Letter to the Editor: RTM members, you have a big decision

Great Island is the last large undeveloped waterfront land in Darien. Our town is 98 percent developed with an increasing population density. This may be the only chance to preserve the last big open space for residents. Future generations will thank us if we intelligently deal with this opportunity.

The only way most residents can visit is by driving. This park might attract several thousand vehicles on summer days. Astonishingly little thought has been given to access and parking. How many acres need to be tarmacked for parking? Goodwives River Road and Rings End Road are the only approach roads and are already choked with local traffic. Would Rings End Bridge have to be widened? Indeed, have any traffic and parking studies been made and if so, did they consider out-of-towners as well as residents?

My heart sank when I saw the long laundry list of potential site developments. If constructed, they will significantly change the nature of the space. The entire point of buying this unique location is to keep its beauty for future generations. Somewhere we have lost the plot. Are we really conserving our last green space or just substituting public for private development? Left to market forces, private developers will probably build 30 to 40 single-family homes there. During the planning and zoning for new homes, the town has leverage to extract public land set-asides free of charge to the taxpayer. Afterwards it would benefit from increased tax revenue. Wouldn’t it be perverse to spend 103 million tax dollars and end up with worse aesthetic and environmental impact than private housing development?

Consider the optics of the purchase. News of this proposal has spread way beyond our borders. How do we refute state Sen. Bob Duffs’ charge that Darien can spend this money on a park but claim lack of funds when asked to educate a handful of Norwalk students? Darien falls short of the state affordable housing target. State Sen. Duff already pointed out this could be buildable land for affordable housing. Do we have rebuttals?

Working through all the positives and negatives will end up with a better outcome. This is a big-ticket item. The town has no plan for what it intends afterwards. No plan to manage vehicle access or parking. Rather than rushing to complete purchase in a few weeks, it would be smart to get a 3-to-6-month purchase option while we work out how it is to be used and traffic and parking needs examined. The land has been available for sale for years.

Jim Errington, Darien