Ridgefield purchases land on West Mountain Road as open space: 'Great asset for the community'

RIDGEFIELD — The town now has more open space to call its own.  Residents have unanimously authorized the purchase of 17.84 acres of property on West Mountain Road, to be used as open space.

"This is an absolutely incredible piece of property that we don't often get an opportunity to weigh in on and purchase," First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. "Normally, we're the recipients of open space that may have a lot of wetlands or a lot of hills and rocks but this is absolutely gorgeous property. It's a great asset for the community now and forever."

The land is composed of two parcels — The main parcel of 17 acres is across the street from Ridgefield Academy at 223 W. Mountain Road. The second parcel is down the street, near Aquarion Water Company's property line. The assessed value of the property is $2.02 million.

The purchase, which was bonded at $1.4 million, was unanimously approved by the town's Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen before voters unanimously agreed at a special town meeting Dec. 19.

The Planning and Zoning Commission also supported the purchase because it brings  the town one step closer to its goal of designating 30 percent of its land as open space. So far, 26 percent of the land in Ridgefield is considered open space. 

The closing date could be "as early as Jan. 19," Marconi said.

The property was originally owned by the Lynch family. The Wittman family made the property available to the town.  At the meeting, a resident said Dolly Wittman's ashes are spread in the meadow.

As designated open space, anyone will be able to walk on the property, Marconi said. 

"There's no restriction," Marconi said. "It's town owned land."

Additionally, there are no taxes owed on the property, Marconi said.

Ridgefield's Conservation Commission plan to contribute $250,000 toward the purchase of the property. Once the purchase is finalized and the town owns the property, the Board of Selectmen will determine whether to put it under the Conservation Commission's jurisdiction, Marconi said. The amount of bonds issued for the property will be reduced by any contributions from the Conservation Commission and from private donations, if any, received by the town.