A few months ago, when the Allen-O’Neill renovation started, patience for all parties involved was urged in this space. Patience seems to be wearing thin already, and perhaps this summer heat isn’t helping.
Now, many learned this week, it shouldn’t even be called the “Allen-O’Neill project.” History, once again, is being chipped away at in Noroton Heights.
It was obvious a project of this magnitude would be a strain on the neighbors, the residents, and town officials throughout the process.
It is difficult sometimes to navigate the relationship between the Darien Housing Authority and the town. And now, by extension, the developers working on the project. Neighbors angry with the process call Town Hall and get frustrated when they don’t get results.
But what they don’t realize is that town officials don’t have any more influence over this project’s process than neighbors do.
This is a project directed by the Darien Housing Authority, which reports to the state, not the town, and is now in the hands of the developers.
On one hand, some of the frustration is due to living next door to a large construction project. It isn’t fun to listen to jackhammers and other sorts of large equipment, particularly at 6 a.m. during the summer. It isn’t pleasant to be viewing a large construction site from your window.
But the reality is that the project is approved, and funded, and is moving forward. It is a better use of the property than the current affordable housing project and will create more needed affordable housing in town. And it has the support and approval of the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission. It isn’t going away.
On the other hand, perhaps tempers would be less likely to flair if it seemed like the project, though independent, was still viewed as part of the community, with respect for the location’s significance.
The loss of the Gettysburg tree was an unfortunate accident, but it was still a loss to the community and Darien’s history. Now, the names of two of Darien’s veterans who gave their lives in Pearl Harbor have been removed from the project.
“The Heights at Darien” might be like a fine name for the new project, but it came out of nowhere to many Darienites (and it sounds like any nondescript suburban development — and we thought, maybe naively, that Darien is better than that). It appears more and more that those overseeing the project don’t take Darien history seriously.
If the Housing Authority wants understanding from the neighbors and its residents, it needs to show that is has understanding of its own property.
For neighbors, remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there is only so much you, and your town officials, can do to change a project now in motion.
For the Darien Housing Authority and the project’s developers, for patience with those whose neighborhoods are in upheaval, and whose quality of life is interrupted.
And also, when making decisions that impact the site’s history, to remember that site might not belong to the town officially, but it absolutely belongs to its history, and by virtue of that, to all the town’s residents.