Photo of Senator Miller.

State Senator

Patricia Billie Miller

Representing Darien and Stamford

Duff, Haskell, and Miller Question Darien's Proposed $100 Million Purchase of Great Island


Today, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Senator Pat Billie Miller (D-Stamford), and Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), submitted a letter to Darien First Selectwoman Monica McNally requesting a meeting to discuss the Open Choice program and affordable housing in the town. The request follows the town's recent proposed purchase of the 60-acre Great Island property for $100 million.

"Given the news, we are again requesting the opportunity to meet with you to discuss two issues that now take on greater importance and urgency," said Senators Duff, Haskell, and Miller. "It is our hope that you will respond to this request as our others have gone unanswered."

Last fall, the Darien Board of Education declined to participate in the state's Open Choice program. The program was originally agreed to by the former First Selectman and the Superintendent. The reversal prevented 13 Norwalk kindergartners from joining Darien public schools and turned away state funding to cover the cost of their education. The Board of Education justified their rejection because of unknown costs associated with the kindergarten students. However, the purchase of Great Island is not only far more expensive than the Open Choice program but also has more unknown costs.

"In refusing to accept 13 Norwalk kindergarten students, the Board of Education cited unknown costs associated with assuming responsibility for these students, even though the state fully covers the cost of every student’s education under the Open Choice program," continued Senators Duff, Haskell, and Miller. "The decision by the Town to purchase the Great Island property with so many unknowns—how the property will be used, how to replace the loss to the grand list, what the costs of insuring, maintaining, securing and ultimately developing the property will be, leads us to question the legitimacy of the reason given for rejecting Open Choice. We believe this topic requires further discussion."

Additionally, Darien has only 3.97% of its housing stock as deed-restricted affordable housing. In defending its shortcomings, the town consistently points to the fact that Darien is 98% developed.

"The purchase of 60 acres by the town certainly ameliorates this situation, creating an opportunity for Darien to invest in affordable housing stock to meet its legal obligation," said Senators Duff, Haskell, and Miller. "We would like to discuss this opportunity with you and ways in which we can assist in this effort. We are confident that the state would welcome the opportunity to partner with Darien on this initiative."

A copy of the letter and the full text of the letter are below.

Dear First Selectwoman McNally,

Congratulations to the Town of Darien on reaching an agreement to purchase the 60-acre Great Island property for $100 million. We look forward to learning more about the town’s plans for this incredible piece of property.

Given the news, we are again requesting the opportunity to meet with you to discuss two issues that now take on greater importance and urgency. It is our hope that you will respond to this request as our others have gone unanswered. Specifically, we’d like to discuss:

Open Choice. Last fall, the Darien Board of Education declined to participate in the Open Choice program, refusing to accept 13 Norwalk kindergartners and rejecting state provided funds to cover the cost of their education. This action contradicted the commitment given by the former First Selectman and the Schools Superintendent to participate in Open Choice.

In refusing to accept 13 Norwalk kindergarten students, the Board of Education cited unknown costs associated with assuming responsibility for these students, even though the state fully covers the cost of every student’s education under the Open Choice program.

The decision by the Town to purchase the Great Island property with so many unknowns—how the property will be used, how to replace the loss to the grand list, what the costs of insuring, maintaining, securing and ultimately developing the property will be, leads us to question the legitimacy of the reason given for rejecting Open Choice. We believe this topic requires further discussion.

Affordable Housing. As you know, the Town of Darien has only 3.97% of its housing stock as deed-restricted affordable housing. In defending its shortcomings, the town consistently points to the fact that Darien is 98% developed. The purchase of 60 acres by the town certainly ameliorates this situation, creating an opportunity for Darien to invest in affordable housing stock to meet its legal obligation. We would like to discuss this opportunity with you and ways in which we can assist in this effort. We are confident that the state would welcome the opportunity to partner with Darien on this initiative.

We look forward to hearing from you with a date and time that works for us to meet.

Sincerely,
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff
Senator Will Haskell
Senator Pat "Billie" Miller