A year after unveiling its website to the community, the Ridgefield Winter Club submitted a formal plan through the town’s planning and zoning offices Friday to build and develop a private rink and clubhouse that would run from November through March on the former Pinchbeck property at 340 Peaceable Street.
The club has been the subject of intense opposition from neighbors of the Pinchbeck site over concerns that the new development would bring commercial enterprise and noise and light pollution into a residential neighborhood.
Ridgefield resident Bud Brown first appeared in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission in March 2017 with the concept of a skating rink — along with a tennis court, and multi-purpose turf field for about 250 members and 90 parking spaces. The plan was scaled down in July 2017 when Brown launched the club’s website.
“The Ridgefield Winter Club will add a unique new asset to all that our town has to offer,” Brown said in a release Friday, July 20. “We are thrilled to be moving forward. We truly embrace the importance of being a good steward of the community, and we’re proud to present an application that incorporates Ridgefield’s local standards and fulfills the promise to support the community as an attractive place in which to live and raise a family.”
The proposal seeks to have the club open seasonally from November through March, and both the rink and clubhouse will be closed during summer months. During the months of April, May, September, and October, the ice rink would be closed and the clubhouse would open on a reduced schedule.
During the winter months, the ice will be open from 7 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. on weekdays. On weekends, club proposes the ice will open at 8 a.m. and close by 9:45 — or earlier.
The release confirmed that the club will include hockey (starting at 8 a.m. on weekdays), as well as figure-skating, broom-ball, and curling.
The interior of the clubhouse will include four bowling lanes and a bar, as well as tabletop games and a golf simulation room.
In the release, Brown attempted to address some of the neighbors concerns about quality of life.
“We’ve taken great care to replicate the residential look and feel of our town, operate with modest hours and months of usage, and use proven lighting technology as well as measures intended to eliminate any potential noise effects outside the property lines,” Brown said.
He noted again that the current property is a “nonconforming use” in a residential zone.
Brown called the current property “old and deteriorating,” and said that the club would “bring a full range of positive economic benefits to Ridgefield by creating jobs and generating an estimated five times the amount of tax revenue currently paid by the site to help fund vital town services.”
But the plan has seen tremendous pushback from neighbors of the site, who launched a website last summer for a group they named Peaceable Neighbors Alliance, and started a petition devoted to thwarting the plan a year ago after the plan came to light.
In September of last year, the group, led by neighbor Jeff Hansen, filed a counter-application with the town Planning and Zoning office to remove “private clubs” from the list of uses allowed in a residential zone under a special permit — which the club will need in order to operate in a residential zone.
The application to amend the language failed, after commissioners deemed it would immediately place several existing clubs in noncompliance.
But the hearing for the language amendment — meant to anticipate Friday’s application from the club — drew impassioned testimony from the crowd of over 100 residents, many of whom were in favor of axing “private clubs” as a permitted use.
“The neighborhood has continued to fear this like an albatross around our neck,” Hansen told The Press on July 20. “Now we need our Planning and Zoning Commission to protect a residentially zoned property from becoming commercial.”
“I never would have expected when I moved to Ridgefield, that after 19 years my house could be next to an outdoor ice-skating rink and clubhouse,” he added. “Our next step will be to rally the residents of Ridgefield, because this project is not for Ridgefield, it’s for paying club members.”