Letter of Support: Petition: Save South Hall in Ridgefield

The following is a Letter of Support/Petition on change.org with a link to sign that was sent to The Ridgefield Press from the Ridgefield Voters United group for posting on The Press website. The letter/petition is about saving the South Hall building near the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 351 Main Street in Ridgefield. The link to the letter/petition is: http://chng.it/KMdZbfMPF8.

We are asking town residents to sign a petition letter of support to convert St. Stephen’s South Hall on Main Street into a non-profit educational/living facility for 8 adults with disabilities.

Currently South Hall is up for sale. Three senior leaders of the church, Reverend Whitney Altopp and vestry members Jack Herr and Chris Fallon want to sell South Hall and its property to builders/developers over Ability Beyond’s proposal of housing adults with disabilities.

In an initial discussion with Ability Beyond, First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Affordable Housing Committee Chair Dave Goldenberg, the three St Stephens leaders stated that their vision is to sell South Hall (because they don’t want to take care of it anymore) and renovate a church bathroom to make it ADA compliant.

If South Hall is sold off instead of leased, then local P&Z regulations will require moving and greatly enlarging the church parking lot size. The parking lot upgrades will cost approximately $800,000 or more - basically all profits from a sale - leaving nothing for the church or any charitable outreach - just an unnecessary, over-sized asphalt abyss.

Ability Beyond presented a Lease offer stating, upon agreement, they would immediately take over all maintenance of South Hall and its property. They requested an (up to 1-year) Option to finalize technical building plans. Then Ability Beyond would invest in and fully renovate the interior of South Hall, bringing it completely up to code, but leaving the historic exterior facade in place. The long-term $1.00 per year Lease would allow St. Stephens to retain full ownership of their property/asset - but with none of the cost or upkeep. (Basically the same type of lease ACT Theatre has with the town.) No parking lot move, or expansion would be required.

Parishioners of St. Stephen’s have repeatedly requested that Altopp, Herr and Fallon share Ability Beyond’s proposal with them. Parishioners want to openly discuss and negotiate with AB, letting the entire Parish have a voice in what the ultimate decision on South Hall will be. The Parishioners’ requests have been ignored by Chris Fallon and flatly denied by Rev. Altopp. Instead of being guided by any sense of the Episcopal Church’s mission of outreach, could it be that the fate of South Hall and Ridgefield’s historic Main Street is being decided by the ulterior motives of a few?

Lori Mazzola

Spokesperson

Ridgefield Voters United

Ridgefield, Dec. 3