Boys and Girls Club into CBD? Zone change gets hearing Tuesday

A request to enlarge the Central Business District by nearly seven acres — the Boys & Girls Club property, the nearby town parking lot and a small wooded area behind it — will be up before the public next week.

The proposed zone change, sought by the Boys & Girls Club to accommodate an eventual expansion, will be the subject of a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 in the town hall annex.

“This application seeks to expand the Central Business District to its natural boundary of East Ridge,” Robert Jewell, the club’s attorney, wrote in the application. “It will also expand the Village District and the jurisdiction of the Village District Commission, further protecting the downtown area.”

The Village District Commission is the Planning and Zoning Commission, acting with enhanced authority in the Village District — which is basically the Main Street commercial area, including some properties on Governor Street, Bailey Avenue, Catoonah Street, and Prospect Street.

Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Mike Flynn told The Press that the zone change is being sought to accommodate a future expansion.

“We’re in the early stages,” Flynn said. “Just looking at the direction of the club, where we go for the future. We’re seeking the zone change to accommodate that potential down the road.”

In the zone change documents on file in the planning office, Jewell said the club’s last expansion was completed in 2007.

“Since then the club has been wildly successful, becoming a major community hub for families with children,” he said. “It has grown so much it needs to provide additional program space, mainly in the form of classrooms.”

The area of the proposed zone change is 6.85 acres, including the club’s 4.9-acre property off Governor Street and East Ridge, the town’s 1.85-acre parking lot off Governor Street just west of the club, and just under an acre of town land that is vacant and wooded, north of that town parking lot and east of commercial property off lower Bailey Avenue.

‘Deep concern’

Four East Ridge Road residents voiced their displeasure with the application in a letter to the commission that was shared with Assistant Town Planner Adam Schnell and First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

“We are disconcerted that some believe the approval of this application is a foregone conclusion,” the letter said.

It was signed by Kevin Kingman and Abigail Wattley, who live at 109 East Ridge Road, and Brian and Gina Carey of 107 East Ridge Road.

“We and our families have lived on East Ridge for nearly 20 years, and in that time we have been strongly supportive of the club and amenable to its expansion. … The club’s appropriate approach to pursuing such an expansion is to seek a variance to its existing zoning requirements — as it has done successfully in the past.”

The residents claim that the club has not requested a variance.

“Instead, the club is asking that you make dramatic changes to our central business district to accommodate the plans of a single, private institution. It would be shocking that a 5,000 square foot renovation would require a seven acre expansion of our central business district. …

“The commission should weigh the possibility that these lots could be developed into retail space, office space, and a parking garage, however improbable that may seem to the club or to the town of Ridgefield today.”