Boys and Girls Club expansion gets second hearing Tuesday

After a more than two month hiatus, the public hearing for an expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) — proposed by the Boys and Girls Club of Ridgefield in 2017 — will be continued on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

The hearing will take place during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at 7:30, Tuesday night, on Jan. 2, in the small conference room of the town hall annex on Prospect Street.

The first hearing, opened on Oct. 17, drew around 50 residents who all praised the club’s work and mission, even as the idea of redrawing the lines of the CBD to allow the club to build future expansions with less red tape appeared a little hard to swallow.

The club currently sits in a residential zone, which means that with every facilities expansion, the club has had to apply for a variance to existing zoning laws.

Town Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli suggested that the club continue to do just that for any future expansion.

“Almost all of the churches and schools in residential zones, whenever they want to make a change, they have to apply for a variance,” Baldelli said at the Oct. 17 hearing.

But the club argued that would put an undue strain on its finances.

“When you apply for a variance, you can’t just apply,” said attorney Bob Jewell at the Oct. 17 hearing. Jewell represented the Boys and Girls Club in their application to expand the CBD. “You have to come with an architectural plan. It’s just awfully speculative for a charitable organization to have to do that.”

Some residential neighbors of the club argued that the proposed expansion could pave the way for businesses to move into the neighborhood.

One letter presented in front of the commission stated that adding “seven acres” to the CBD would mean the area would be highly sought after by retail or commercial developers, should the club ever leave its current location.

“How we as a town want to strengthen our central business district is a conversation that ought to include the broadest range of constituents… It should not be decided on an ad-hoc, plot-by-plot, renovation-by-renovation basis, exemplified by the application before you now,” said the letter signed by four residents of East Ridge Road, which sits adjacent to the club’s current address.

“Our opposition to this application by no means reflects opposition to its applicant,” the neighbors added. “The Boys and Girls Club is an excellent neighbor and an invaluable institution in our community.”