Route 7 ‘gateway’ returns for discussion next Tuesday

Already heavy traffic around the Route 7 and Route 35 intersection was bemoaned at Tuesday night’s public hearing by speakers hoping to stop the proposed new “gateway zone” that would allow more retail uses there. —Macklin Reid photo

Already heavy traffic around the Route 7 and Route 35 intersection was bemoaned at Tuesday night’s public hearing by speakers hoping to stop the proposed new “gateway zone” that would allow more retail uses there. —Macklin Reid photo

The third time has to be the charm, doesn’t it?

The Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss a proposed zoning application that would allow limited retail to business uses along northern Route 7 for a third time next Tuesday, May 7, at the Town Hall Annex at 7:30 p.m.

At the commission’s special “work session” held on March 26, members heard from a three-person subcommittee that had been working on amending the original proposal since the first public hearing held on Jan. 15.

The commission voted 8-1 in favor of continuing the public hearing after the subcommittee’s presentation.

The new proposed zone starts at John’s Best Pizza and extends northward to the Danbury-Ridgefield line. It excludes Regency at Ridgefield, Laurel Ridge and Ridgefield Crossings, said Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti, who led the subcommittee.

The new proposal includes approximately 35 parcels, or lots, and 57 acres, which is fewer than the original proposal of approximately 48 parcels and 82 acres.

The original proposal received significant backlash from community members in January, who said retail on Route 7 would detract from the town’s center of commercial activity on Main Street.

Another area of concern was traffic congestion going off Route 7 and onto Route 35.

“It would be unimaginable,” said Commissioner John Katz in March.

Chris Fisher and Joy Strand of the Ridgefield Economic Development Commission attended the special work session and shared the research they had conducted since the public hearing in January.

Mr. Fisher said the zoning change wouldn’t affect the center of town and that more than $1 million of retail demand is not being met.

“We broke down the town into three areas — downtown, Branchville and the Gateway on Route 7 — and concluded there’s a tremendous amount of retail demand not being met and properties are still in development,” Mr. Fisher said.

Despite Mr. Katz’s belief that the issue shouldn’t be considered in any forum — public or private — the commission will listen to community members’ opinions for a second time.

“The most important input we can receive towards this proposal comes from the townspeople,” Commissioner Michael Autori said.

 

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