Selectmen opt against neighbor member for Pear Tree committee

Despite neighbors’ request, there will be no ex-officio neighbor member of Pear Tree Point Beach added onto the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted against the proposed change at Monday night’s meeting.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said that neighbors’ access to meetings are not restricted in any way, so they are able to  stay informed at all times.

“As with all town committees, all of the meetings are open to the public,” Stevenson said. “There is always public comment allowed, so anybody including neighbors can come to all of the building committee meetings at their will.”

The newly-formed, all volunteer Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee is charged with overseeing the upgrading of the beach.

According to Stevenson, Pear Tree Point Beach neighbors had proposed that the Board of Selectmen consider the request to add a neighbor member to the committee.

At previous Pear Tree meetings, some neighbors expressed concern that there should be a beach neighbor on the committee, since major upgrades to the beach are being considered. Some have very strong objections to these upgrades.

At Monday’s meeting, Selectman Susan Marks agreed with Stevenson, saying that putting a beach neighbor onto the committee would set a precedent for putting neighbors on to other boards and committees in town.

“If we start this on this committee, we’ll have to do it on every committee, and I think that it’s our responsibility to make sure we seed people on these committees that represent all 22,000 people,” Marks said.

Selectman Pamela Sparkman said in regards to a beach or park, everyone in Darien should be considered a neighbor.

“We all utilize the beach,” Sparkman said. “It’s problematic to define what a neighbor is to something as big as a public beach.”

She also said she is not sure how a neighbor to a particular area can be defined “cleanly.”

“I think that gets really muddy,” Sparkman added.

Marc Thorne, who is also a member of the beach building committee, said adding a beach neighbor is not necessary.

He said that members of the Pear Tree building committee are charged with following the directions of the Park & Rec. Commission’s objectives.

“With the building committee, it’s more the implementation,” Thorne said.

In a telephone conversation with The Darien Times on Tuesday, Dec. 18, Tom Igoe, who is not a beach neighbor but who spoke out against some of the proposed upgrades at several meetings, said, “it’s somewhat unfortunate” that the Board of Selectmen decided not to add a Pear Tree Point Beach neighbor to the building committee.

“It would have provided a voice that they needed to hear on a regular basis,” he said.

He added that he feels “strongly that the Parks and Rec. and Pear Tree building committees should carefully listen to the folks who are familiar with the beach.”  

“They should listen to the heartfelt comments that were made by a large number of people and hopefully they’ll make the right decision regarding the park,” he said. “I can understand why the Board of Selectmen, having made their choice, wouldn’t want to revisit that, as long as they and committee members are open to all the comments that are made on this and seriously consider them.”