Operations Planning Commission discusses transportation, busing
Concerns about transportation and busing took up a lot of the discussion at the recent Operations Planning Committee meeting.
Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman said the board is hearing from many parents on the topic of transportation. She said parents are frustrated with the current school bus eligibility policy.
They also had general traffic concerns with regard to construction projects in town.
Board of Education
Last week’s Board of Education meeting addressed the busing issue. According to the school bus eligibility policy, high school students who live within a two-mile radius of the school they attend can walk to school and are not eligible to take a school bus.
Ochman said the Board of Education has reached out to the police department to have them review the town’s entire walking plan to see if there are any areas of concern.
Ochman has asked the district to share the town’s entire walking plan, as well as any plans for new sidewalks.
She added that crossing the street is also an issue. Where construction trucks will be coming in and out, as well as streets where there are no sidewalks — will also be reviewed.
The Board of Education is collecting information and then will review the policy.
Changing the two-mile radius to a 1.5-mile radius would have an impact of about $600,000 on the budget, according to Ochman.
“The Police Commission is the local traffic authority,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. “They have jurisdiction over the roadways.”
Stevenson continued: “If your student walks to school, and you note a problem with any sidewalks or any condition that you believe is unsafe, you can put a cue alert in through our Public Works Department and then, you get immediate assistance on that.”
She spoke about the pedestrian infrastructure advisory committee, “which is a group of volunteers who walk and canvas the town,” she said. “So, we have a good start for a plan.”
Regarding the approved developments in town, Stevenson said she’s not aware that there is a traffic pattern for construction traffic. “But I think there needs to be one,” she said. “That would be very helpful.”
Planning & Zoning
The white frame building behind Brooks Brothers was approved to be the Paris Cafe.
“It will be a two and one-half story restaurant building,” Planning & Zoning Chairman Steve Olvany said.
According to Olvany, the developers are not making it taller. They’re digging down deeper. The basement is now going to be the first floor. They are keeping the original structure and the height and width of the building. They’re adding on decks and terraces.
Board of Finance
Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky said the draft of the Board of Education’s budget has come in at a 3.46 percent increase.
“We asked for some additional information,” he said.
He added that the Ox Ridge Building Committee continues to make good progress.
In regard to the Board of Finance decisions on credit card fees, Zagrodzky said that discussion is ongoing.
“There is a debate about whether you want to charge proactively for the use of credit cards or simply bill the cost of using credit cards into your fees. The advantage of the former is it’s transparent,” he said. “The advantage of the latter is it doesn’t disadvantage or impair the use of credit cards where people decide not to do that and go back to cash or something else to avoid that fee.”
He continued: “I want to make sure that whatever we do takes into account not just credit cards but other payment vehicles.”
He said he is trying to get a clean, consistent policy on which everybody can agree.
Board of Selectmen
The Darien Historical Society is going to be rebranding itself as the Museum of Darien.
In regard to the new law with the new expansion of the sales tax, “we now have to charge sales tax on parking, such as our beach passes, and for our commuter parking,” Stevenson said.
On the Pear Tree Point Beach renovation project, the commission members are in the process of finding which path they’re going to take in terms of vendor use for their coastal engineering study, according to Stevenson.
“We will continue to move forward in putting together the data behind that plan and bringing that plan to the public,” she said.
The topic of building in a flood zone was then brought up, and Olvany said that almost all of Noroton Bay is in a flood zone. He further said Weed Beach and Middlesex Club were built in a flood zone.
“It’s not a foreign concept to build in a flood zone,” he said, referring to Pear Tree Point Beach, which is in a flood zone.
Olvany then mentioned a historic home in town that was supposed to be built in a flood zone.
“We denied an application at 40 Brookside. We got sued by the owners and now we are going to go forward to be able to build at that property. They are giving a conservation easement to the town,” he said.
Stevenson that was a court adjudicated case where the town denied an application because it was in a flood zone but the court said that’s not enough of a hardship. and allowed the construction to move forward.
State of Connecticut
The legislative session starts Wednesday, Feb. 5, and ends Wednesday, May 6. It is a short session.
“The short session means we only do bills of fiscal matters. So, nobody can introduce individual bills,” State Rep. Terrie Wood said.
Also, tolls are back on the agenda.
“For many of us, the concern remains that we have a special transportation fund, and for years, money has been diverted from that fund for other uses,” Wood said.
“We spend far more per mile for transportation infrastructure than any other state in the country,” she added.
The bill would apply to heavy trucks only.
Stevenson said in the previous plan, there were gantries.
“I know the most recent iteration of the bill, which was for all vehicles, included language in it that gave a contribution to the municipality that hosted a gantry,” she said.
“In the future bill, there will be revenue sharing with municipalities,” she added.