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Ridgefield Letter: Hotel on Main Street? Adhere to POCD

POCD or RMPD

We have been asked as residents of Ridgefield to give our comments for a 2020 Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD) on June 18 at 7:30 PM at the Town Hall Annex. 

The 2010 Plan states that it is “an advisory document to the Planning and Zoning Commission, other boards and commissions, and residents” and “is a tool for guiding land use decisions in Ridgefield.”  Parts of our zoning regulations specifically site consistency with the POCD as a goal. 

The POCD gets updated every 10 years.  I thoroughly read the 2010 POCD during the Ridgefield Winter Club hearing as our Criteria for Special Permits in our Zoning Regulations state that “the proposed use or activity facilitates achievement of one or more of the goals, objectives, policies, and recommendations of the Plan of Conservation and Development, as amended.”  I believe the 2010 POCD still makes good sense. 

Are there places to tweak it (like adding additional emphasis on protecting residential zones from commercial intrusion)?  Yes.  I believe our big problem is that P&Z has ignored the current POCD.  We are operating under the RMPD (Rebecca Mucchetti Plan of Development).  When the decision was made not to hire a new Town Planner, Chairwoman Mucchetti said: “at this point in the town’s history, we are more in need of a land-use administrator than a planner.” 

It’s fair to say this town is fully developed – if not over-developed.  Yet Ms. Mucchetti and the Commission are currently planning on how to attract and put a 30 to 40 room hotel in town.  Apparently, these discussions have been going on for a year and a half between Ms. Mucchetti, Commissioner Joe Fossi, Commissioner Charles Robbins and appointed Commissioner Cathy Savoca (who last year received a Special Permit for a B&B). 

They chose the Lounsbury property as the potential site -  taking two older houses off of it (they are looking at 1.7 acres of the St. Stephens property as well). 

The Selectmen said no to that idea, but the Commission has decided to work an amendment that will allow for hotels in the Central Business District Zone. 

We certainly have restaurants and cultural attractions that attract residents of Ridgefield as well as CT and NYS surrounding towns.  Do we need additional congestion in our downtown area by luring people from further away with the promise of a pillow to lay their heads on at the end of the night?  Does it make sense to zone hotels for Route 7 or encourage Bed & Breakfasts because they fit in with our community character better?  Do we want Main Street to look like Quarry Road with the gigantic condo buildings?  Do they care what the POCD says?  Let’s remind them Tuesday night that they are supposed to.

The 2010 POCD introduction states that “Ridgefield has long recognized the importance of its rural character and the need to manage its growth”.  I dare say that some members of P&Z have forgotten that.  Chapter 2 starts with “Ridgefield should be a community where:

-          the important natural and cultural resources are protected;

-          community character is preserved and enhanced;

-          the single family residential character is maintained.

58% of our land is committed to Residential use and 30% to Open Space – that is Ridgefield.  Out of zoned land, 88% is residential with almost 92% being 2 and 3-acre zoning and another 6.2% one acre. That is probably not fun if you’re a planner – there shouldn’t be much to do.  It does mean that rural residential character is what we have and what should be protected.  There can be tweaking with the types of housing we have, but it also means we don’t have the infrastructure of towns like Greenwich or Stamford.  P&Z in Ridgefield is not a job for urban planners.

Our POCD says to “preserve wetlands in their natural state”.  P&Z tends to favor development by having wetlands diverted and developed in a different area than where it naturally exists (which is discouraged by the CT DEEP).  The POCD states that businesses “should be maintained” in the commercial areas “due to the presence of water, sewer and road infrastructure” and that “current zones and regulations for single family residential zones generally should be maintained”.  This discourages commercial enterprises in residential zones – our regulations should be tightened to reflect that.  In regard to Higher Density and Multi-family Site Criteria, the POCD calls for:

-          multi-family developments should be served by water supply systems and municipal sewage treatment facilities;

-          the most appropriate types of multi-family development for Ridgefield should continue to be moderate density townhouses and garden apartments;

-          the site should be of adequate size and suitable terrain to establish an attractive and functional layout of buildings and site improvements and permit reasonable screening to and from adjacent properties and streets

Unfortunately, we would need giant redwoods to screen the properties on Quarry Road. and there is no resemblance to a townhouse or garden apartment.

My conclusion is we don’t need many changes to the POCD, we need Rebecca Mucchetti and friends to stop trying to decide what this town should be on their own and adhere to our POCD.

- Jeff Hansen, Ridgefield, CT

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