Shortly after the Board of Selectmen approved the creation of a Flood & Erosion Control Board in the summer of 2010, former Environmental Protection Commission Chairman Peter Hillman wrote to The Darien Times:
“I want to thank and commend the Board of Selectmen for establishing an independent Flood & Erosion Control Board,” he wrote, adding: “I hope procedures for staffing the board will enable it to begin functioning very soon.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Hillman didn’t get his wish as almost two years later, the town still does not have a Flood & Erosion Control Board.
And why not?
It isn’t because magically, the town has been lifted to higher ground, eliminating the need for the board. Just this week, neighbors on Intervale Road came to the Board of Selectmen pleading for help with their incessant flooding.
It isn’t because, like so many other non-political issues that get politicized in town, the creation of the board has become a political football that often becomes delayed by debate.
In fact, out of the many different solutions proposed for flooding since the town’s big storm in April 2007, the stand-alone flooding board is one that all have agreed upon.
It isn’t because a flooding board is something new to town — Hillman has pointed out the town had a stand-alone flooding board as recently as the 1970s.
The reason why this town, which has been coping with an aging infrastructure and flooding — that might not be increasing in frequency, but definitely in quantity when it does happen — doesn’t have a flooding board is simple: the Representative Town Meeting.
The Board of Selectmen passed its approved resolution over to the RTM in 2010. In June 2011, then-First Selectman Dave Campbell said the RTM hadn’t decided yet because “they wanted to understand it better.”
It isn’t like the town isn’t used to the RTM delaying action. An animal ordinance took it two years — and that was actually on an agenda. The Flood & Erosion Control Board hasn’t even gotten that far yet. And now it appears it never will.
Due diligence on town issues before voting is appreciated, but when it gets to be in excess of two years, it becomes “overdue” diligence. The RTM’s Rules Committee, after this lengthy due diligence, has now decided on behalf of the town that it doesn’t need this board and the RTM will not be voting on it. Isn’t that the point of the “Representative” Town Meeting to put the issue before the body, and allow all constituents to weigh in via their representatives?
Does the town have flooding problems? Yes.
Does the town need a Flooding & Erosion Control Board? Two Boards of Selectmen say yes. The Environmental Protection Commission, the experts on the town’s wetlands issues, says Yes.
The RTM’s Rules Committee should allow the full body to weigh in on the forming of the Flood & Erosion Control Board.
And whether it is Yes or No, at least, after two years, it will have finally said something regarding the stand-alone flooding board.