Zemo sees hotel in plan for Schlumberger lot

The outline of the Zemo plan. That's the sewage treatment plant at upper right and Treetops condominiums at lower left.

The outline of the Zemo plan. That’s the sewage treatment plant at upper right and Treetops condominiums at lower left.

With plans showing a hotel, a self-storage facility and a third commercial building, developer Steve Zemo is offering the town $1,250,000 for five acres of the former Schlumberger property.

“We only had one bidder: $1,250,000, which is good,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

Stephen Zemo & Affiliated Companies was the only prospective buyer that submitted a formal response to the town’s request for proposals on the five-acre site, which is across Old Quarry Road from the other 40 acres of the former Schlumberger research campus. The bid-opening was Friday.

“These were requests for proposals, where we asked the person submitting the proposal to present their concept, along with that they wanted to pay,” Mr. Marconi said.

In December 2011, voters approved spending $6 million to buy and another $1 million for costs associated with taking over the 45-acre Schlumberger property.

Hoping to recover much or all of the $7-million investment, the selectmen are working on a resale of three parcels: The five acres Mr. Zemo bid on; a 10-acre parcel off Sunset Lane that the selectmen have had rezoned for multifamily use; and a portion of the former Schlumberger “campus” area that would include a few of the buildings.

“Schlumberger sale” is one of two items on the agenda of a closed-door meeting the Board of Selectmen has scheduled this afternoon, Thursday, Sept. 26, at 12:30 in town hall.

“It’s an executive session. No decision. There will be no vote,” Mr. Marconi said. “But it’s a review of the entire property, where we’re at.”

He added, “Any vote would, obviously, be in public session, but I don’t expect one.”

Town Engineer Charles Fisher is expected to attend the meeting and discuss the overview of the property, as well as a similar “request for proposals” the selectmen have had him working on for the 10-acre Schlumberger parcel off Sunset Lane.

Mr. Zemo’s proposal for the five-acre parcel calls for:

  • A 48-unit “all-suite” hotel in a 40,000-square-foot building fronting on Old Quarry Road;
  • A 50,000-square foot self-storage facility along the site’s eastern boundary with the town sewage treatment plant;
  • A 20,000-square-foot commercial building at the property’s north end that is not specifically purposed at this point, but would be within uses allowed “as of right” by the area’s B-2 zone.

Mr. Zemo estimates the proposed three-building complex, which he is calling Old Quarry Commons, would have an construction cost of $13 million to $17 million, and an annual tax bill in the $231,000 to $302,000 range.

There would be a 25-foot setback of both buildings and parking areas “and screening” along the western boundary with the Treetops condominium complex.

“The hotel will offer a business use that is not fully represented in Ridgefield’s central business district,” Mr. Zemo wrote in a narrative supporting the site plan.

“Over the years I have been asked on many occasions to bring this use to our town, but zoning and the need for a suitably large parcel for building coverage and parking have precluded my ability to do so. Given the opportunity, I look forward to working with potential community players: The Playhouse, The Community Center, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. in developing the right market niche for the hotel.

“I also feel this use is compatible with the neighboring residential units.”

Mr. Zemo said Wednesday that the hotel would not be a “flag” brand chain, but an independent operation.

“You’d never get a flag in this town,” he said.

The self-storage facility is proposed with “two levels on the main parking lot grade” and a lower level, as well.

“This building and its location were chosen for several reasons,” he wrote. “Firstly, the long rectangular massing serves as a visual block to the town’s waste water treatment both for this proposed project and for the adjacent townhouse development.

“Secondly, the lower level will be all individual garage bays that will provide a storage opportunity for small local contractors. This type of offering is becoming scarce at affordable rents. Thirdly, while there are self-storage facilities on Route 7, there are none in the center of town, so this building would allow a more convenient location for many residents and businesses.”

The third building is also envisioned with two levels above parking lot grade, and one below. Mr. Zemo describes it as “a placeholder for other existing B-2 uses” — which means it could be a wide variety of commercial uses, from warehousing to offices, but it could not house retail stores.

Mr. Zemo said what happens next depends on the selectmen.

“They have to decide what they want to do,” he said. “Then it goes to public hearing and town meeting.”

Mr. Marconi said the proposal would surely generate a lot of discussion, and said completion of any deal would require negotiations.

The selectmen plan to incorporate deed restrictions that would put some limits on potential future development, since the stated goal of the town in buying the property was to control the site’s future and avoid overdevelopment.

“Everything we’re selling, we’re asking for a deed restriction. We haven’t negotiated anything yet,” Mr. Marconi said.

“We can reject it, go back out to bid. It’s going to be a Board of Selectmen decision — and the people of Ridgefield, because all land sales or leases require a town meeting.”

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  • David

    I’m not sure I like this. Remember, this is our property. We have ultimate control on what goes in there. If a vacant lot next to your house went up for sale and you bought it so you could control what goes in next to you, would you allow a self storage unit? Is that what you want to look at for the next 20 years?

    Nothing says quaint New England town like a self storage unit? Is this where we want to go as a town? Planning and Zoning recently turned down a delightful looking 8 room bed and breakfast on Main Street. But now we want a 48 room hotel?

    Office complexes, storage units, hotels, multi-family housing… aren’t they better suited for Route 7, exactly so we can keep the Main Street area looking its best?

    It’s judgment day. Do we want Ridgefield to retain its status as the charming gateway to New England? Or do do we want to become Danbury?

    (My opinions.)

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