The possibility of industrial pollution contamination at a former factory site could complicate the owner's request for a zone change.
The applicant, Ridgefield Professional Office Complex LLC, has proposed donating about 19 acres of the 50-acre property at 901 Ethan Allen Highway to the town as part of their request to change the parcel from a Corporate Development District (CDD) zone to a B-2 zone.
If approved, the new zone would allow additional commercial uses for the property, including service businesses and medical offices. The CDD already allows light industrial and warehouse storage, which the B-2 zone would also allow.
However, the property is a brownfield site with a history of industrial pollution. According to Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Rebecca Mucchetti, there has been ongoing environmental pollution remediation there since 1982.
She also said since the proposed development isn’t a residential subdivision, the open space donation must be approved by the Board of Selectmen and reviewed by the town’s Conservation Commission.
State law requires the Planning & Zoning Commission to make a decision within 65 days, which, in this case, is on March 28. Mucchetti said if the Board of Selectmen and the Conservation Commission have not made their decisions by then, the applicant would be asked to grant the zoning commission an extension.
Attorney Robert R. Jewell, the applicants’ representative at a public hearing Tuesday, said although the applicants want the donated land to be used for open space, one of the parcels is directly adjacent to the town’s sewage treatment plant, so town officials would have to decide if the land should be set aside for the future expansion of the plant.
Planning Director Betty Brosius said while sewer authority officials say some upgrades would be necessary at the plant, they would not require use of the open space land.
Several residents who spoke at the hearing expressed concerns about the potential for increased traffic due to the zone change, and about the environmental pollution on the property.
Cynthia Rabinowitz, an environmental engineer hired by the applicants, said the wetlands on the property, which make up most of the land being donated and include Little Pond, do not appear to be affected by the pollution; although, she noted, she did not perform tests on the water.
One resident, John Tartaglia of Danbury Road, asked that comments from a public hearing conducted on a different application last week be included on the record of the public hearing for this application, too.
The earlier public hearing was on a proposed zoning change from B-2 to a new “Gateway” zoning district, which would expand the commercial uses that would be allowed.
Tartaglia and others believed that if the Gateway district were approved, it would expand the uses for all B-2 zones in Ridgefield, although Mucchetti said that would not be the case.
In any event, comments from one public hearing may not be applied to another public hearing on a different application. Mucchetti said if those people wish to comment on the later application they would have to attend that application’s public hearing.
The Planning & Zoning Commission voted to continue the public hearing on the proposed zoning change for 901 Ethan Allen Highway until Feb. 19, when the applicants are expected to present traffic data and other information.