Ridgefield commissioner ‘offended’ by look of redevelopment of old grain elevator building

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — The Planning and Zoning Commission expects to consider a redevelopment plan for 34 Bailey Ave., the site of the old S.D. Keeler grain elevator building.

Attorney Robert Jewell, who represents the property owner, Bailey Rail and Granary, appeared before commission members last week to get feedback on the “pre-concept” of the plan, which has been met with criticism.

“I’m offended by the way this thing looks,” Commissioner John Katz said. “It looks like a factory.”

The plan involves the demolition of the property’s existing structures, an environmental remediation of the site, and construction of an 11,000-square-foot mixed-use building.

The applicant is finalizing a joint special permit and Village District application to submit to the commission.

At the meeting, Jewell explained his client’s interest in designating the building solely for residential use, which would require a change of use application.

“Our thought process was Ridgefield’s businesses needed more customers and not necessarily more competition,” he said.

Zoning regulations of the town’s central business district state new construction is obligated to have commercial space on the first floor. Jewell said if commission members favored an all-residential use of the building, it would yield three additional dwelling units on the first floor.

“We should make that determination within the next few weeks,” Jewell told Hearst Connecticut Media.

The proposed four-story complex would retain the same building envelope as existing structures and house 23 market-rate dwelling units and roughly 3,600 gross square feet of commercial space on the first floor. The project includes 44 parking spaces on the north and east sides of the building.

The front portion of the proposed building, which faces Bailey Avenue, will be a recreation of the existing building to preserve the area’s historical feel, and shield the “newer-style” construction from the road, Jewell said. He said the building would be constructed 10 feet from the street to make way for a sidewalk.

The applicant purchased the property at the end of 2020 and started the planning process, Jewell said. In September, the Inland Wetlands Board unanimously approved the conditions of the plan, noting it would not have a detrimental effect on wetlands or watercourses on or off site.

Katz had no objections to putting residential units on the first floor, but said the plan would have to add more parking spaces to accommodate those extra tenants.

Commissioner Elizabeth DiSalvo raised issues with how the project could affect traffic, noting Bailey Avenue is a one-way street.

“I work right there, I see it every day — it’s not that busy,” she said. “There’s trucks coming and going and some people do drive down Bailey but this would add a tremendous amount of flow down Bailey.”

Jewell said the special permit application requires the applicant to submit a traffic study comparing the use of the street to its future use.

Katz and DiSalvo said the building’s size and aesthetics would be detrimental to the character of downtown.

“As a resident … I’m often disturbed by the way that developers get to shape the aesthetic of our town,” DiSalvo said. “This building, I find, is inappropriately massive for the site. … It’s hard to put four stories into 40 feet.”

Jewell told commissioners he was assured the final application would comply with planning and zoning regulations.