Letter: Former P&Z chairman weighs in on Ox Ridge

To the Editor:

On June 19, the Planning & Zoning Commission will hear the selectmen’s application for a special permit for its plan for the town’s portion of the Ox Ridge property. The chairman of the commission has cited the commission’s “limited zoning authority,” presumably in an attempt to limit public input.

• Letter: Planning & Zoning chairman responds to critique of his public hearing clarification

Contrary to this assertion the special permit regulation (Article X) of the town’s zoning regulations provides the commission broad latitude in order to provide a thorough vetting of

permit applications. Under Section 1005 of this regulation the commission must make a number of findings related to the location, design and impact of the application. Documentation, including technical professional and public input, is almost mandatory in order to provide a solid record of the bases upon which the commission will make its findings.

The town’s acquisition of a significant portion of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club property provides Darien with an open space resource capable of being used in a multitude of ways. Key to the commission’s findings, however, will be its reconciliation with the special permit granted to the Ox Ridge Hunt Club last Nov. 14. That application covered a number of issues related to the use and improvement of their property including the annual week long horse show plus additional equestrian events that may not be compatible with the selectmen’s planned use.

The special permit application for the Hunt Club is extensive and reflects the comprehensive vetting and documentation mandated by the special permit regulation. As with the YMCA, for example, the Planning & Zoning Commission requires the Hunt Club to submit a schedule of special events each January for the forthcoming year. The commission clearly recognizes, as with the YMCA, that a high value community asset with potentially broad public access and usage needs to be controlled due to issues related to neighborhood impact, safety, intensity of use, etc.

Clearly the selectmen’s application for a special permit must be held to the same standard of vetting as the previously approved Hunt Club’s special permit, or any application for that matter. As the applicant, the burden lies with the selectmen to prove their intended use is compatible with preexisting approved uses. Absent any effort by the selectmen to reconcile the Ox Ridge Hunt Club special permit with their application, one can conclude they are defaulting to an acquiescent Planning & Zoning Commission that has only “limited zoning authority.”

Frederick Conze

The writer is the former chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission.