Members of Darien’s Tokeneke neighborhood continue to push back against a proposed subdivision of a 6.2-acre plot on Old Farm Road, arguing that the subdivision would create undue stress on the neighborhood’s private roads and conflict with Darien’s zoning regulations.
The applicant, the Estate of Anne C. Cary, is looking to divide the property into four lots but is not planning any construction. Instead, the lots would be sold on the market at which point individual developers could purchase a parcel and design a new home. Amy Zabetakis, an attorney representing the estate, said it would preferable to sell the land to a single buyer, but the subdivision could provide more attractive. The full estate has been listed for sale since June 2017.
Robert Maslan, serving as council for the Tokeneke Association, argued that the subdivision’s requirements for driveway access would create zoning conflicts and the new homes could negatively impact the surrounding environment. He argued that new buildings on the estate would increase storm runoff that is unaccounted for in the subdivision proposal, and echoed concerns from Tokeneke Association President Jim Solberg about an increased amount of egress points from the property.
In order to establish new homes the subdivision requires new parking arrangements for the four lots. In a potential site plan for the subdivisions, the applicant added a driveway access point on Old Farms Road. Solberg suggested that the four subdivision lots should be made to share a single driveway to ensure safety and a lower impact on the neighborhood. A portion of the estate’s driveway is currently shared with a neighboring property and would likely need to be relocated or redesigned to subdivide the property.
The neighbors, Todd Meck and Susanne Handler, have an agreement with the Cary property owners to use a 30-foot portion of a driveway on the estate in exchange for shared upkeep of the driveway. In a statement to the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission Meck and Handler said they were told be legal counsel that the driveway agreement would be a sufficient enough to prevent the creation of a new rear lot in the event of a subdivision. Since purchasing the property in 2011 the Meck and Handler have paid all costs for maintenance of the driveway including resurfacing and snow removal.
They suggested that the time they spent maintaining the property without support from the Cary estate suggested that the driveway had been abandoned, giving them legal ownership of the strip of property. As a part of the subdivision process Meck and Handler requested that the property lines be redrawn to grand them the portion of the driveway they use under the agreement. However, the neighbors never forwarded a request for the Cary estate to acknowledge the property as abandoned. Zabetakis contested the idea that the property was actually abandoned by the estate, even though it was only being used by Meck and Handler under the agreement.
Zabetakis maintained that none of the site plans proposed as a part of the subdivision applications will be used to determine what a future developer builds. If one or more of the subdivisions are sold the same buyer they could propose a site plan with a larger home along with completely different entrance and access points. Providing the sample site plan simple proves that the subdivision satisfies the town’s zoning regulations.
“This is a conceptual plan. I do not know what will be built or what a developer will do. A developer may use the Meck-Handler Driveway, they may build a new driveway in the access way. There’s plenty of room in the accessway for a driveway to be built. A developer might buy both lots of Homewood and put one big house. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Tokeneke is a private neighborhood and tax district established in January 1957. All homeowners within the district pay a separate tax to maintain the roads and police constables in the neighborhood. As a result the Town of Darien is not directly responsible for maintenance along all of Old Farm Road.
The Planning & Zoning Commission will deliberate the proposal to divide the estate, but will also be responsible for reviewing any proposed site plans once the property is sold to a developer. This will give the town multiple opportunities to ensure that any new homes comply with zoning regulations.