Letter: Halftime report for the Ridgefield Winter Club

To the Editor:

Easily missed over the holidays was halftime reporting on the Ridgefield Winter Club. Except it’s not supposed to be halftime. After using more meeting time than anyone else, the applicant team withdrew its special permit application, hours before the final public hearing.

In withdrawing for now, the applicant conceded its presentation “came up short” in showing that outdoor hockey noise has any place in a residential neighborhood. Fearful the application would be denied, the applicant pulled out, requesting a “do-over” instead.

The applicant’s sound expert was blamed for this stunning decision. In fact, the expert had been asked to publicly explain why sound would behave differently at the Winter Club than on the rest of the planet. The applicant also suggested that noise was the only area where the application “came up short.” In fact, the presentation was arguably no more convincing about lighting, traffic/safety, environmental impact and already causing substantial harm to neighborhood property values. Somehow, claiming the project will “have no impact on the wetlands,” sounds suspiciously like concluding “the neighborhood will be quieter” after the rink is built and hockey games commence.

In choosing to try again, the applicant suggested ways to improve the process. First would be quickly approving the project’s wetlands application. A gift in itself, removing wetlands issues would also allow “more focused and concise review” of the special permit (zoning) application.  In other words, town experts and Ridgefield neighbors should get far less playing time in the make-up game.

Rebuffing this advice, P&Z declined to decide if the Winter Club will generate “unreasonable pollution” until they know more.

Kudos to commissioners who value fairness over gamesmanship and neighbors who won’t be worn down by a pushy applicant, more interested in trickery than truthfulness.

Ron Shirk

Peaceable Street, Dec. 30