Coronavirus updates and systemic racism were two of the top subjects discussed at the June 17 Operations Planning Committee meeting.

Board of Selectmen

Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson gave an update on positive cases of COVID-19 in town.

“In Darien, we haven’t had a positive case reported from the state since May 29,” she said. “We are holding steady at 202 positive cases, 16 hospitalizations, and five deaths — two of those from our assisted living communities.”

Violating rules for gatherings is now considered a nuisance under local laws, and can be enforced under those rules and citations in Darien, according to Stevenson.

Due to the civil and racial unrest across the nation, Stevenson said she’s engaged with the YWCA and the town’s faith communities.

Additionally, Stevenson said she’s hoping to organize with the Darien Police Commission a round table of the Black Lives Matter protest organizers meet in person.

“That’s the most productive place to begin — to have a conversation sitting with one another,” she said.

Regarding COVID-19 testing, she is considering the current two day a week testing to end right before the July 4th weekend, and then begin with a new model in a new location. Testing is currently at Darien High School.

At the new location, COVID-19 antibody testing will also most likely be offered, she said.

“I’m now in the market for a new site that would allow [testing] for probably one day a week,” Stevenson said. “It’s been rolled out in other communities. I’m eager to try and bring it here.”

Darien will be running a youth camp this summer, at reduced capacity, beginning July 6.

July 6 is also the day that if districts were going to have summer school, summer school can begin, Stevenson said.

However, the district will not be holding in-person summer school.

Board of Education

Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman said a group of Darien alumni from racially diverse backgrounds has contacted the Board.

“They would like their perspectives growing up here in Darien and being in Darien’s schools heard,” she said, adding that the schools superintendent will be reaching out to them.

Additionally, she said members of the community “who have had active pasts and experiences” reached out to the Board and “want a chance to be helpful.”

Those conversations “will help inform whether there needs to be changes in the curriculum,” she said.

“I definitely think this is a moment in time where more and more people are willing to sit down to the table and listen, and any time you have that, it’s the most exciting moment because that’s really what education is about,” she added.

Regarding how school will look in the fall, at the next OPC meeting, Ochman said she will have more updates.

“We have a group in town working on that, in regard to different learning models and what they will look like,” she said.

The schools’ guidance team stepped up eLearning and is preparing for the fall.

“There is a social-emotional toll [on students] and sometimes it’s hard to predict how that all comes about,” Ochman said.

Board of Finance

Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky said in regard to the town’s 2020-21 budget, “we ended up in a good spot.”

He spoke very positively about the way the budget was determined and the thought processes that went into it.

“We knew we were in a difficult time,” he said. “We needed to strike a balance between protecting the interests of our taxpayers who are under unique pressure, with making sure that we don’t damage town assets, town services, or the ability to provide a top quality education to our students. My conclusion after seeing the results of that process is that’s in fact where we ended up.”

Additionally, he said none of the budget changes and postponements that were made “actually impacted the town’s assets or services.”

In regard to the Board of Education budget, Zagrodzky said despite identifying some opportunities to reduce operating costs, “the reductions in the budget didn’t impact the student experience.”

Planning & Zoning Commission

The new Ox Ridge Elementary School application is closed. It was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission. The resolution is now being drafted.

“Hopefully, we will vote on the approval on Tuesday,” said Steve Olvany, Chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Regarding the resolution involving the former Darien Playhouse, there will be four new apartments and two or three new retail stores in that location.

“Grove Street is going to build a parallel street to the Post Road,” Olvany said. “It will be NEAT cafe all the way to Darien Sport Shop. The sidewalks will be connected.”

Last week, the commission closed the hearing on 34 Old King’s Highway. It’s a small white building, a professional office building that has been vacant for about two years. Baywater Properties and David Genovese purchased it.

It will be a two-story office building, about 6,000 square feet, with a rooftop plaza.

As part of those two projects, the town will put in signs directing people to municipal parking.

The commission is involved in a lawsuit with 77 Leroy Ave.

“It’s a 16-unit apartment building with five condos that were sold for affordable, and there’s 11 apartments that were rented,” Olvany said. “It’s known as the highest two-bedroom rental apartment in town, and we’re getting sued for them not being able to rent it to the [55 and over] age group.”

According to Olvany in an email to The Darien Times, the plaintiff wants to adjust or lift restrictions imposed by the state judge when it was approved/entitled approximately 10 years ago.

In the Federal parking lot at Noroton Heights, the majority of the underwater storm sewage faults were put in. The parking lot was repaved.

The Planning & Zoning Commission is considering closing streets temporarily, for either one or two days, or through Labor Day. This would benefit retailers and provide open, walkable space.

“We just want to offer any options that we can to assist our commercial downtown businesses and anyone that asks for help,” Olvany told The Darien Times.

The streets in question are: Day, Brook, Grove, Center, a portion of Corbin Drive, and Mechanic.

Highland Farms is due to open soon.

“As soon as those parking lots are done, we’ll begin the engagement process with the neighbors,” Stevenson said. “We promised them that they would be able to take a look at a landscape plan and offer some input to it so we can best consider their wishes for a planting plan.”

RTM

RTM moderator Seth Morton spoke about the RTM’s role in the budget process.

“The way that the vote works on the town budget is that we have reports from the seven committees in the RTM, and the committees are given responsibilities for different aspects of the budget to come up with recommendations on what the budget should be,” he said. “Committees do not have the power to cut anything. The RTM does that.”

The RTM will meet again in September. However, if there is a decision regarding school start dates, they could possibly meet sooner.

Watch the Operations Planning Committee meeting on Darien TV/79.

sfox@darientimes.com