Public comment not allowed at Parks & Rec meeting
Hot tempers were flaring several times during Wednesday’s two-and-a-half-hour Parks & Recreation Commission meeting.
The anger began when Commission Chairman Lorene Bora didn’t allow public comment.
Residents had sat for hours, listening to various topics that were listed on the meeting agenda. The agenda included a detailed PowerPoint presentation by architects regarding the latest updates to the proposed Pear Tree Point Beach renovation project.
At the end of the presentation, someone in the audience asked if questions are allowed.
To this, Bora responded, “No,” and commission members moved on to address the next item listed on the agenda.
At the end of the meeting, after the last topic on the agenda was discussed at length, someone in the audience again asked, “Will you have time for public comments?”
In response, Bora said there wasn’t time left in the meeting for public comment.
The resident then asked if public comment is on the agenda. “It is but we have to get out of the room,” Bora responded.
The resident then asked when will public comments be allowed.
In response, Bora said it would be allowed at the next Parks & Recreation Commission meeting.
This angered many people, who began speaking amongst themselves. One of them said to Bora, “You ignore people all the time.”
Another said, “We have sat here and listened to your meeting. This is disrespectful to your constituency. Period.”
Commission members did not respond and instead resumed wrapping up the meeting.
The room was filled with anger yet again when the agenda item “Summary of correspondence received from residents” came up.
Bora said the commission received many letters regarding the proposed Pear Tree Beach project, and said “the split is about evenly against the project and supporting the project.”
To this, there were many groans and shots as people expressed doubts so many are in favor of the renovations.
“Oh, come on,” one resident said.
“That is factually incorrect,” could also be heard.
Bora then looked out into the audience and said, “How do you know what I received? We are not having this discussion.”
Residents demanded to see the letters that are both for and against the project.
“Ninety-five to 99 percent are against your current project,” one person said.
After hearing the shouts and accusations, Bora announced she’s going to finish “my” meeting in the next five minutes.
“Your meeting? This is a meeting of the people. This is a meeting of the town of Darien,” someone said. “This is not your meeting.”
At the very end of the meeting, right before it was adjourned, Bora addressed the audience, saying that public comment is not a mandatory part of meetings.
“Public comment is not a required element at every meeting. We offer comments as a courtesy,” she said. “We have been taking extensive public comment.”
She further said there’s “a lot going on” with the Parks and Recreation Commission.
“We’re all trying to serve the community. We have a lot we have to deal with,” Bora said. “We are all volunteers. We understand your comments. We read every one of them. We ran out of time this evening.”
The Parks & Recreation Commission is allowed to eliminate items from the agenda at its discretion.
Also, while the meetings of government boards, commissions, and committees are open to the public to watch and listen, “they are not open to the public for active participation or disruption,” Bora told The Darien Times in an email on Monday, Oct. 21.
In regard to the meeting, Bora added that the commission is required to be out of the room by 10:30 p.m., and had run out of time.
“We will reassess going forward so that the commission can get through its work and set expectations,” she wrote.
Presentation to RTM
At the Full RTM meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, Bora and Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee Co-Chairman Mike Sgroe presented an update and overview of the project. This can be found from approximately 24 to 52 minutes on Darien TV 79.
The nine page presentation includes background, proposed plans, plan modifications in response to feedback, current status including cost estimates, and photographs giving a historical view of Pear Tree Point Beach. The presentation will be available on Darien TV 79 within the next few days, on the same link as the RTM meeting.
Over the coming days and weeks, the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee will submit the application for the proposed renovations to the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting two variances, then submit it to the Architectural Review Board, and then present it at the Architectural Review Board meeting.
Watch the full meeting on Darien TV79.