Stamford officials, commuters will have some input in state overhaul of parking

Two weeks ago, Gov. Dannel Malloy and Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker promised to create an “advisory panel” to help the state decide which developer should receive $35 million in public money to replace a parking garage at the Stamford train station. Thursday, they announced the five members of the panel, and some names are sure to please those concerned about the secrecy surrounding the process.

Among the most critical have been Stamford officials, who are not involved in the negotiations for the project because the state owns and operates the train station. But the city’s economic development director, Laure Aubuchon, and the president of its Board of Representatives, Randy Skigen, have both been named to the panel.

Several weeks ago, Skigen told the Mirror, “It appears that the Department of Transportation is going to select somebody without a whole lot of input from the community,” adding that he may take up his concerns with the state legislature. Aubuchon, in an interview about the same time, said she did not expect to know the names of the developers competing for the project or anything about their proposals until the state made a decision.

Both will now get to see at least some portion of the proposals as they help the state make a choice, Redeker said. The state says it cannot release any information on the names or plans of developers to the general public because of concerns that intellectual property and trade secrets will be divulged.

Also on the panel is David Hendricks, a member of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council. The council’s chairman, Jim Cameron, has been heavily critical of the state’s process for overhauling parking at the Stamford train station, and, at a public hearing in September, had asked Redeker to give commuters more of a say in the project.

It’s unclear how much influence the panel will have, but Redeker said that DOT officials will meet regularly with panel members over the next few months.

Aside from asking developers to propose how they would replace a 727-space parking garage with one with 1,000 spaces, the state is also asking them to propose building residential, office and retail space near the train station. Redeker has argued that such unprecedented involvement from the private sector in a public project — known as a “public-private partnership” — means that details on the negotiations must be kept secret until they are over.