Two meetings and 33 speakers later, and the Planning and Zoning Commission still needs more time to decide the fate of the proposed bed and breakfast on Circle Drive.
That was the result of Wednesday night’s extended public hearing for the controversial application that residents Tom and Cathy Savoca submitted over the summer.
Thirty one residents spoke to the commission Wednesday, Nov. 8 — compared to just two who spoke at the first hearing in October, and a majority of those who attended were not in favor of the two-room bed and breakfast.
“You cannot succeed where you are not wanted,” said Lori Mazzola, of Circle Drive East.
She referenced that Mountainside removed its application for a drug rehab facility on Old West Mountain Road in January in the face of public uproar.
“My heart breaks for the children who were sold a bait-and-switch neighborhood,” Mazzola added.
The application will receive a third public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the lower-level conference room of the Town Hall Annex at 7:30 p.m.
It will be a special meeting with no other items on the commission’s agenda.
The Nov. 8 hearing drew a crowd of about 100 neighbors and residents.
A handful of neighbors and other town residents did speak out in support of the Savocas’ plan.
Miriam Philips told the commission she lives across the street from the Savocas house.
As the person who would be most affected by the B&B, Phillips said she didn’t see it affecting her daily routine.
“I know Tom, Cathy, and their children very well — I can tell you that because of their character, I feel safer with them as my neighbors,” Philips told the commission.
She said the Savocas had been a “blessing” to she and her family.
Philips discouraged the notion that the B&B could bring an influx of crime, or other bad actors into the neighborhood. When her house was bothered by a group of kids who pounded on neighborhood doors late at night, she said, the police later found that it was the work of kids from two streets over.
Kelly Coleman, who said she grew up with the Savocas’ son, said that she welcomed the B&B as a way to introduce younger families to the town, in the hopes that they might be inspired to move here. It would give the town another much-needed hospitality option, she said.
“I can’t think of a more Ridgefield hospitality option than a cute little B&B,” Coleman said.
She likened the experience of families visiting the B&B to stay-over nights colleges offer prospective students.
Other residents were less convinced, and even criticized how the hearing had been conducted by members of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Katherine Nelligan, of West Mountain Road, asked the commission to “look at the bigger picture,” with regards to the fact that so many alliances had been formed against business ventures in commercial zones.
Nelligan took issue with P&Z Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti’s statement that, unlike other town boards, the commission is bound by the regulations. Why then, Nelligan asked, does the commission make decisions based on a panel of 9 members? Couldn’t a single judge simply rule on applications instead, if the commission was truly bound to the regulations?
“There must be a degree of discretion in interpreting the regulations,” Nelligan concluded.