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Friday, March 23 News

Open space, accessibility prioritized for Ox Ridge property

DARIEN — A floated equestrian program on land purchased by the town last year from the Ox Ridge Hunt Club is a non-starter.

“The objective here is to satisfy everyone,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. “I will say, however, that one use we shouldn’t feel compelled to satisfy is future equestrian use.”

The acquisition of the 16-acre parcel of Ox Ridge property was completed in March of last year with a price tag of $6.25 million. The land is protected by an open space declaration that will be in effect until June of 2042.

Three Darien residents voiced their concerns Monday at a Board of Selectmen meeting asking officials consider prioritizing open space, maintain the use of soccer fields and that the impact of traffic in the neighborhood be studied closely.

Selectman Kip Koons, who became a financial consultant for the Ox Ridge Hunt Club last November, announced that he would not be voting on the matter to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

“To the degree that there might be a conflict, I’m recusing myself from voting on large-scale issues,” Kip said in an interview Wednesday morning. “I can participate in discussion and vote in favor or against funding something like parking but on large-scale issues, I’ll be recusing myself.”

The purchase agreement, approved by the RTM, was referenced by the First Selectman as a way of framing what uses would and would not be available in the coming years. All currently permitted uses, passive recreation, use of athletic fields and required parking ancillary to fields would be permitted.

“There will be no lights,” Stevenson said.

“And no turf,” Koons added.

Selectman Pamela Sparkman brought up the issue of accessibility. “Right now there is no parking and I still think that’s problematic,” Sparkman said. “It seems that the whole community should have the opportunity to go out there. Even if you live in Noroton Heights, you should be able to use it.”

The effects of increased traffic in the area due to the possible extension of parking would have to be studied.

“I’m a bit concerned about the scale of events,” Marc Thorne, selectman, said. “If we’re doing large events we should be inspecting the effects of those large events,” Thorne said.

Stevenson agreed that a traffic study should be conducted to take into account the combination of traffic.

A one-story building no larger than 1,000 square feet can be built and the selectmen discussed the possible construction of a restroom station or concession stand. Its appearance would have to blend in with the property so as not to deviate from the scenery.

Programmed activity, monitored by the Parks and Recreation Department, was a point of discussion. Stevenson said that activities could be planned at specific times from September through March and at other times from April through August.