Darien is exploring renting out Great Island’s horse stables. Revenue would ‘keep the lights on’ for now.

DARIEN — Existing equestrian facilities on the soon-to-be-acquired Great Island could soon house a town-owned show stable, complete with a summer camp program and riding lessons for children.

During a Monday meeting, the Board of Selectmen discussed their application for a special permit to rent out the stables on Great Island — which the town is one step closer to buying after the Representative Town Meeting approved the purchase in June — to an outside operator, who would keep the stables open for certain activities including summer camps.

Great Island, a 60-acre property, is currently in a residential zone that allows some limited uses for recreational and cultural purposes.

The special permit, which will be considered by the Planning and Zoning commission at a July 19 meeting, would allow officials to rent out the 18-stall stable, indoor heated riding arena, dressage ring and polo field. The operator of these amenities would run a boarding and training service for up to 18 horses, as well as offer riding lessons for children older than 5. They would also host a summer camp.

Those activities would constitute a “basic, limited” use of the facilities that would enable the place to stay afloat, said Jeremy Ginsberg, the Planning and Zoning director.

“It’s a beautiful building and it’d be quite a shame to leave it vacant and let it get rundown,” Ginsberg said during the Board of Selectmen meeting. “It’s been a stable for horses for many, many, many years since it’s been built.”

One of the previous owners, a member of the Ziegler family, never applied for a special permit to operate the stable, Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg added that the previous owner had not been running a camp from the island and said he was sure all the horses on the property had belonged to the previous owner.

“People can have horses on their property if you own a certain amount of land, but for you to have people come use the horses — that’s a whole different ballgame which requires the special permit,” Ginsberg said.

Currently, the stables on the property are used by Serenity Show Stables.

The operator the town chooses would offer rides and lessons from two to five days per week, according to the application. Private lessons would have to be made by appointment and run for 30 minutes each.

The proposed summer camp would be a day program for participants at all skill levels who “want to learn all aspects of the horse, including developing mounted skills, safe horsemanship and care of the animal,” according to the town’s permit application.

The program would provide a “fun and safe “ experience and would run from mid-June to Aug. 30. It would be limited to 36 students, according to the application.

The permit would stipulate that the stable operator could use the equestrian facilities on the island from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days per week. A maximum of 18 horses and 36 people — not including staff and instructors — can be at the facilities at any given time.

The term of the requested special permit would only run for three years, according to the town’s application. Officials said that allows the town time to decide on a formal, long-term plan for the entire Great Island property, which has been the subject of lengthy discussions.

“It’s giving the town the ability to keep everything running,” Ginsberg said. “Keep the lights on, keep the heat on, keep the air conditioning on for the time being, until final decisions are made.”