Eagle Scout Project Creates ‘Insect Hotel’ at DCA Bird Sanctuary

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Eagle Scout Project Maximus Racanelli

From left: Brielle Racanelli, Maximus Racanelli, Jack Holly and Ian Holly help to build the insect hotel.

A Darien Troop 53 Scout, Maximus Racanelli, completed his Eagle Scout service project in August at the Darien Community Association Bird Sanctuary.

Racanelli led his team to construct two insect hotels which provide a home for various insects such as bees, beetles, fireflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, and butterflies.

— an announcement from the Darien Community Association

These various bugs help to pollinate the flowers, plants, and trees in the sanctuary. Insect hotels are natural structures that are helpful to the environment because not only do they provide homes for insects, but they provide food for species higher up the food chain including birds and small rodents, creating a stable base in the ecosystem.

Each insect hotel was assembled using seven wooden pallets to create the frame and filling in each layer with various materials such as bamboo filled with hollow plant stems, straw, pieces of terra cotta pots, and seed pods for different insect species to live in. Most notably there are logs, cut in pieces and drilled with many six-inch holes to allow for mason and leafcutter bees to lay their eggs.

Eagle Scout Project Maximus Racanelli

From left: Brielle Racanelli, Maximus Racanelli, Jack Holly and Ian Holly help to build the insect hotel.

On top of each insect hotel, is a green roof filled with many species of native plants to provide food and shelter for the insects and a place for small rodents and birds to perch.

One of the insect hotels is also accompanied by a seating area and informational sign as an education tool for preschool, elementary, and middle school classes, who visit the bird sanctuary.

During the construction of the insect hotels, Racanelli led, instructed, and supervised a group of Scouts and adults who came to help with his project. He made sure that there were no problems during the day, including keeping track of the project timeline and demonstrating different tasks to be accomplished.

Along with the help of his fellow Scouts, Racanelli also enlisted the help of Sig Buchmayr, a DCA board member and bird sanctuary committee member, who helped with the cutting of the logs. Cindy Ryan, also a bird sanctuary committee member, helped provide many of the plants for the green roof.

“Maximus, with the help of a several Scouts, did an exceptional job constructing two insect hotels at the DCA’S Bird Sanctuary,” Buchmayr said. “The project encompassed a multitude of moving parts, and the Scouts were up to the task. Now the bird sanctuary has two new interesting features to benefit the birds and bees going forward.”

An Eagle Scout service project is an opportunity for a scout to demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project for the benefit of his community.

The insect hotels, as well as the DCA Bird Sanctuary, are located at 274 Middlesex Road. The sanctuary is open during daylight hours except for scheduled weekend events. To schedule group visits, please call the DCA at 203-655-9050, ext. 10.

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Developer’s Hopes for Corbin/Post Road Redevelopment Described to Packed Room

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Corbin Post Road Rendering 4-7-16

A new rendering of part of the project, looking southwest down the Post Road. The building with the tower would be on the corner of Post Road and Corbin Drive.

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Although he didn’t announce any changes in the plans to transform the Corbin Drive/Post Road/I-95 block of commercial buildings, the chief developer of the project gave out more details to a packed Community Room at Darien Library on Wednesday night, and answered a lot of questions from the audience.

Some information that’s new or hasn’t been emphasized before about the project:

  • Developers are trying to work with the U.S. Postal Service to keep the Post Office on the block and even hope to keep the delivery postal employees based there, although the post office may need more space than the area that’s been discussed.
  • The Bank of America building has not been bought by the owners of the rest of the site.
  • A late-night email to the CEO of L.L. Bean started the ball rolling in discussions with that retailer to bring that store to town.
  • That L.L. Bean store may include a bicycle shop.
  • If all goes well, with no delays whatever, it won’t be until 2018 that the project is built, but unforeseen delays could easily postpone completion to 2020.
  • The condominium units and the office space that are part of the project are meant to subsidize lower rents for locally owned stores that are already on the property and that are invited to return to it.
  • Two restaurants may flank either side of the “Town Green” a plaza almost half an acre in size, partly covered in grass, being planned as a public space just off the Post Road.

David Genovese, principal of Baywater Properties LLC, is proposing to redevelop the site with Penny Glassmeyer, principal of PG Properties. Genovese spoke at the meeting with John Block of Tighe & Bond and Gary Brewer, an architect with Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

The two developers have bought up nearly the entire 2000 block, with the exception of the building where the Bank of America is located, next to the Exit 11 ramp for the southbound side of Interstate 95. The (unnamed) owner of that building may become a partner in the project or may sell it at a later date, Genovese said.

John Block of Tighe & Bond, Architect Gary Brewer and David Genovese, principal of Baywater Properties.

From left, John Block, a senior vice president with Tighe & Bond, Architect Gary Brewer of Robert A.M. Stern Architects and David Genovese, principal of Baywater Properties.

The project, together with the similar large redevelopment projects announced by the major property owners of the Noroton Heights business district, are described by several town officials as Darien’s biggest redevelopments since I-95 was constructed in town in the late 1950s.

The Genovese/Glassmeyer project is proposed to have 66 condominium apartments, an expansion of retail space to a total of 75,000 (up from 49,000 square feet today)  and 95,000 square feet of office space (there’s 42,000 square feet on the site now).

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Correction: In an earlier version of this article, some of the figures for square footage for retail, office and residential space on the site now and proposed were incorrect. They’ve now been changed.

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Parallel parking by the sides of streets (including two new streets) would be supplemented by underground parking constructed at great expense in ground that will flood if the construction isn’t sound enough. Town officials have said that the project’s plans should not contemplate using any other parking spaces downtown.

Not much was said about traffic at this meeting that hasn’t been said before: A town traffic study is expected for the project, Genovese said, and traffic will be mitigated in part by office workers using the Darien Train Station, about a quarter of a mile away from the site (roughly a five-minute walk) and the Exit 11 off ramps and entrances to Interstate 95.

An internal street parallel to the Post Road, and another one leading to its western end and parallel with Corbin Drive would also help Post Road traffic, he said.

Timing

Zoning changes that would allow the project to go forward will be put before the Planning & Zoning Commission in a public hearing at its May 17 meeting. (The two Noroton Heights developments had a similar hearing about zoning changes earlier this week.) The P&Z Commission is expected to discuss the matter, or possibly continue the public hearing, on May 31.

Corbin Post Road Rendering 4-7-16

A new rendering of part of the project, looking southwest down the Post Road. The building with the tower would be on the corner of Post Road and Corbin Drive.

“We’re going to push as hard as we can to get through the approval process this year,” Genovese said. The Board of Selectmen recently approved a plan to hire additional P&Z Department staff before the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, largely to handle the extra work from the three big commercial development plans, and more money is proposed for that new staff for the next fiscal year.

“We could start later in 2017 or early in 2018” if the approval process takes longer. “We think it’s about an 18-month [construction] process,” meaning construction could be complete as early as mid 2018. Genovese said it’s possible, if delays happen, that it might not be complete until late 2019 or even early 2020.

One spur toward getting the project completed earlier is that 3.8 miles to the east, Norwalk is considering the construction of a shopping mall near Exit 14. The mall is expected to have Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdale’s department stores — and they’re competing with Darien to snag L.L. Bean, which is considering that offer.

L.L. Bean and Other Retail Shops

Genovese said that late one night when he couldn’t sleep, he looked up the email address of the CEO of L.L. Bean and shot him an email, explaining the project and asking him if he would be interested.

“In 15 minutes, he replied to e that he had actually grown up in Fairfield,” Genovese said. “We’re negotiating now.”

Rent from L.L. Bean would not subsidize any other part of the project, Genovese said. “They don’t subsidize in terms of their rent. It will actually be one of our lower rents.” But, he added, “They have an incredible marketing budget” and that might bring people not only to their store, but to the others nearby.

L.L. Bean’s products hardly overlap with those of the Darien Sport Shop, which would be just across the Post Road, Genovese said. Genovese repeated what he’s said before: He’d already pledged to the late Stephen Zangrillo, founder of Darien Sport Shop, that he would respect that store in whatever decisions were made regarding the proposed development.

Asked about what will happen with the small retailers now on the property, Genovese said the goal of the project has always been to retain them, and some of them have negotiated guarantees that they can come back to the site when it’s rebuilt.

The tailor, cobbler and dog grooming shops located away from the Post Road all are guaranteed to return, he said. The owner of the Helen Ainson shop negotiated an agreement that guarantees the shop will return at a low rent.