The Town Council passed a $175,000 appropriation for Phase II of the Long Range Planning Committee's master plan initiative Wednesday night in a 9-3 vote, marking the final approval necessary to move forward with the study.

The meeting also marked the third opportunity for residents to voice their opinions concerning Phase II funding.

"First and foremost, it was the overwhelming recommendation of four government bodies -- the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Town Council and the Board of Education -- that we need to develop a long-range master plan in order to carry out our responsibilities to the community," council member Penny Young said.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, council member Paul Foley, explained why he believes the current economic climate is not the right the time to spend money.

"I just think we are in a time in our economy and a time and place here in New Canaan where spending $175,000 on another plan is just not what the taxpayers in this town would like to see," Foley said. "Given where we are today, I have to vote against this."

Of the 12 present Town Council members, Paul Foley, John Emert and Beth Jones voted against the appropriation.

Only a handful of residents spoke at the meeting. Tanya Bickley, who frequently speaks out on the plan, suggested that one of her qualms regarding Phase II was the public hearings. She would like to see additional public hearings to garner more community input.

Town Council Vice Chairman Steve Karl suggested that in addition to the organized planned public hearings and workshops planned by the LRPC and Perkins Eastman, they could have periodic public meetings with Town Council to allow for updates on the plan as well as more input.

As previously reported, the facilities included in the scope of work are Town Hall, the fire department, the teen center, Vine Cottage, the movie theater, Irwin Park, Waveny Park, the Highway Department building, the police department, the library and the school administration offices as well as various parking lots and sidewalks.

According to the LRPC's March 30 presentation, the consultants will analyze the existing facilities and develop possible alternatives in terms of location, renovation, operational efficiencies, traffic and parking impacts among other issues. They also expect to hold a public workshop evaluating possible alternatives. When that's complete, a draft master plan will be developed for a public presentation before the final document can be produced.

Council Member Christine Hussey questioned the LRPC at the end of its presentation regarding the plan's shelf life as well as cost estimations.

"It does not have a shelf life is the brief answer," LRPC Chairman Christine Wagner answered. "When you do cost estimating to the best extent you can, you look at long-term trends, account for escalation and building costs ... estimators take quite a bit of information into account before they get the numbers. They start with existing conditions and look at trends coming into the future."

In terms of funds, there was some initial confusion from the public as to where exactly the money comes from. Budget Director Jennifer Charneski explained that, if approved by all three town bodies, funding would be appropriated from an account called the "undesignated fund balance," which is essentially money the town has accumulated over time through extra revenue.

With all the approvals in place, Wagner hopes to have new meetings and schedules in place shortly to begin Phase II. As of now, May 5 appears to be a likely date for the first meeting of Phase II.