The blocks may go, but safety concerns among Yankee Ridge property owners have scuttled plans to re-open the ramp between the upper and lower parking lots behind storefronts on the east side of Main Street.
“The overwhelming response is: No, they do not want that ramp opened,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “And we would have to have their cooperation, since they own the property.”
For a couple of years the town has been working on plans to refurbish parking lots behind Main Street, between Bailey Avenue and Prospect Street. As part of the project town officials had hoped to reopen the ramp between the upper lots off Bailey Avenue and the lower Yankee Ridge lots off Prospect Street.
“We needed the cooperation of the owners located in the condo association of Yankee Ridge,” Mr. Marconi said. “And they felt there were very serious concerns about traffic coming down that ramp, and the possibility of pedestrian-vehicular accidents, and just felt it was not necessary.”
Town officials say they will proceed with a project renovating some of upper parking lots, although plans for re-opening the ramp will now be dropped, along with the repaving of parking areas closest to the ramp.
“It’s at a point that we can continue with the project and just not do the parcels that belong to the people that are unhappy with the project,” Town Engineer Charles Fisher said.
Over the couple of years that the parking lot renovation has been in the works Mr. Marconi, Mr. Fisher and the property owners have explored a variety of ideas — automated gates, speed humps — to resolve safety concerns about reopening of the ramp.
That ramp connection was originally open, but it was closed more than 30 years ago by the unannounced placement of the huge cement blocks at the top of the ramp by the original developers and landlords of Yankee Ridge.
Today Yankee Ridge operates as a commercial condominium association and Mr. Marconi said it’s clear that a dominant share of owners oppose reopening the ramp.
“I heard from the major owner, which is Willette Properties, which owns 51%, and two other owners, which together accounted for a large percentage of the property — large enough to make any positive vote an impossible result,” he said.
Even if the ramp doesn’t re-open, Mr. Marconi said, he’d like the blocks removed.
“We should get the blocks out of there, put in a more aesthetically pleasing fence, with a path going down the ramp. We wouldn’t do that, it’s up to the owners to do that,” he said. “But we would ask, if they don’t want to get the blocks out of there, that they at least make it a bit cleaner and aesthetically pleasing.
“It would be nice to create a pocket park and put a few picnic tables and few trees — if they’re not going to use it as a ramp, clean it up.”
Calls to Willette Properties concerning the situation were not returned.
In addition to much of Yankee Ridge, Willette owns the 440 Main Street building and the parking lot behind it.
Mr. Fisher said the project as now envisioned would involve repaving three adjacent lots: the town-owned parking lot off Bailey Avenue, with 88 spaces; the Urstadt Biddle lot with 28 spaces; and the Finch lot with 12 spaces.
The Willette lot behind 440 Main Street, with 48 spaces — including the area at the top of the ramp where the blocks are — would be excluded.
The project includes repaving and restriping, the installation of new street lamps, and the addition of a stone wall along the lot’s Bailey Avenue frontage — an aesthetic suggestion from the Ridgefield Design Council.
“Right now, without the ramp the overall goal is to improve the appearance of the parking area,” said Mr. Fisher. “It is in need of improvements, physical and aesthetic improvements.”
The project’s anticipated total cost is about $660,000, according to Mr. Fisher. A couple of different state grants should add up to about $450,000, he said, and cover the most of the cost. He also expects to use some money from the “payment in lieu of parking” fund that receives donations from developers who have gotten approvals with parking variances. Contributions are also expected from private property owners who will benefit most directly from the project.
“We’re probably going to go out to bid late spring, early summer, and proceed from there,” Mr. Fisher said. “The plans are 95% done.
“This project has been going on a long time,” he said. “It’s definitely going to happen. It’s just going to be not as big of a scope as originally was planned.”