Divided on the diamond: Proposed baseball field pushed to third hearing (VIDEO)
Will Little League baseball players get a new field off of Route 7?
It’s hard to say; the community remains divided.
At a second public hearing for the proposed field Tuesday, June 6, 13 people spoke — six in favor and seven opposed, including an attorney and ecological expert hired by dissenting neighbors.
The field, which would be on the Redding and Ridgefield border, will see its third public hearing in front of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday, June 20.
At the first hearing in May, opponents of the field dismissed the applicant’s traffic and engineering consultants.
“There seemed to be a blanket dismissal at the end of the night of all our professional consultants,” Attorney Bob Jewell told the room of about 60 people Tuesday.
In regards to safety, which was brought up several times at the last hearing, Jewell said the field was not a threat.
“There’s nothing unsafe about this application, or this field, for this location. These are our kids who we’re applying to have play there,” he said.
“Wild conjecture aside, there was a freak accident about a decade ago caused by an unsafe intersection that has been realigned,” said Jewell about a tanker truck accident that happened on Route 7 13 years ago.
Traffic consultant Mike Galante agreed.
“We went back in time to the CT Department of Transportation, roughly an 11-to-12-year period, and there are a total of nine accidents at this intersection,” he said Tuesday.
“There’s no real pattern at this intersection and there’s no safety concern with that intersection.”
He said the Little League will place no parking signs on Simpaug Turnpike, appropriate stop signs and a no right turn sign coming out of the driveway, and a no left turn sign so people coming from Redding can’t enter the property.
“To the benefit of the neighbors, we can try to discourage that type of connection,” said the Project Engineer Phil Doyle.
Doyle also said the fence adjacent to Claire and Phil Bronson’s property will be increased from six to eight feet and that an appropriate space behind the fence will be provided for the Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT).
Attorney Gregory Cava, who represents two neighboring families opposed to the project, said that under town regulations, a feasible and prudent alternative proposal to the field would be the already-approved Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT).
“You cannot grant the permit if a feasible and prudent alternative exists,” he said.
“Their lease is restricted to recreational activities, every feasible alternative is recreational and I would submit that the NRVT is a feasible and prudent alternative; and does not involve filling and destroying wetlands as this application does.”
Jewell disagreed. “We do not need to use a prudent and feasible alternative to our prudent and feasible alternative,” he said.
“There’s no finding of significant [wetland] activity.”
Consultant Sigrun Gadwa from Carya Ecological Services said that wildlife would be negatively impacted by air pollution coming from route 7 and into the wetlands.
“I’m really concerned that the runoff from this field is not only getting some pollutants from cars in the parking lot, it’s’ getting substantial 24 hour air pollution fallout from route 7,” she said.
“Basically if you have natural soil and vegetation they [pollutants] just stick to that so that the soil is unhealthy, but it’s not reaching the adjacent water bodies. But, if you have impervious surfaces, or saturated soils they will wash into the flooded wetlands.”
“I would never allow my child to play in this Little League field because they will be standing in air that’s polluted by Route 7 for three to four hours at a time and that’s very unhealthy,” she said.
Gadwa also told the room that the habitat would lose a few species.
“There’s a whole fleet of birds that are intolerant of human disturbance — especially noise,” she said.
“The wetland bird fauna will become less diverse, there will be various species that drop out as a result of this project.”
Instead, she suggested a better use of the area could be a museum.
“The air would be cleaner if there was a museum there?” asked Commission member Joe Fossi.
Doyle said the application is environmentally sound and approved by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“We got a letter back in the package [from DEEP] that indicates that there is nothing in our application that would affect any species that they’re aware of,” he said.
“I’d like to point out we can only take it that far, the DEEP will write us a letter if there’s something that they’re aware of — so we’ve done everything we believe we should.”
Claire Bronson said she was concerned about losing the peace and quiet she enjoys in her backyard because of noisy games and worried about how Redding children would feel driving by the baseball field and never being able to play in it.
Two members of the public — a coach and a Little League dad — said that the players need another field.
“This field allows us to play an emerging type of baseball — intermediate baseball,” he said.
“We only have one field in town, Aldrich, that was converted three years ago to support that.”
Little League mother Joyce Strand said she would love to have a field with lights — and wouldn’t oppose them close to her home.
“Our house is actually closer to the ball field [Aldrich] than most of the neighbors on Ashbee Lane would be to this proposal,” she said.
“I would urge everyone to step back and say, ‘This is a baseball field. I want everyone to remember it is a ball field for the children.”