Selectmen pass motion allowing dining in off-street parking areas

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Town of Darien seal

Town of Darien seal

Contributed photo

On sidewalks, in parking lots and even under tents, people all around town may soon be spotted dining outdoors.

In a unanimous motion at Monday’s Board of Selectmen special meeting, the selectmen granted permission for the use of town property and/or off-street parking areas, for dining to take place.

This motion was made in light of the governor’s requirement, effective May 20, that restaurants and retailers can only be open for outdoor dining.

“In order to help facilitate that, the town will be allowing for tents and seating to be arranged,” Darien First Selectmen Jayme Stevenson said at the meeting, in which she was the only member participating in person. All others participated remotely.

“Restaurateurs and retailers are allowed to operate outdoors and they can operate on sidewalks and in parking lots and roadways, when that’s been authorized to do so,” Stevenson said.

“The town is in control of some parking lots that the parking authority would normally be voting for any requests for the use of those parking lots, as we have done in the past,” she added. “This Board of Selectmen will make this decision, in conjunction with the health department, fire marshal and appropriate zoning officials to authorize the use of those spaces for the local restaurants and retailers.”

The Darien Department of Planning & Zoning has been accepting applications to be able to do those things. The town is not charging application fees for those applications.

COVID-19 cases

The last positive case for the coronavirus reported for the town of Darien was on May 15, when one case was reported.

As of Monday, May 18, Darien had a total of 199 cases, 15 hospitalizations, five deaths and 96 documented recoveries.

Case contact work continues by the local health department and nursing staff. Seven of the cases in Darien and two deaths were at assisted living facilities.

Seventy percent of the deaths in Connecticut are attributed to long-term care facilities.

Darien reopening

Darien Town Administrator Kate Buch said Darien Town Hall will be reopening to public access on June 1. It would be by appointment only.

“We want to keep the public out of the main part of the building,” Buch said. “We have set up workstations in Room 119 that are safely distanced from one another. We have another room available in the Mather Center that can be used for meetings that need to be private.”

The department heads have been working on their staffing plans.

“Our target is to be no more than 50 percent, so we are working on bringing back staff,” she said. However, “some will continue to work from home.”

Additionally, the town is gathering an assortment of disposable masks.

Those who have to come to Town Hall for an appointment are required to wear a mask and will be expected to utilize hand sanitizer when they enter the building.

The town has also intensified its cleaning over the last several months.

“We’re putting screening on all the public counters and in between employee work spaces where they cannot be safely distanced,” Buch said.

Groups can still not gather in more than five. That is still the guiding principle at the moment.

Town Hall employees will be working from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Town Hall will be closed on Friday, beginning Friday, June 5. There will be no late night Tuesday until Town Hall opens to full public access.

Reopening Connecticut

Regarding local restaurants and retailers, many of the town’s businesses will be reopening Wednesday, May 20, per the governor’s instructions and the Reopen Connecticut guidance documents that were issued on May 8.

Businesses are required to fulfill a self-certification that all the requirements for cleaning, personal protection for employees, capacity adjustments, social distancing, and touchless amenities are all being planned for and to be followed, Stevenson said.

Businesses may impose other requirements of patrons, like wearing masks.

On Friday, May 15, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced he was disbanding the reopen Connecticut task force, which was tasked with crafting what was a four-phased plan published on May 8, to reopen businesses.

He disbanded it in favor of hiring the Boston Consulting Group to take over the planning for reopening businesses.

On Monday, May18, the governor announced he is rescinding his plan to reopen hair salons and barbershops on May 20.

The Connecticut Beauty Association lobby group has pushed back on the reopen plans, citing issues of lack of appropriate PPE, employees who are parents needing to help their children with eLearning at home, and not being able to come back into the workplace.

Stevenson said this is an “unacceptable situation for our local businesses, who are very well prepared under the guidance of our local health department to open under the mandated guidelines.”

Town beach update

Non-residents are not allowed to purchase daily passes this summer due to the concern about capacity levels at the beaches, Parks & Recreation Director Pam Gery told The Darien Times.

There will be no lifeguards or concessions at town beaches this summer. The town has hired a security company to operate the gates.

“There will be police presence as much as possible,” Buch said. “We have security personnel that ensure in the parks and beaches that people maintain safe social distancing.”

The restrooms will hopefully be open by Thursday.

Watch the Board of Selectmen special meeting on Darien TV/79.