Parklands developer launches bigger resort in Darien


DARIEN — After six neighbors filed a lawsuit in a last-ditch attempt to overturn approval for the controversial Parklands project, its owner and developer said it would instead pursue construction of a larger complex, with 88 units in place of the original 60 units while invoking a controversial affordable housing law.

The lawsuit, filed April 25 against the Darien Planning and Zoning Commission, names Bob Gillon, the developer who owns the 3 Parklands office building, as a co-defendant.

In response to the lawsuit, Gillon said Wednesday he was financially obligated to replace the office building, which has seen a massive exodus of tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gillon said he was filing a new 8-30g request with the city. These new plans call for a five-story complex with up to 90 units, which would replace the planned three-story complex with 60 units.

“This is an outdated office building. So residences will be built here,” he said. “Either what has been approved, which I think is nice – or a five floors, 88 units, 8-30g.”

Under state housing laws, a municipality can only deny an 8-30g request if there are significant health or safety concerns. Gillon said he was confident that would not be an issue in the Parklands case, based on expert studies already submitted during the initial application process.

“I don’t want to wait,” Gillon said in reference to the lawsuit. “It could be as late as May next year before a judge makes a decision. I don’t want to start over with a new plan then.

An 8-30g application has long been on the table for the site, he said. When he started thinking about the redevelopment project in October 2020, Gillon said he was initially considering an 8-30g project.

But because the proposed building would have to be much bigger to make financial sense, Gillon said he put that aside in favor of a smaller, more visually appealing 60-unit complex comprising just seven affordable units. .

“You don’t have bays, you don’t have sprockets – it’s a box,” Gillon said of plans to turn to the larger 8-30g building.

Neighbors are suing largely using the same arguments they made against the project during hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this year. Among other reasons, they say the project should be stopped because it would increase traffic on an already congested Old King’s Highway North, fail to protect a surrounding nature reserve and devalue their own properties.

They also argue that the commission’s vote was not legal. The draft went 3-2 in February after a hectic meeting that left many surprised and confused.

Stamford-based neighbours’ lawyer John Harness declined to comment at the start of the trial.

In the lawsuit, residents seek a temporary restraining order to stop Gillon from moving forward with the project. Construction at 3 Parklands was scheduled to begin this summer.

“It’s not a threat, but I have to do something,” Gillon said. “I have a financial reason to do something. I can’t let the neighbors tell me I can’t build because they just don’t want it, while it complies with all the regulations.

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