First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos gave the Democratic Town Committee a sneak preview of the master plan for the Tabor site last night. The design incorporates ball fields, parking areas and a new public works building on the town-owned land. He said he would formally present the architect’s drawings to the Board of Selectmen at its next meeting.
He did not hand out a sketch of the design for the 77-acre property, but he did tell some 45 DTC members, including a number of Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members, that “great care has been taken for the neighborhood” in the revised design of the plan.
“There will be a landscaping buffer between the neighborhood and the entire site,” he told the group. He said a new road will be created separating the site from Tabor Drive, a road that will be parallel to Tabor Drive and provide an entrance to the site. He called the Tabor area, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Branford and noted that it lies in the center of town. He said now that the landfill adjacent to it is closed, it was time to move forward to develop the land.
DaRos’s preview of the master plan came a day after RTM member Ray Ingraham, who also serves as the head of the Republican party, presented a set of online petitions to the Board of Selectmen from 172 residents. Dennis Flanagan, the Republican clerk and a longtime member of the RTM, joined him. Click here to read the story.
They asked the BOS to reverse a 2-1 decision last month, an unlikely action. Ingraham plans to make his pitch to the Board of Finance when it takes it up as well as the RTM. The Board of Finance and RTM meet next week but the public works building project will not be on the agenda because DaRos has not sent it to them. He said he was in the process of finalizing the master plan, which, he said at an October BOS meeting would be ready in 60 days.
In an interview after Thursday night’s meeting, DaRos elaborated on the plan. He said the new road created in the plan will make a huge loop and within the loop is a full baseball diamond. There will be two other fields, a girls soft ball field and an all purpose field located near the lake side of the property, close to Pine Orchard Road. A new road will also serve as an evacuation route for Pine Orchard residents in the event of a hurricane storm and will also be used by public works employees.
He added that there will be no through truck traffic on Toole Drive, one of the concerns voiced by residents. “That was an agreement I did with those people back in 2008 when they were in favor of this,” he observed.
He told them that the Tabor site will continue to be “a scab forever unless you start to develop it.
“We said we were going to do it all the way back in 2003,” he said referring to the town’s action to take the land by eminent domain. ” If we don’t start to do something down there it will always be nothing but a scab. And everyone one will be pecking at the scab. And there are plenty out there pecking,” he said, without elaborating. Click here to read a story about Tabor’s legal history.
DaRos urged the Democrats on the RTM, who hold the majority in the 30-member body, to be leaders. The Democrats outnumber the Republicans 19 to 11. “You were put there to lead and that is what you are supposed to be doing … not following,” he declared. “You have to lead to get done the things that have to be done. You are the elected Representatives of the Town meeting.”
He observed that the RTM has been virtually “paralyzed” in recent years and said the Democrats must act to undo that. Part of the paralysis stemmed from a petition system that turned the RTM committee structure into knots, making the petitioner’s agenda the RTM agenda. The primary petitioner was Wayne Cooke, who has been engaged in a fierce public battle with the town over his farm tax. The RTM has now overturned the current petition system, and its legal committee is studying how best to revise it.
Cooke recently announced he would spend less time at public meetings and would retire his musical truck that he parked outside of Town Hall each morning and drove through the streets and nearby towns. His decision came as he sued the town in U.S. District Court on assertions his civil rights had been violated. He also filed a slander suit against DaRos in state court. He is being represented by the Marcus Law Firm, which the town has sued for malpractice. The Marcus law firm represented the town for two years when Cheryl Morris served as first selectman.
DaRos, who has served as first selectman over an 11-year period with a four year break in between terms, said he knows well how the RTM can function at its best. He noted that when the town chose this form of government, over 50 years ago, it chose “the most powerful form of government.” He observed that sometimes what the RTM says it will do in caucus “is not what they do on the floor.” The reverse is true with the Republicans. Typically they stay on course.
Jim Perito, an attorney, was elected vice-president of the DTC. He is also a member of the buildings committee appointed by DaRos to study the sites best suited for the public works building. The committee spent two years investigating many sites. Various public meetings and walks have been held over that time. Public Works is now in a rented building.
Perito told the DTC it was important for the RTM to educate itself as much as possible on the facts uncovered in the committee’s study of various sites. He urged those in the audience to read the consultant’s final report to the building committee which is on the town website. Click here to read it.
In an earlier interview with the Eagle, DaRos argued that Ingraham “is premature with his petitions because the Republican leadership, led by Mr. [Frank] Twohill, asked for a master plan. That is when I told him, in October, you will have your master plan …it is a legitimate thing to ask for. I think it is what everyone of them should have been asking about in the beginning.”
He said the town had tested the property on which the public works building is expected to be built. It is clean, he said. The building will be located about one quarter of a mile from the nearest home and will cost about $7 million. These funds will be bonded at low interest rates, he told the group.
The town landfill or dump was closed this year. “There will be no more heavy truck traffic here. Our trucks for public works are much smaller.” He said the impact of the public works building will be minimal.
In other business, the DTC elected its new leaders. Chris Sullivan (pictured), the current moderator of the RTM, was named chair of the DTC succeeding Victor Casella, who has served for about four years. Sullivan, who served as vice-chair of the DTC for several years, stood to lead a round of applause for Casella and out-going vice-president Stephanie Farber, a co-chair with Penny Bellamy of the Hilltop Brigade. The audience rose to applaud Casella and Farber.
Casella, a member of the Board of Finance, told the Eagle he was impressed with all the volunteers who make the political system work. “It is just wonderful. I am impressed with the number of people who participate as volunteers, who get involved in politics for no pay. They put in all this time for the benefit of the town. I think it is most wonderful. I thank them for serving.”
Sullivan said in an interview he would work hard to provide more opportunities for people to become involved with the DTC. If they sign up to serve at the booth the DTC has at the Branford Festival each June, for example, he said, then they learn organizational skills that help them in a political campaign in the fall. He said he would also look into the possibility of the DTC forming a Facebook page, and in general becoming more involved in the world of social media. This will attract younger people to the party, he added.
Perito and Connie Drysdale were also elected as vice-presidents. Maggie Bruno, a member of the RTM, is treasurer and Mike Leone is secretary. Stan Konesky is the new chair of the DTC nominating committee.