Boys and Girls Club gets zoning variances to allow its expansion

With a vision of expanding the physical space, number of kids served, and breadth of programs offered, the Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club won variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals Monday night, Sept. 17.

“We’re really in the quiet planning phase of this whole thing,” said Boys and Girls Club executive director Michael Flynn.

It’ll be a while before there’s a shovel in the ground.

“Probably two or three years, with the planning and the work that needs to get done, to have this be a reality,” Flynn said.

The expansion plan allows the club’s leadership to pursue a cluster of related goals.

“We continue to grow in both our middle school and high school populations,” Flynn said. “So a large portion of the plans would be to enhance the experience for those kids and focus on things like job readiness programming, giving a little more space for educational type programs, more space for leadership development programing — just enhancing the programs for middle school and high school age groups,” Flynn said.

“Doing that, we’d be able to enhance programs offered for our elementary age kids,” he said. “There’ll be more opportunities for all our age groups, as well as capacity for the growing numbers…

“The idea would be to make sure we have more space as we continue to grow, but also to enhance the experience and enhance our programming.”

The club serves a substantial portion of Ridgefield’s young people.

“Right now, we have about 2,800 registered members, which are regular users — whether for summer camp, after school, or teen programs. That’s our club community.”

There’s a larger number of youngsters who use the club facility, however, even though they aren’t members or regulars. This would include kids in basketball and baseball leagues that use the facilities, kids who go to birthday parties there when the facility is rented out.

Counting all that, about 4,800 kids use the club in some way each year.

“Basically, eight out of every 10 kids access the club through the year,” Flynn said.

At the Sept. 17 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting the Boys and Girls Club unanimously got variances of lot coverage and floor area ratio regulations to accommodate plans by architect Jeff Mose that involve adding close to 13,000 square feet to the existing 17,000-square-foot building that would make it over 29,000 square feet.

An initial proposal about a year ago sought to address the zoning restrictions at the site by enlarging the Main Street area commercial zone to include the club — which is in a one-acre residential zone. But the idea of a bigger commercial zone raised concerns among some neighbors.

The variances allow the club to pursue its growth plans, without expanding the commercial district.

“We’re excited that we’ve got to a point of being able to get some approvals,” Flynn said, “that  we know we can do a project here to expand the facility and continue to grow and serve the kids.”