Planning and Zoning approves Highfield Farm permit

Highland Farm on 560 Middlesex Road. Taken July 31
Highland Farm on 560 Middlesex Road. Taken July 31

DARIEN — The town’s plan for Highfield Farm — land formerly owned by Ox Ridge Riding and Racquet Club — will proceed.

Zoning approval last week will now allow the Parks and Recreations Department to host programs seven days a week, and allows for both passive and active recreational activities. This can range from nature observing to youth sports like soccer.

Pamela Gery, director of Parks and Recreations, said for now nothing can be planned. The town now has three years to implement the site plan for the 16-acre field.

“We’re working through the budget,” said Gery. “A fence also has to be put up and some parking has to be done.”

Gery said the department is pleased with the results, but will continue to work with town administration to eventually bring the programs to the community.

“We have to be patient and follow the stipulations and rules. When we’re ready we’ll put on some spectacular things there,” she said.

Programming hours will vary depending on the time of year. April to August weekday programming will be allowed from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

From September to March weekday programs will be allowed 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then from 3 p.m. to dusk. Weekend hours would remain the same.

Darien residents had previously voiced some concerns about preserving the look and feel of the property.

“We got a lot of comments for allowing programmed activities,” said John Sini, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

There were also some concerns about adjusting for the amount of parking, traffic and the regulation of events on the property, said Sini at the meeting on July 24.

“I want to treat this applicant like we would any other applicant,” he said. “The focus is creating parking for safety and access to the property.”

For any other applicant the number of programmed activities would not be allowed to exceed the number of available parking spaces. If for some reason the parking areas can’t be created then the activities proposed can’t occur on the property, said Sini.

“If you don’t have parking when you start doing scheduled activities it’s going to turn into a mess,” he said. “I feel that you cannot allow programmed activities without appropriate parking.”

The commission approved a proposal to utilize the property for periodic special events with restrictions on use. During their review of the application the commission limited the number of special events to eight per a year. Events will follow the rules and regulations set by the Parks and Recreations Department. Daytime events will begin at 9 a.m. with setup no earlier than 8 a.m.

The site plan calls for 92 parking spaces split between two lots. A portable bathroom will also be installed in the southwest corner of the property. Dogs will also be allowed on the field as long as they are on a leash.

The commission also approved the proposal to construct a single story storage shed and an approximately half mile pedestrian walking pathway.

The Dutch barn style storage shed will house maintenance equipment and materials. It will also house any equipment to be used on site by the Parks and Recreation department.

The Ox Ridge Riding and Racquet Club may also use the property for one week each June for the annual Ox Ridge Charity Horse show.

“I think its going to fit very nicely,” said Gery. “I think it's going to be a good thing for the public as well as the neighbors.”, 203-842-2568