The town faces parking woes — but does it really want to cut down and pave over its trees to create new spaces for cars?
That was a question raised by First Selectman Rudy Marconi during a meeting of town officials to discuss the future of Ridgefield’s infrastructure on May 7. The forum was the third in a series of listening sessions hosted by the Planning and Zoning Commission, as it works to rewrite the town Plan of Conservation and Development for the next decade.
Marconi recalled how the selectmen had considered building a new public parking lot behind East Ridge Middle School, a plan that ultimately fell apart after funding dried up.
“You know, as you do these things, you think you’re making improvements, and you’re changing the character of the community,” said Marconi. “…Because every time we cut trees, there’s a little bit more of that character that’s gone. That’s something that we should be thinking about as we move forward and address the growth in this community.”
He also raised concern that pushing for more business development could also alter the community.
“We need to be careful, because as [Tax Assessor] Al Garzi said, ‘if you strive to hit twenty-five percent non-residential on the grand list, you’re going to change the character of the town unquestionably,’ so we need to keep our eye on the ball there.”
‘Forgotten child’
Marconi zeroed in on the area around the Branchville train station for where the town should be focusing on revitalization.
Plans include closing or repurposing the Depot Road rail crossing at the north of the parking lot, and either using the bridge as a pedestrian path or building a new footbridge over the Norwalk River. Sidewalk would also be added, and a footbridge over the stream that runs beside the Tusk and Cup coffee shop. The intersection of Branchville Road (Route 102) and Route 7 would be narrowed down and greenery added, Marconi said. A new light will be added at the south entrance — Portland Avenue — into the train station, and the road will be widened with with a left-turn lane.
Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti asked whether the surrounding towns could extend sewer into the neighborhood.
Marconi said the Redding sewer system in Georgetown has the capacity, but indicated that the legal battles over the Gilbert and Bennett wire mill were an impediment. He said the town has looked into pumping sewage up to their plant, but doing so would cost around $7 million.
“We’re not going to get an IBM or another Boehringer Ingelheim in here,” said Marconi. “I think everyone realizes that — this is the kind of development into the future. Branchville has been the forgotten child, we haven’t put any money in there, and this will stimulate economic growth and tax revenue … into an area that needs it badly.”