‘Agricultural’ retail on Route 7? Commission isn’t baling hay

Even dressed up as a farmer’s scarecrow, a retailer would have a tough time sneaking past Ridgefield’s Planning and Zoning Commission to set up shop on Route 7.

A proposal for a “retail/agricultural use” on the corner of Haviland Road and Route 7 was quickly hooted down by the commission when put forward in a “pre-submission concept” discussion Tuesday, July 18.

“We have an idea for a farm/agricultural type use,” said Matthew Darling of the Wethersfield-based New England Retail Properties. “Farm equipment, feed, hardware, work clothing.”

He said the firm had in mind a building of about 20,000 square feet, with an outdoor display area of another 15,000 square feet.

Commissioner John Katz noted that the property is in a zone that allows a variety of business uses, but not retail stores.

“Our zoning regulations do not allow the use you’re suggesting,” he said.

Darling said some towns viewed the agricultural uses differently than other retail stores.

“I’ve worked with towns where they have a similar regulation,” he said. “...The town discourages retail.”

Katz said selling garden tractors was retail, as much as sales of any other merchandise.

“We’re not proposing the sale of tractors,” Darling said. “It would be more a supply center.”

Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli said the B-2 business zone in the area allowed only 200 square feet of retail sales that are incidental to the principal use — like a beauty parlor that sells hairspray at the checkout counter.

An example is the golf range directly across Route 7 from the site in question.

“You can go there and hit golf balls, and go there and get lessons,” Baldelli said. And “they have a small area for limited retail sales” of golf-related equipment.

An amendment?

Darling wondered about broaden the permitted uses in the zone.

“Would the town allow for a text amendment?” he asked.

“It would be a change of zone, as far as I’m concerned,” said Katz.

Petitioners can propose changes to the town’s zoning regulations.

“You are free to bring forward a revision to a regulation, or a new regulation. That’s your liability. You do it at your own risk,” Katz said. “I, as an individual commission member, would not recommend you explore retail at that site.”

“I’d be against it, too,” said Commissioner George Hanlon. “I don’t think you’ll get too far with it.”

By this point, Darling had caught on and packed up his maps and papers.

“I appreciate the discussion,” he said.