Although the Board of Finance approved $139,000 -- the remainder of the funding needed for the downtown master plan -- Wednesday night, the former chairman of the Downtown 2020 Committee says he has no plans to return to the panel he resigned from last week, at least not right now.
Louis Gagliano, who left the panel amid controversy last week after serving as its chairman since it was organized last year, said he plans to wait until after the November election to see who is elected first selectman.
"I want to wait and see the philosophies of the two candidates," Gagliano said Thursday. He did express concern about comments made by Democrat Helen Garten, who, he said, has aleady thanked the Downtown 2020 group for all its work, but feels it's time for the group to step aside.
"Her view is different from Jim's," he said, referring to Republican first selectman candidate Jim Marpe. "I'm not saying one is better or one is right," said Gagliano. "But it would be silly to become involved in the committee again if (Garten) will populate it differently, if she's elected."
Gagliano said he was pleased with the finance board's approval of the additional funding Wednesday night for the complete study. The board had earlier approved just $65,000, which would only fund phase one of the plan, a traffic study. That action prompted Gagliano to resign from the downtown committee. In his resignation letter, Gagliano, who has led the group for the past 18 months, said he no longer felt good about the commitment of the town to the project.
The vote was also controversial because it was prompted by a last-minute email received by Avi Kaner, board chairman, from Cathy Walsh, Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman, who said a majority of the commission members had misgivings about funding the entire amount. But that was after the commission had unanimously recommended approval of the downtown plan in September.
The Representative Town Meeting, by a 26-1 vote, on Tuesday gave final approval to a $65,000 contract with RBA Group for the traffic phase of the downtown plan.
The finance board approved the additional $139,000 funding Wednesday and the RTM is expected to vote on that amount at its next meeting.
Prior to Tuesday's RTM vote, member Dick Lowenstein said he wanted to know how P&Z members could "change their minds without holding a public meeting" and how they could seemingly overturn a public vote in private.
He asked that Walsh be present at the next RTM session to explain what happened.
Walsh did attend Wednesday's finance meeting, she said, hoping to "clear up misconceptions" about her email to Kaner.
"You made the right decision last week," she said. "I had some concerns. Some other commissioners had some concerns."
She said that while she and the other commissioners were in favor of the overall master plan, they felt the traffic study needed to be executed quickly.
"I was not comfortable with whether or not you or the RTM were going to pass the full request," she said, calling her email "a little bit vague and innocuous."