Darien’s highly developed state means open space is hard to to come by, let alone acquire.
So when Ox Ridge Hunt Club approached the town to see if it wanted to buy just over 16 acres of the historic property, officials were enthusiastically on board.
Not only would it provide the town a way to acquire more open space, but it would allow the club to be preserved.
However, once again, as tends to happen, whenever a change in usage is proposed for any public or privately owned property that is in a neighborhood, neighbors object. And given the size of Darien and its development ratio, that is almost always the case.
The current plan that is being discussed is to use the property for additional playing fields. Even that cannot be too invasive. Due to a prior tax agreement between the club and the town, the parcel is protected by an option space restriction until 2042. As a result, no permanent fixtures can be installed on the property other than one single-story building of 1,000 square feet or less.
However, neighbors of Ox RIdge Hunt Club, who are used to the property as is, with more infrequent traffic and activity, have a different plan for the now taxpayer-owned property that fits in better with their neighborhood vision.
Their vision is “passive recreation.”
In other words, neighbors wish to have the property basically remain untouched — often justified as best for the neighboring horses. They are entitled to want that. We all would want to live next to open space, especially if we had been living next to it, unchanged, for years.
However, once the town purchased the property, it belongs to all the residents of Darien, not just the neighbors of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club
It is owed to these taxpayers to use it in a way that keeps it largely open space in keeping with the town agreement, but also used in a practical way that continues to justify the town purchase.
Neighbors are entitled to weigh in, but when it comes down to it, they should keep one thing in mind. This property is located in a two-acre zone. Had Ox Ridge Hunt Club sold these 16-plus acres (or more) to a private developer, what would be the neighbors’ future then?
To start, they’d have zero input in the property’s future use.
To finish, there could have been a house for every two acres, at least — eight houses, more people, more traffic.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration what could have happened if a zoning change was pursued or the Ox Ridge Hunt Club sold the whole parcel entirely.
In short, a few extra playing fields and a bit of increased usage intensity is a small price to pay for what could have been. The town buying this property is the best scenario for all — especially the neighbors.
Let’s try to not look a gift horse club purchase in the mouth.