a playing field would be if the town needed that land if it were to ever rebuild Middlesex Middle School.

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