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Study costs may sink open space gifts

Two small properties offered to the Conservation Commission may not become town open space because no one wants to spend $3,000 on environmental studies to make sure there are no pollution problems on them.

A third land transfer that was advanced by the commission recently, a land swap of small parcels off Ledges Road to avoid relocating a trail, appears likely to proceed — although it, too, is without an environmental study.

All three were discussed at a public hearing Wednesday, April 10, and are due to be voted on at a May 1 town meeting.

A 2.25-acre parcel off Tanton Hill Road and a 1.11-acre parcel off Sara Bishop Road were offered to the commission by the Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club.

Both are considered unsuitable for construction, and judged to have little or no commercial value.

Commissioner Ben Oko told the hearing that “phase one” environmental studies, the standard first step to assure a property isn’t polluted, would be more costly than originally assumed.

“The quote we’re getting is $1,500 per property,” he said.

“It seems a little high,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi agreed.

The property swap off Ledges Road — essentially a property line adjustment involving about a 10th of an acre — could probably proceed without a new phase one study, Dr. Oko said.

The boundary adjustment involves a 28-acre parcel off Ledges Road,  acquired by the commission in December, and an adjacent house lot that had previously been part of the same tract. The commission had a phase one study done of the 28-acre property before buying it, and the neighboring property was reviewed as part of that.

No environmental problems turned up, and another phase one study of the area seems unnecessary, he said.

Proceeding with the swap would avoid the need to relocate portions of a trail on the open space that crosses onto part of the neighboring lot.

The commission is usually eager to add to its more than 5,000 acres of open space holdings to preserve land in its natural state and limit future development in town. But neither of the other two properties seem likely to be built on anyway.

The Planning and Zoning Commission did give a “favorable report” to the acceptance of each property, based in part on recommendations by town wetlands agent Aimee Pardee.

The 2.25-acre lot off Tanton Hill Road, she wrote, “could potentially be part of a larger area of undeveloped land, owned by both the town and the state, that runs between development on Stonecrest and Tanton Hill, north to development on Shields Lane. …

“As part of a larger wetland complex, it is desirable for this parcel to remain in its natural state.”

The Sarah Bishop lot, Ms. Pardee wrote, is “an excellent candidate for inclusion in the Town of Ridgefield Open Space as the parcel shares two full boundaries with existing open space, and a portion of a third as well.”

“We are loath to spend $1,500 on each of these properties to accept them, and the Boys & Girls Club is loath to do that,” Dr. Oko said. “We may have to not accept these properties.”

“I, frankly, would not buy it without a phase one. It’s insurance,” Selectman Andy Bodner said.

“I don’t think we want to spend $3,000,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

Boys & Girls Club board member Marty Heiser was at the hearing, and said the offer of the two properties seemed generous even without the club’s financing environmental studies of them.

Dr. Oko offered, “This is a suggestion to the Boys & Girls Club. You might offer it to the Land Conservancy, which doesn’t need a phase one.”

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  • Chris Glidden

    Is there any way to see a map of these 3 parcels before May 1 meeting? Is this information available at town hall or in minutes from the April 10 hearing?

  • CMcQuilken

    I would think these two parcels are a bargain at $1,000 per acre. It’s practically no money at all.

    Bigger picture though, as much as I believe the Conservation Commission does good things for the town, I’d like to see more CC funds allocated to maintaining the open space we currently have, instead of just using funds to buy large tracts of new land. What is the point of having open space if many of the trails aren’t passable because of all the fallen trees?

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