Get out! Winter club riles up neighbors — again

About 20 residents — wearing buttons that read “Say No to Skate Club” and one man calling out, “We don’t want you here” — attended Tuesday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to voice their displeasure with a proposed winter club at 340 Peaceable Street, the former Pinchbeck property, that would have up to 250 members.

The club, which would feature an outdoor ice rink, has been scaled back from the previous pre-submission concept hearing on March 21 and no longer includes tennis courts or a multipurpose turf field.

“Initially, when this project was brought to me, I reacted with such positivity at the idea of there also being a paddle court and a possible field,” attorney Bob Jewell told the commission Tuesday.

“Since then, it has been focused that there would be no paddleball, and no intent to maximize the income by having it operate all year round,” he said of his clients, who are looking to develop the land that was last used as Peaceable Farm before it closed in 2013.

Jewell made a second pre-submission concept presentation with architect Peter Coffin, but the neighborhood opposition persists.

“They’ve been sending us letters and they’ve been coming in to the office trying to understand what can and cannot be allowed in residential zones,” P&Z Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti told The Press Wednesday morning.

She said that under town regulations, a facility like the winter club is, in fact, allowed in residential zones as long as the owners obtain a special permit.

“Our regulations allow for recreational uses, schools, home businesses, home-care facilities, museums …

“We allow non-residential uses in residential zones, and sports facilities is one of those uses that’s allowed,” Mucchetti said. “You need a special permit, but we don’t consider it a commercial use.”

Jewell said the winter club is modeled after facilities that already exist in Greenwich and New Canaan and have been operating successfully in residential neighborhoods.

“The plan is to have an outside rink operating from October to the end of March, he said. “There would be club activities in the spring, and it would be completely shut down in July and August.”

Public concerns

Assistant Town Planner Adam Schnell told The Press that public concern is mostly about noise, light and traffic.

According to Coffin, the lights required for the skating rink are much less invasive than the ones found in typical sports fields and the developers would be taking every measure to reduce community impact.

Jewell said the applicants will address the neighbors’ concerns, with the help of expert consultants, during the application process.

“When you see something that is on a piece of paper, even if it’s a pretty picture, it’s impossible to understand what it’s actually going to look like on the ground,” he said.

“There were even people who were opposed to the library and the Prospector Theater.”

Jewell’s presentation only left members in the audience more infuriated, shouting their desire for the committee to reject the proposed idea before a plan is even submitted.

“People get worked up over this stuff,” Jewell said. “It didn’t use to be this way.”