‘60 units is a lot’: Darien Commissioners echo neighbor concerns about proposed Parklands development

DARIEN — The Planning and Zoning commission wrapped up another night of deliberations on the controversial 3 Parklands redevelopment project without taking a vote on whether the proposed 60-unit residence can move forward or not.

During a Tuesday meeting, commissioners fine-tuned a number of concerns they have with the project. Owner Bob Gillon is proposing to redevelop the office building that currently sits at 3 Parklands Drive and turn it into a high-density apartment complex, a project that nearby neighbors and other Darien residents have opposed.

While commissioners have broadly expressed their own concerns with the project during previous deliberations — after hearing nine hours of public testimony with hundreds of residential complaints — on Tuesday the commission discussed more minute details around the site plan and potential construction if the project goes forward.

A major topic has been pushback over the size and density of the proposed units. On Tuesday, commission chair Stephen Olvany echoed concerns from neighbors and other commissioners when he suggested reducing the project’s number of units.

“I’d like to get this thing down by 10 percent,” Olvany said. “I just think 60 units is a lot.”

Other commissioners agreed. Commissioner Adam Balgach also said he felt the project was too big, but questioned whether any reduction in size would adversely affect the number of deed-restricted affordable units.

There are currently seven affordable units proposed. If the project reduces the number of overall units — one official floated the idea of 48 units instead of 60 — it would likely also take away one affordable unit.

“I confess I'm a little bit skeptical about arbitrary increases or reductions,” commissioner Jim Rand said. “I think if you're trying to accomplish something, get the height down first to make it less obvious to surrounding properties. That's a laudable goal.”

Commissioners also expressed worry over draining. The site plan calls for minimal runoff and flooding mitigation strategies including a permeable surface material in the parking lot, but commissioners — and neighbors — have made it clear that they are still skeptical about the potential for flooding.

“I have more concern about the flow of water over Selleck’s Woods than the site itself. If we're going to be getting increased rain, I am concerned that whatever may come from this site onto Selleck’s Woods, it could be problematic,” commissioner George Reilly said.

They also debated how to include oversight in the project construction. Jeremy Ginsberg, the town’s planning and zoning director, referenced work done on the Federal Realty project, where the town was able to have an outside engineer to monitor the project. For Parklands, the commission floated having an outside engineer onsite during key aspects of drainage installation, which the project’s owners would have to pay for.

Commissioners also highlighted issues around construction timing. Generally, developers are charged with permitting no outdoor construction work before 7 a.m., which would be the case in Parklands as well.

Olvany suggested including a number to contact the construction site posted publicly, giving residents the chance to call with any complaints or concerns.

Deliberations on the project will resume during the next Planning and Zoning meeting, officials said Tuesday. Meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and can be accessed via GoToMeeting. Ginsberg said a vote was expected Feb. 8 or 15.