Little League baseball field: Final decision coming next week

After months of discussion — and in spite of community division — the Planning and Zoning Commission will make a decision regarding the proposed baseball field at 2 Sanford Station Road during a special meeting Tuesday, June 27.

After three public hearings, the application was officially closed to the public Tuesday, June 20.

Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti said that the commission had received 31 opinions — 29 in favor, one opposed, and another suggesting conditions.

At the last hearing Tuesday night, nine people spoke with opposing remarks — including two attorneys hired by neighboring families — and three spoke in favor, including the executive director of the Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT), Charlie Taney.

Attorney Gregory Cava questioned the expertise of traffic engineer Mike Galante, hired by the Little League.

However, commissioners questioned Cava’s testimony.

And the attorney Little League took it a step further in his rebuttal. 

“I”m just gonna chalk it up to not understanding,” said Attorney Bob Jewell, “Most of what [Cava] said tonight seems to be incorrect.”  

Who’s the expert?

Cava spoke for about an hour and a half.

He outlined possible dangers at the intersection at Route 7 and Simpaug Turnpike and said that there was a risk that the tanker accident like the one that happened 13 years ago would happen again.

He also said that New Jersey and Canada have been making regulations to limit how close athletic fields and schools can be to highways, such as Route 7.

“You, the Planning and Zoning Commission are the last best chance to protect the people of Ridgefield from ill-advised traffic decisions,” he said.

“I think you have to look at that report critically [Little League traffic report] I want to talk about reaction time and stopping time — reaction time matters at different speeds — it turns out of the 63 feet it takes to stop at 20 mph, 44 feet of that is your reaction...

“Those children play outside and the best practice manual from EPA tell you that you need to put the field as far away from the road as possible.”

Commissioners wanted to know what grounds Cava had to make that traffic analysis.

“Are you a traffic expert?” asked Planning and Zoning Attorney Thomas Beecher.

“I’m as much of a traffic expert as their engineer,” Cava replied.

Road ownership

The matter of road ownership — which had been voiced during two previous public hearings — was brought to the table again by Attorney Peter Olsen.

“The question tonight is: Has the applicant complied with the regulations by providing signature of the owner on the application?” Olsen said.

“We submit that they have not because the applicant is not the owner of Sanford Station Road.”

During his closing marks Jewell contested Olsen’s claims, too.

“The Town of Ridgefield is the owner of this property,” he said.

“The Board of Selectmen clearly stated they have the authority — it’s not private property.”

A decision on the proposal will be made during a special commission meeting Tuesday, June 27.

Public comments will not be accepted.