A settlement was reached in regard to a lawsuit filed by the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust against Planning & Zoning regarding the Darien Boy Scout’s tag sale and new Scout cabin. The lawsuit was filed in January 2019.

With a unanimous vote of 5 to 0 on Tuesday, Darien’s Planning & Zoning Commission authorized the settlement, which was between the commission and the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust (ASMT). The ASMT charters the Darien Boy Scout and Cub Scout programs.

The settlement, which concerned the operations of the tag sale and new Scout cabin to be built on West Avenue, was decided upon at the July 30 Planning & Zoning Commission Special Meeting.

According to Rebecca Martorella, the Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust communications chairman, the settlement, or legal resolution, “was an expected follow up to the permit approvals received earlier in the year, and involved several clarifications and updates to the permit that governs the operations of the Scout cabin.”

“It addressed some stipulations regarding cabin operations, revisions to the planting plan during the future renovation, and the confirmation that tag sale operations in 2020 could proceed as per practices used this year,” Martorella said.

Reason for settlement

As part of the ASMT’s application process last year, the Planning & Zoning Commission rewrote the prior special permit that had been in place for over 20 years, according to Martorella.

“The new special permit introduced many new conditions including limits on usage, hours, lighting, larger events, scheduling, parking, annual Scout tag sale related activities and requirements, as well as conditions tied to construction of the proposed new Scout cabin such as landscaping plans. The new terms raised a number of questions of interpretation and the ASMT requested a number of clarifying changes.

Martorella added that since the special permit was created, “the commission has had the benefit of closely observing the patterns of usage at the Scout cabin this year and understanding more about what is in fairness a unique town institution (eg., the scope of a “special event” at the Scout cabin is much smaller than a “special event” at other places they were more familiar with like a country club).”

The requests of the ASMT and the P&Z approval “essentially more accurately reflected this usage and acknowledged the practical realities of running the tag sale (volunteer workforce, effects of weather, etc.) The revisions approved were fundamentally clarifications and agreements to processes as conducted this year,” Martorella said.

Attorney Wilder Gleason, Gleason & Associates LLC, in Darien, who represented ASMT, said he’s “really pleased that the commission amended the resolution to meet the scouts needs going forward while addressing neighbor concerns.”

Curtis, Brinckerhoff & Barrett, P.C. in Stamford, town counsel, represented Darien’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

The Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust is happy to learn of P&Z's approval of the clarifications and updates, Martorella said.

She added that the annual Boy Scout tag sale, now in its 48th year and “ASMT’s major fundraising activity, can continue on as it did this year to serve the community, promote recycling, and support the over 350 boys and girls who are part of Scouting programs in Darien. We would like to thank P&Z for their thoughtful and thorough evaluation of this request, and appreciate their constructive input in balancing community needs."

John Sini, who resigned July 31 as chairman of Darien’s Planning & Zoning Commission but was heavily involved with the project, said “the settlement represents a compromise that meets Darien’s zoning regulations and allows the Scouts to execute a successful fundraiser without overburdening the surrounding neighborhood. I wish the scouts the best as they raise funds for their new cabin.”

Objection to new scout cabin/tag sale

Darien resident Bill Perrone was one of many people who spoke out at town meetings and sent in Letters to the Editor in objection to the new cabin and annual tag sale.

In response to the settlement, he told the Darien Times on Aug. 5 that “nothing has really changed so far as the neighbors are concerned. The cabin is still too big and completely unnecessary.”

He added that “the notion espoused by planning and zoning that someone could build a residential property the size of the new Scout cabin in that location, so why not build a giant Scout cabin there is specious.”

In addition, he said that a residence “would not have constant visitors and traffic and would certainly not have a giant intrusive tag sale that spoils the neighborhood for a month each year.”

He said that he is not questioning “the importance and beneficial nature” of the Scouts, “even as the national Scout organization circles the drain of bankruptcy because of the scores of lawsuits which have plagued that organization.”

The “bottom line,” he said, is that there are no restrictions on the tag sale that would be satisfactory to him.

“The event is still far too big for the location and takes too long for any workaround to placate the neighbors. The gigantic cabin is just a monument to the wealth and privilege of our fair burg and the tag sale the result of an intractable group of selfish people who can’t do what thousands of other groups in this country have done-found another way to raise funds.”

Background

In November of 2018, with a unanimous vote of 5 to 0, the Planning & Zoning Commission approved the new Boy Scout cabin.

The new cabin will be built on the site of the current Andrew Shaw Memorial Trust cabin. The work involves razing the existing structures on two properties, combining the properties at 138 and 140 West Avenue, and constructing the new cabin.

The 1.38+/- acre subject property is located on the north side of West Avenue, approximately 175 feet east of its intersection with Old Parish Road. Construction of the proposed cabin is set to begin in May 2020.

The annual Darien Boy Scout tag sale is held every year in May on the Boy Scout property and is the main source of funding for the troop.

sfox@darientimes.com