Batter up! New baseball field gets hearing in May

The lot off Route 7 and Simpaug Turnpike where Ridgefield Little League is proposing a new baseball field. — Macklin Reid photo

A small concession stand serving hot dogs, picnic tables with umbrellas providing shade, and  batting cages for young sluggers practicing their swing — there’s nothing quite like spending time at a baseball field during the spring and summer months.
And with the weather turning warm and sunny this week, it’s getting easier to envision Ridgefield’s newest baseball field.
The Ridgefield Little League submitted plans for a new field on the vacant 2.52-acre lot at the intersection of Route 7 and Simpaug Turnpike — most of which is owned by the state — to the town’s planning department last week.
According to the plans, the site would include everything a baseball park needs: a small grandstand, cages, picnic tables, indoor bathrooms and storage space, a snack shack, and LED stadium lights that would be turned off by 10 p.m.
Since the unused land doesn’t have an official address, the field’s location will be referred to as 2 Stanford Station Road.
The town has already agreed to sublease the space to the Little League.
“It’s a $1-a-year lease from state to town and the town to Little League,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi last May.
The Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as the Inland Wetlands Board, have shown a positive reaction to the plans.
“We’ve been in front of them twice,” said Steve Scalzo, Little League president.
“They weren’t negative, I would say they were supportive. There are a number of members
that saw the value of what we’re trying to provide.”
If the field is approved, Scalzo said, he hopes to have it ready by next spring.
“The field will be ADA-compliant, which will support our efforts with disabled players in our Challenger Division,” he said.
“This field will be an asset to our town.”
The site plans will go to a public hearing — for residents to voice any concerns or thoughts about the proposal — Tuesday, May 16.
The land
Decades ago, the site used to be owned by Walpole Woodworkers, but was taken by the state through eminent domain.
Most of the 2.52 acres are owned by DEEP — the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — which leases it to the town for $1 a year.
Assistant Planner Adam Schnell said that a small fraction of the proposed acreage for the baseball field does belong to Ridgefield.
Part of the proposal includes uniting the two properties with a single address — 2 Stanford Station Road.
The town has approved the leasing, but the Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board still have to determine if the field’s construction will adhere to all its guidelines.
Schnell said the vacant lot has never been developed.
“It’s virgin land,” he said, “It’s unimproved, unencumbered.”
Lights
Little League officials struggled during the early months of the application process because the original lease with the state did not allow for lighting.
But thanks to help from state Rep. John Frey, the state ended up allowing them, Marconi said.
The Little League is investing in specialized lighting equipment to minimize any impact on nearby neighbors.
The submitted plans state that “the use of expensive LED fixtures will ensure lighting levels are reasonable and not offensive.”
Scalzo said the lights will allow Little League to extend its season in the fall.
“A lighted field continues to enhance our offering by expanding the hours in which we can play and practice,” he said.
“This provides tremendous scheduling flexibility, particularly in the spring. Our District All Star teams, which compete in the Williamsport tournaments, as well as summer travel teams, will see more home games. It also supports many of our coaches who commute longer distances to their place of employment.”  

Impact

Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard Baldelli said environmental impact control is well planned.

“My review of the attendant erosion and sediment control plans reveals that the applicant has submitted a thorough and well-thought-out erosion and sediment control plan,” he said.

Schnell agreed.

“The project will create higher functioning wetlands,” he said.

“Some of it is being filled in, but they’re mediating the property to increase the overall amount of wetlands.”

The Little League would be solely responsible for all site maintenance, the assistant planner added.

Also, to offer players and visitors drinking water, the Little League plans on drilling a well, since the town’s potable water source doesn’t reach the site.

Neighbors and traffic
The site is not directly visible from any nearby properties, and according to the application, neighbors shouldn’t expect any significant noise disruption.
The applicant also doesn’t expect any major traffic changes at the Route 7 and Simpaug intersection.
With an expectation of 38 car trips on weekdays and 52 on Saturdays, the submitted traffic study states that baseball field activity wouldn’t have an impact on the usual traffic in the area.
The field would have a parking area with 59 spots, including two spaces for the handicapped, according to the site plans.

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