Downsizing? West Mountain Road couple proposes property split, move into carriage house

Downsizing just took on a new definition.
A West Mountain Road couple has proposed subdividing their property at 104 West Mountain Road, selling the main house, and moving into their carriage house — all so they can stay in Ridgefield.
The process of getting there is a bit more complicated.
Before the property owners, the Kriedbergs, can apply for the subdivision, they’ll have to reverse a court judgment dating back 50 years that stipulates that the land cannot be subdivided.
That decision stems from a 10-year legal battle between the commission and the original owners of the land — Jerry and Ernestine Tuccio, who wanted to subdivide about 60 acres of land around West Mountain Road.
“Ultimately in June of 1969, the commission approved three subdivisions — Highland Acres, Parkland Company, Eleven Acres Estates,” said Matthew Mason, an attorney representing the Kriedbergs at the March 26 zoning commission hearing.
With that came a “stipulated judgment” from the state — essentially an agreement between the commission and the Tuccios backed up with a legal judgment from the state, Mason explained, which included language that bars the Kriedberg property from being further subdivided.
But if both parties return to the state with an agreement to amend the original ruling, Mason said he didn’t see any reason why the state would not go along.
Amending the 1969 judgment would clear the way for the Kriedbergs to split their property into two lots — each a little more than six acres in size.
The property sits in a three-acre residential zone.
“This proposal would essentially keep the property the same,” except there would be two lots, and eventually two separate owners.
Mason said the Kriedbergs plan to sell the main house, where they currently live, and move into the carriage house on the opposite lot if the plan goes through.
The carriage house is currently being rebuilt on its foundations — the original burned down, Mason told the commission.
He said his clients would consider open space donations to the town and deed restrictions that would prevent the lot with the carriage house to be further developed.
Because the one-bedroom carriage house is too small to support a large family, Mason argued future owners would likely be without children — seeming to imply that the town would gain in taxes without adding to the school population.
Some members of the commission seemed hesitant.
Commissioner John Katz noted that in 1969, the commission took “the trouble of saying ‘shall never be subdivided,” in its agreement with the Tuccios.
“We don’t have the verbiage that they used at this table because it wasn’t recorded,” he said, but “ would be wrong of us to second guess the commission that made that judgment, after the severe deliberations it went through to arrive at that conclusion.”
“So I would be unalterably opposed to this, he added. “...We need to respect the knowledge that went before.”
Katz also raised concern that, in the future, the two lots could be further subdivided, as Ridgefield becomes more desirable.
But Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti said she did not have the same concerns, noting that the town is “very different” than it was in the 1950s and ’60s, when the population “was tripling every three to five years.”
“We went from several thousand to 15,000 within a decade — those are not the times we’re facing today,” she said. “What we’re being asked to consider today is a piece of property that already has two existing buildings on it.”
In 2009, another subdivision was also proposed at the property, which would have led to greater development at the site, but that effort failed.
Open space
Commissioner Joe Fossi suggested a third idea — donating around three acres of the carriage house lot to the town as open space, which would leave behind a residential lot that is less than six acres.
“Now it can never be re-subdivided, no matter what court stipulation there is,” Fossi said. “My opinion is that if your clients agreed to that, I could support this.”
Commissioners Cathy Savoca and Joe Dowdell said they were in favor of Fossi’s proposal.
Katz said he still wants to see what would prevent the other lot containing the main house from being subdivided once again.
Mason indicated his clients might accept that condition.
“I don’t believe that they’re going to object to any restriction against any other future division of either lot,” he told the commission.
“Speak to your client,” said Mucchetti, “when you come back there’s likely to be two more commissioners at the table.”