Property values, noise cited as concerns at fourth Winter Club hearing

How much money could a property owner lose if the Ridgefield Winter Club (RWC) is approved at 340 Peaceable Street?

According to Matthew Grossman, a former Peaceable Street resident, he lost $155,000 after he disclosed to potential buyers that the private club was considering moving in across the street.

“The impact on my property value was substantial,” Grossman told the Planning and Zoning Commission during the fourth public hearing on the proposed outdoor skating rink Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Grossman said he arrived at that $155,000 figure by comparing the estimated value of his home — a little less than $1.2 million — to the $995,000 he received as part of his employer’s relocation offer. He said he took the deal only after he was unable to secure a higher offer.

“I was harmed. They have been harmed by all of this,” Grossman said, gesturing at the audience of about 100 residents.

“Quite frankly, we’re looking for some heroes,” he told the commission. “Be our heroes, be our champions, and please defend our homes.”

Grossman was one of 32 residents who spoke at the continued hearing, which had originally opened on Sept. 4. The previous three hearings were dominated by engineers and lawyers giving presentations about the proposed problem. Tuesday night marked the first time members of the public could voice their concerns to the commission.

The overwhelming majority — 29 out of 32 speakers — said they were opposed to having a private skate club built in a residential neighborhood.

“I do not see how an ice rink and clubhouse are harmonious with the neighborhood,” said Marie Pinchbeck.

Peaceable Street resident Laura Liberti added the town’s colonial founders would be “rolling over in their graves” at the thought of the club.

“[It’s] no more appropriate [for our neighborhood] than a Buffalo Wild Wings,” she said.

No vote was taken Tuesday night, and a fifth hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at East Ridge Middle School.

Frozen ponds

Three residents said they are in favor of building the club.

“I’ve known Bud Brown since we moved here fifteen years ago,” said Michael Walker, an Island Hill Avenue resident.

He praised the experts hired by Brown — the project’s developer and applicant — for their “attention to detail. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Walker said, “that [the club] would add to the town’s allure.”

“It’s time to think of what’s best for the town as a whole, and not just me and mine,” he added.

After Walker said he’d like to move closer to the RWC if it’s built, there was an outburst from current neighbors.

“We’ll buy your house!” yelled one.

“I’ll entertain offers!” Walker shot back.

The comments drew swift rebuke from Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti, who admonished the neighbors for not allowing supporters to voice their opinion free of criticism.

Walt Higgins, of Powderhorn Drive, said he was also in favor of the application because it would provide a place for families to play winter sports. He said he grew up playing hockey in Maine.

“In Maine, there’s a lot of frozen ponds, here there isn’t due to the weather,” he said.

Animal crossing

Neighbors and other residents raised issue with everything ranging from a proposed 16-foot sound wall to concerns that the club’s water usage would dry up vernal pools — marshy ground that periodically fills up with water — and kill off the neighborhood population of wood frogs.

Peter Parsons, the town supervisor for neighboring Lewisboro, N.Y., gave a brief presentation at the beginning of the meeting where he raised concerns about increased traffic from the club and pollutants from the club entering the Mill River.

“Traffic coming out of Peaceable is particularly problematic,” Parsons said of the intersection of Peaceable Street and Route 35.

Not all of the speakers were adults — four children spoke at the hearing, all of them opposed to the club.

Dalia, a Peaceable Street resident, said she was worried “there won’t be any animals” after the rink is built. She also was concerned that the club would bring more traffic and “if animals want to cross the road, they might get run over.”

Losing the stars

Marco, another school-aged Peaceable Street resident, was worried he couldn’t see anything in the sky because of the light pollution.

He told the commission that when he moved to Ridgefield from Norwalk he was struck by how “hundreds, if not thousands of stars lit up the sky” — something he fears would be lost if the club is built.

Club opponents also repeatedly took umbrage with comments made by the RWC’s lighting expert, Mike Mahoney, who suggested the surface of the outdoor ice-rink would absorb light cast by the planned 40-foot illumination poles.

“We don’t need physics to know white reflects light,” said Susan Constantinos, whose family lives in town.

A professional photographer, she at one point held up a three-foot white reflector given to her by her father to demonstrate how light would bounce and refract off the surface of the ice.

She was also concerned about “skyglow,” the cloud of light reflected off of moisture or other particles in the air above the lights.

“You really don’t need me to tell you this, just use your common sense,” she said.

Firing range

Other speakers raised concern about the noise generated by the club, particularly the sound of a puck striking the boards or plexiglass during a game.

Catherine Nelligan of Old West Mountain Road passed a hockey puck around for the commission, asking them to feel the weight and imagine the noise it would generate when flung against wooden boards at 100 miles per hour.

“Imagine the sound if you could throw it at the stage floor at that speed,” she said.

During games, the sound would resemble a “firing range,” she claimed.

Jeff Hansen, an Old South Salem Road resident who has led the neighborhood opposition against the club, at one point thanked Brown during his statement.

“Without his inappropriate application, I would have remained a far more ignorant man as to our zoning regulations,” he said. “I also would never have known as many wonderful neighbors as I do now.”