RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – The amount of traffic along Route 7 from Ridgefield’s Haviland Road to the Danbury border could increase dramatically if a proposal to rezone the area for more retail space is approved, residents say.
“I have to leave my driveway at the risk of my own life. I don’t say that lightly — I’ve seen so many accidents outside my driveway,” Dawn Zimmerer, a Ridgefield resident and manager of Animal Fair, told the Planning and Zoning Commission at its public hearing Tuesday night.
Several residents compared Route 7 with the Autobahn or a NASCAR speedway. “It seems like the people who actually live there are getting the least benefit,” said AJ Langer, a resident of Stonehouse Commons.
If the town were to add more retail space along Route 7, it would create more traffic and possibly more accidents, several people said. Many, including resident Steve Zemo, requested an estimate of the amount and location of potential development for the area.
“There are concerns that we don’t have enough information,” said Planning and Zoning Chair Rebecca Muccetti, a sentiment echoed by many of the speakers.
The rezoning would allow more retail buildings in that area of Route 7. A total of 13 lots, of 20,000 square feet each, would be available for further retail development, Muccetti said.
Bill Burns, who moved to Ridgefield 11 years ago, told the commission that Long Island, where he previously lived, shows the unhappy results of putting in the amount of retail being discussed.
“Any of those businesses would draw shoppers away from Main Street,” said resident Helen Dimos. “Main Street is already suffering from an already dwindling.”
Books on the Commons owner Ellen Burns expressed her concerns for the retail expansion. “We’re not operating in the world of 15 years ago,” Burns said, pointing out that a population can sustain only a certain amount of retail. “I urge you to rethink this process."
But Gerald Rush, who owns a storefront at 590 Danbury Road, expressed his support for the rezoning, saying it would help him and others like him to fill vacant storefronts there, not just the ones empty on Main Street.
The concept of rezoning Route 7 was also controversial to those on the commission.
“I'm quite certain that there isn't an individual sitting at this table whose mind is made up about this proposal,” said commission Vice Chairman Patrick Walsh. But he said change has already arrived and said the commission needs to take that into consideration. "We are trying to plan instead of being reactive."