Public hearing to consider ‘private club’

Should town residents be allowed to run private clubs in residential neighborhoods? That is the question for a public hearing of the Planning and Zoning Commission at East Ridge Middle School on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

The hearing was originally scheduled to take place at the regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 5, but was moved to a later time and place out of concern for the number of people who wanted to attend.

Ridgefielder Bud Brown wants to build a private skating club for 275 families, at the site of the old Pinchbeck Nursery on Peaceable Street. The nursery, although a commercial business, sits in a residential neighborhood.

Brown has not yet submitted a formal proposal to Planning and Zoning, but his website for the Ridgefield Winter Club provides a description and architectural renderings.

Brown is optimistic about the proposal.

“Given the positive feedback we’ve already received from Ridgefield families, including more than 60 letters from supporters and more than 465 people who have liked our Facebook page in support of the RWC, we look forward to adding this club to all that our town has to offer,” a statement by the club’s public relations representative said.

Public opposition has been strong, however. In June, Jeff and Jennifer Hansen, whose property sits near the former nursery, filed an application with Planning and Zoning to have “private clubs” stricken from the list of allowed uses of property by special permit in residential zones.

That amendment, they believe, would put a roadblock in plans to develop the Winter Club at the Pinchbeck site.

“Ridgefield’s current criteria for what can be considered a ‘private club’ under the special permit regulations is entirely undefined, increasing the risk of large commercial enterprises masquerading as ‘private clubs,’” Jeff Hansen told the Press, at the time.

Brown sees the matter a little differently.

“For decades, the Town of Ridgefield has had the flexibility it needs to manage the right level of development for our town,” Brown said in a statement put out by the Winter Club’s public relations representative.

“We embrace the importance of being a good neighbor, and that is why the RWC will replicate the residential look and feel of our town, operate with modest hours and months of usage, and bring significant economic benefits, including additional tax revenue, to Ridgefield.”