Will the Darien Police Department have a designated space at Pear Tree Point Beach if the proposed renovations take place? If so, what will they use that space for?

Those questions and more were discussed at the Darien Police Commission’s Dec. 11 special meeting.

At the meeting, there was a larger number of attendees than usual. Ten people came, including First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, as well as members of the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The proposed renovation plans to the beach have been the subject of heavy debate in town for over a year, with many residents strongly against them.

At the meeting, commission members spoke about the storage space that’s currently inside the building. Police said they would like to maintain that space, into the future.

According to Chief Don Anderson, police first got space in the building for a police office and storage area in 2004.

The space has been partially washed away by storms. After it was washed away, the Darien Boat Club carved out some space in its building for the police.

Police commissioner Kim Huffard said the commission is a “stakeholder” in Pear Tree Point Beach.

She added that the commission would like to look ahead 10 years, in regard to the service the marine division is delivering.

“We are going to take this opportunity in the planning process to really look at it hard,” she said.

The Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee is in the process of answering a series of questions, according to Stevenson. “So there’s a bit of time for the [Police] Commission to dive as deeply as you want to in the needs of the marine division and the police department in a holistic way,” Stevenson said.

FEMA/VE Zone regulations

She further said what differs today from 2004 is the town has information “about what FEMA will and will not allow in the space that the police currently occupy as storage,” she said.

Pear Tree Point Beach is in the VE Zone, according to Stevenson. A VE Zone is also known as a coastal high hazard area.

What is allowed in that space, she said, “is unfinished storage space on the ground level of a building that is subject to the regulations under the VE Zone,” she said.

“The only three components that you can have in that space are unfinished storage, building access — either a door, stairwell, or elevator — or parking,” Stevenson said.

She further said the town’s planning and zoning director went back to DEEP and confirmed that even keeping a desk and chairs in this unfinished garage-like space “is not in the spirit of the unfinished space,” she said. “It starts to go down the path of pushing the envelope on occupancy. The space is not intended for human occupancy.”

In addition, whatever is stored in the space has to go up as high as it can possibly be stored. It can’t be on the grade level, according to Stevenson.

Furthermore, any lights or electrical requirements also have to be as high off the grade as the building code will allow, she added.

“So, there are impediments to utilizing that space as office space,” Stevenson said.

Given those parameters, she said now’s the time for police commission members to clarify exactly how they want to position the marine division for the future.

“We are looking for an affirmative statement from the Police Commission about whatever you would like the Parks and Rec Commission to consider,” Stevenson added.

Additional topics spoken of at the meeting include:

Leroy Avenue/West Avenue traffic control

Police may be adding a left turn arrow at the intersection of Leroy and West avenues.

“It does bottle up on occasion,” Anderson said.

Capt. Bob Shreders will work with DPW to check the feasibility of that and the cost potential to get that done, he added.

“It takes a fair amount of equipment and upgrades,” Anderson said.

A left turn arrow can clear that intersection out, according to Anderson.

Police will be working with the DPW and the traffic engineer to tell them more about what the project would involve.

“We will investigate that and bring it back to the commission,” Anderson said.

Proposed change in tattoo policy

Darien police officers’ tattoos may soon be visible while they’re on the job.

Members of the Darien Police Association have asked the commission to consider relaxing the police department’s current tattoo policy.

“Our current policy is that visible tattoos must be covered at times the officers work,” Anderson said. “So, effectively, the officers who’ve had tattoos on their arms — they either wear long sleeves during the summer or they wear some kind of covering sleeve.”

Officers have said they get questions from people as to whether they were burned when they’re wearing the sleeves.

Of all the surrounding towns, the only towns that have a tattoo policy similar to Darien’s are Monroe and Ridgefield, Huffard said.

Anderson is drafting a new policy that the commission will review and vote on at a future meeting. If approved, it would be implemented on a trail period — a six-month or a year period.

Modification of officer shifts

Darien police officers unanimously voted to allow Anderson to schedule officers on more steady work shifts. The shifts will be implemented on a one-year trial basis.

For several decades, the Darien Police Department has followed the Yates Plan, named after former record Sgt. Tom Yates.

Currently, all uniformed officers work around the clock. “They work all three shifts and rotate every three or four days to the next shift,” Anderson said.

With the proposed new policy, instead of rotating days and evenings, there would be a component of officers who would work steady days, exclusively. There would also be a component of officers who would work steady evenings, exclusively.

There would be a small component of officers that would continue to rotate between the day and the evening shifts.

If implemented, this policy will be closely monitored. If there are any problems, the department can return to the rotating shifts.

Watch the full Darien Police Commission meeting on Darien TV79.

sfox@darientimes.com