Bed and breakfast for Ridgefield’s Main Street
The Fountain Inn, a bed-and-breakfast proposed in a 1740s house overlooking the Main Street fountain, appears to have the votes needed for Planning and Zoning Commission approval — despite concerns raised about a residency requirement, traffic, late night noise and parking.
The commission has voted unanimously to have its staff draw up a resolution of approval for Douglas and Laurice Haynes’ application for a bed and breakfast business in their house at 114 Main Street. The draft approval will be brought back before the commission for a final vote — probably at its Feb. 11 meeting.
“It’s a business in a residential neighborhood,” said Kristin Loughran of 94 Main St. Loughran was among five residents who spoke at the Jan. 28 public hearing before the commission’s discussion and initial vote.
“So, cars can just come in and out all day long, and we live next door,” she said.
Three speakers raised concerns, and two speakers supported the B & B proposal.
Joel Third said people attend weddings at The Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center, just south of the Haynes’ property, but they often go to Danbury for overnight accommodations.
“We lease out our space for wedding receptions, and all the business goes out of town,” he said. “We feel the Haynes’ bed and breakfast is a great synergistic opportunity for Keeler and for Ridgefield.”
The commission outlined four conditions of approval to be included in the resolution. Wording is still to be finalized, but the conditions’ intent is that:
The condition addressing guests socializing outside after 11 p.m. was designed to limit the potential for loud partying to run late into the night.
“I think is is reasonable,” commissioner Joe Fossi said of the curfew. “I can see people coming to town for a wedding.”
It was among the issues raised by Loughran, who said she was also speaking for other neighbors who had small children.
“We’re going to have people sitting outside, strangers,” she said. “How late can people sit outside on this porch?”
Loughran also worried about the size of vehicles parking at the property — another concern reflected in the commission’s conditions.
“They talk about people performing at the Ridgefield Playhouse coming. They come in big RV’s,” she said.
Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli’s report said the proposal complied with the area’s one-acre residential zone.
“A bed and breakfast is an appropriate and allowed use for this property,” Baldelli wrote. “Main Street is a preferable location for such a sue, as it will allow guests and visitors to Ridgefield easy access within walking distance of downtown shopping, restaurants and cultural amenities.”
Baldellli’s report also said: “The bed-and-breakfast will offer breakfast and afternoon coffee/tea, with a snack to their guests. The applicant is also proposing to offer an in-house massage service to Bed & Breakfast guests. The massage room is proposed to be located in the building’s lower level.”
The commission touched on the massage aspect of the proposal during its discussion, noting that massages would be available only to the B & B’s overnight guests.
“It’s a service that would be part of the B & B,” said commission chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti. “You can’t just come in and have appointments.”
Baldelli also reported that the Historic District Commission approves the plan, which does not involve changes to the exterior of the 1740s house.
Among the speakers supporting the application — but still raising some concerns — was Cathy Savoca. She’d been through a lengthy battle to get approval for a B & B at her home on Circle Drive — though she hasn’t opened one yet — and later served on the commission.
“Well regulated, it’s a great way to accommodate visitors to our town,” Savoca said.
“The residency thing is important,” she said. “It’s the spirit of the B & B regulation.”
The town zoning regulations permit “bed-and-breakfast accommodations … provided that the operation is conducted by the resident owners of the property.”
This was also an issue raised by Loughran.
“I don’t believe the Haynes live there,” she said. “The Haynes don’t live there now.”
The commission asked Douglas Haynes if he and his wife lived on the property.
“We do not,” he said.
Haynes attorney Robert Jewell explained the intention was to transfer ownership to an LLC, and if someone who wasn’t in the Haynes family was going to live in the house and run the B & B, they would be given an ownership stake and be part of the LLC. The commission’s agenda lists the Haynes as the owners of the property, and the applicant as “Baciklee Jane LLC.”
This would apparently satisfy the residency requirement that is part of the town’s B & B regulation.
“It is our legal counsel’s advice to the commission: If a member of the LLC resides in the house, it is in compliance with our rules for residency,” said Baldelli.
Lori Mazzolaa of Circle Drive, representing Ridgefield Voters United, wondered how tight the rules were requiring the owner-operator to live at the B & B.
“Can they go on vacation?” she said.
“It has to be their residence, their home,” said Baldelli. “They can go on vacation. They don’t have to be there every minute of every day.”
Douglas Haynes himself addressed the parking concern.
“When we lived there as a residence, we had five kids — with all the attendant cars of five kids,” he said.
It was an point reiterated by attorney Jewell in his closing argument.
“There will probably be significantly less traffic than a house full of teenagers,” he said.
“This is not a hotel, it’s a B & B,” Jewell said. “I don’t think anyone disputes it’s a gorgeous property.”