Concerts at Schlumberger? Parking problems could force relocation

Moving summer concerts from Ballard Park to the former Schlumberger property may be a long-term solution to village parking problems Tuesday and Thursday nights. But the selectmen are struggling with parking for this summer’s concerts and may move Thursday night performances out of the park — even as they talk about expanding the Governor Street parking lot, and move ahead with site work at Schlumberger.

“That won’t be ready for this year, that’s for sure,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said of the Schlumberger property. “It’ll be ready for next year.”

Schlumberger could accommodate outdoor concerts after parking spaces, roads, and landscaping are put in for two tenants: the design firm BassamFellows, leasing the Philip Johnson building as offices, and ACT of Connecticut, leasing the auditorium for restoration as a theater.

But that won’t be ready this summer.

Relocating the concerts — sponsored by CHIRP (Concert Happenings in Ridgefield’s Parks) — was discussed by the selectmen May 10. But they haven’t found another place to put them.

“CHIRP is a victim of its own success,” Selectman Bob Hebert said. “The thought and idea of it being on the town green is wonderful — but it’s outgrown that.”

Free concerts draw crowds.

“It could be as many as 1,200 and as low as 200, depending on the evening — weather has a big impact,” said Parks and Recreation Director Paul Roche.

Coming attractions

CHIRP plans 24 concerts this summer, Tuesday and Thursday at 7, in Ballard Park.

Tuesday performances start May 30 with David Wax Museum, a Mexo-American roots band. Roosevelt Dime, a jug band and folk band, plays Tuesday, June 6, followed by Birds of Chicago’s country soul June 13, Parsonsfield June 20, and Alexis P. Suter Ministers of Sound June 27.

Thursday night concerts start June 29 with Hot Club of Cowtown, a western swing trio.

The concerts end with Harpeth Rising Aug. 31.

CVS lot troubles

The Parking Authority created a parking allocation and enforcement plan for the CVS lot, designed to serve both concerts and commercial tenants. The authority wants to discuss it with Lisa Quattrocchi of the Benenson Funding Corp., the shopping center owner.

Quattrocchi was reportedly unhappy after learning that the Parking Authority has, for years, issued employee parking permits to landlords of other village properties, which could be used in the Benenson lot — as well as other private lots the Parking Authority supervises.

“That’s what upset them quite a bit,” Marconi said.

“It’s not a municipal lot, and we kind of treat it as such,” Selectman Steve Zemo said. “We might want to look at adding another Governor lot.”

Marconi agreed to get that ball rolling.

“Begin looking at it, get some estimates,” he said.

Where else?

The Governor Street lot, between the RVNA and the Boys & GIrls Club, could be expanded north, behind Casey Fuel. The spot has long been discussed for a parking garage, but that’s not what’s currently contemplated.

That vicinity — between Main Street and East Ridge — has potential.

“That’s where we see expansion for retail growth,” Marconi said.

Hebert wondered about Ridgefield Supply’s parking. Marconi said the owners plan 65 more spaces there, but had agreements allocating the spots to the Prospector Theater and Gallo restaurant.

The selectmen didn’t resolve the concert parking.

“I thought we were working toward a compromise, trying to eliminate one of the evenings,” Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark said.

“Thursday nights the library is open,” Hebert said. “People want to get to the library. People are paying to go to the Prospector and can’t park.”

“The Prospector pays people to monitor their parking area,” Marconi added.

Kozlark said Parks and Recreation Director Roche had suggested an area behind the Recreation Center for concerts, estimating the cost at $23,500, including $15,000 for electrical service.

Selectwoman Barbara Manners — principal organizer of the free concerts — was skeptical.  

“The area Paul and Maureen are talking about is — it’s a very nice area,” Manners said. “There is a problem: Thursdays, it’s not the parents and kids who come, it’s the seniors.

“How do the seniors get there, the ones who walk from Ballard Green, who walk from Prospect Street?”

Budget woes

Hebert said he had a problem with it, too.

“Whether it’s $23,000 or $25,000, will these concerts be moved to the Schlumberger property next season?” he said.

“Spending $25,000 for a temporary situation — here, we went through the budget, we’re cutting $500 line items.”

“I understand what you’re saying about the money,” Kozlark said. “I don’t think it was a spot that wasn’t going to be re-used.”

Roche later confirmed the concert relocation fits with other plans.

“We were going to put a pavilion up there,” he said.

The pavilion has been planned for about five years, he said, and would be used by the day camp and for other activities.

Setting the area up for concerts could be a first step.

“This would provide the power for it,” Roche said. “The biggest cost in this whole thing is the power.”

Hebert wasn’t convinced.

“I’d be concerned we’re going to lose people by moving it from there to the back of the rec center,” he said. “You’re going to lose momentum. You’ve built up a program.”

Donations accepted

Manners later told The Press that all the discussion had hurt concert fund raising.

“At the present time, all concerts are scheduled to remain in Ballard Park this summer,” Manners said in an email.

“With the uncertainty about concerts’ location and number this summer, contributions are down considerably,” she added. “And if you like the concerts and want to see them next year, wherever they land, we need your contributions to CHIRP now!” Donations may be sent to Ridgefield Town Hall, 400 Main Street.

Some people want the concerts moved, Kozlark said, and parking isn’t the only issue.

“Quite a few people reached out to me about the concerts,” she said. “Some people’s music is other people’s noise.”