Proposed changes to Ox Ridge property emerge
DARIEN — The town-owned Ox Ridge parcel is one step closer to becoming more publicly accessible, even as neighbors have fought for it to remain open space and for passive recreation only.
The application submitted April 18 by the Board of Selectmen to the Planning and Zoning Commission provided more details on the proposed changes to the 16-acre property — now labeled as 560 Middlesex Road — acquired by the town in March 2017.
Among these changes are 92 parking spaces distributed into two separate areas, a 240-square-foot equipment shed, gravel for a portable bathroom and a half-mile stone-chip walking path around the perimeter of the property.
“We’re going to go through the special permit with the public hearing and take into account the health and welfare of the community and surrounding neighborhood,” Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman John Sini said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
The uses approved by the selectmen include 10 town-sponsored events and five nonprofit-sponsored events per year. Events scheduled at evening hours must conclude by 10 p.m. and those at daytime hours must begin after 9 a.m.
Planning and Zoning Commission will host a public hearing on the Ox Ridge application May 15 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall Auditorium.
Milone and MacBroom, an engineering consulting firm with an office in Cheshire, was paid $6,480 by the town for a traffic and parking study, something residents had suggested at prior Board of Selectmen public hearings regarding the Ox Ridge property.
In a report filed April 18, the firm summarized a “relatively small amount of new traffic would be generated” from the proposed activity at Ox Ridge. The firm further recommended ground vegetation and low-hanging tree branches be trimmed and that overflow parking in grass parking areas would be likely for “special events.”
In January, over 20 people attended a Board of Selectmen meeting that approved the proposed uses for the Ox Ridge property.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she expected a similar amount of residents opposed to the latest proposed changes.
“In spite of our efforts to strike a balance for everyone, people who are opposed to this still seem to be opposed. I think they should know it’s a great thing for all residents in town and is well-suited for passive and active recreation,” Stevenson said.
Sini said the Representative Town Meeting, the body that authorized the purchase of the property, had reviewed a contract that specified the land could be used for recreational purposes.
“We’re trying to educate the community that we’re not going to entertain (the discussion of) if this is the right policy for the property,” Sini said. “We’re very strict in this review and we have to see if the application as submitted meets with the standard zoning regulations.”
Had the land been designated as park land, Sini said, the Planning and Zoning Commission wouldn’t have a special permit hearing.
The public hearing set for May 15 at 8 p.m. at the Town Hall auditorium will have the Ox Ridge property special permit application as the only item on the commission’s agenda.
Depending on the amount of public comment made at the hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission will either close or advance the public hearing for another meeting. If the project is approved and no litigation is enacted against the commission, the town can start making the proposed changes.
Regarding the financial cost of funding the proposed changes, Stevenson said such figures wouldn’t be procured until the Planning and Zoning Commission made its final decision on the application.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will host a public hearing on the Ox Ridge application on May 15 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall auditorium.