To the Editor:
I first would like to thank Kevin Webb for his article “Neighbors push back against proposals for town owned land at Ox Ridge Hunt Club”, October 11, 2017) for his accurate reporting. In response to your editorial published October 10, 2017 (“Ox Ridge Hunt Club neighbors shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth”), I’d like to take this opportunity to present a few key facts.
First, the neighbors around and near the Ox Ridge Hunt Club were in full support of the town purchasing the property, and spoke publicly about it. Secondly, the property is not eligible for any development until the year 2042. Even if a developer had bought it, no development is permissible until then. Building homes on the property is not an option at this point.* (See editor’s note below.)
Third, those who have advocated for “passive recreation” are not only the neighbors. The growing number of taxpayers who are advocating and campaigning for passive recreation see this is an opportunity for Darien to have a Waveny-like open field space, not another athletic field campus.
“Passive recreation” is feasible at that site, and the Master Plan presented by the Parks and Recreation Commission to the Board of Selectmen on Oct. 18 should include it. Most importantly, the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, which was adopted in 2016, identifies Ox Ridge Field as a “scenic view” and “managed space”. “The POCD recommends that Darien seek to preserve the ‘managed’ open spaces that exist in the community and seek to convert those to ‘dedicated’ open spaces if an opportunity arises.”
Furthermore, 69% of those surveyed by the Parks and Recreation Commission in June 2017 said that open space was the top priority, and that athletic fields were not even in the top 10 things of being important.
Lastly, the Purchase Agreement between the town and the Ox Ridge Hunt Club makes reference to “passive recreation”, which speaks to the spirit and the intent of the use of that property. I agree that the property now belongs to all residents of Darien, and all residents would be able to use the Ox Ridge field. I just hope that the town boards rely on the research and due diligence that they’ve already done, and stick to their Plan.
Jenny Schwartz, 8 Saddle Ridge Road
Leelee and Michael Klein, 2 Saddle Ridge Road
Julie Phillips, 362 Mansfield Ave
Suzanne Schutte ,600 Middlesex Road
Judy and Bill Holding, 22 Saddle Ridge Road
Fares and Mirna Noujaim, 326 Mansfield ave
Hank and Lynne Wilson, 527 Middlesex Rd
*Editor’s note: The Darien Times asked for clarification from First Selectman Jayme Stevenson on the development issue. This was her response — “As the agreement exists today, Jenny’s comment is correct. However, while it would be complicated to do so, if the town (BOS, BOF and RTM) and the Ox Ridge Hunt Club would agree to a modification of the deed restrictions and agreed-upon remuneration was given to the Hunt Club in exchange for a release of the deed restrictions, the town could, in fact sell the property. It is highly unlikely that town bodies would approve of this today, but if in the future there are substantial and negative changes in the town’s fiscal position, the agreement does not preclude this future action. In order for the town to buy the property, the deed restriction was amended by mutual agreement. This same process could take place in the future.”