Paving woes prompt Ridgefield residents to call for private lakeside roads to be considered 'scenic'

RIDGEFIELD — About half a dozen private roads may soon be added to the town's list of scenic roads.  

Residents will vote Wednesday evening on a request for seven private streets in a section of Ridgebury called the Lakes of the North End to be considered scenic roads. The roads include Madeline Drive, Lookout Drive, Rita Road, Rustic Drive, Water’s Edge Way, Lake View Drive and Highview Road. The special town meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. 

At a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectmen Rudy Marconi said residents living on those roads have felt their paving schedule was being "somewhat ignored, that they were at the bottom of the list."

The roads are paved only when the town has time and don't meet road standards, ranging in size from 9 feet to 12 feet wide, he said. 

"They're not a priority to highway," Marconi said. 

Designating them as scenic roads would put them on the regular paving schedule. 

"These people pay taxes just like everyone else," Marconi said. "They don't get any kind of abatement or consideration for being on a private road. They do know they're buying on a private road ... however, over the years, our school buses are traveling those roads. ... We need to take care of them and have them become part of the regular paving schedule incentive."

Bringing the roads to a 'better standard' 

At a public hearing in October, a resident of Lookout Drive spoke in favor of the request.

"It behoves the town, not only the residents  — and I've spoken to plenty of people who come there from the town, either trying to maintain the roads or the emergency service vehicles," he said. "They all say it's beating the hell out of the equipment, that the roads are not maintained at the level of the rest of the community. The plow drivers or the ambulance guys  — they would love to see the road brought a better standard." 

Marconi said if the roads are accepted as scenic roads, the only improvements that can be made to them are for safety purposes.

"That's why we're doing the scenic road ordinance because that specifically states that the road will stay in its natural state of perpetuity without widening, etc," he said. "We would accept these roads, we'd pave them, plow them, especially for emergency services. The only time we will make a a change is to correct a serious safety issue that needs to be done."

A resident of Lakeview Drive, who said she has been a resident for 40 years, said a private road "connotes there's some exclusivity to that property, which is certainly not the case. We have open space land where there have been benches erected, inviting people to come and spend time at the lake. So the designation private is a little confusing."

She added, "as residents, we pay the exact same taxes as everyone else in town and yet we're deprived of certain services. So it's not very equal." 

Marconi said the roads on the list were all built by a man named Willie Winthrop.

"Originally, when they were built, there was no zoning, so we built all these narrow little roads with all little cottages  — tiny pieces of property," First Selectmen Rudy Marconi said. 

He added people have subsequently converted those cottages to year-round living. 

To be designated a scenic road, a road must possess at least three of nine characteristics, which include its traveled portion must be no more than 20 feet in width, vehicle traffic count must be fewer than 500 cars per day, and the road must parallel or cross either brooks, streams, lakes or ponds.

If residents approve the request, the roads in question will join the town's list of 50 scenic roads.

Additional items to be voted on at Wednesday's meeting include the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the local arts and culture nonprofits, the Ridgefield Housing Authority, and the Economic Community and Development Commission for a Broadband Study.