Hoydens ballfield foes argue larger project in the wings
Updated 6:39 pm, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Despite official assertions to the contrary, opponents of a girls softball field proposed for Hoydens Lane insisted at Tuesday's public hearing before the Fairfield Town Plan and Zoning Commission that there will at some point be three fields on the town-owned property.
The hearing was continued from March 8 to allow the lawyer for the application intervenors, Keith Ainsworth, to make a presentation. The intervenors -- the Hoydens Hill Trust, the Hoydens Hill Neighborhood Association and neighbor Yvonne Zeisler -- have been battling the project since last year.
The intervenors' traffic consultant, Bruce Hilson, used three fields to formulate the projected traffic that he said would travel neighborhood roads to and from the softball complex. That would mean, he said, more than 800 car trips on a Saturday or Sunday.
"Today, it's one field," Hilson said, but other areas could be used as practice fields or the town could come back for approval of additional fields on the site. "The important thing is if you approve one field with this application, the camel gets its nose into the tent and the other two are going to follow right away."
Hilson said the area roads now are used mostly by people who live in the neighborhood and are acquainted with the routes, so that's why there are few accidents there. "There aren't a lot of strangers on these roads."
The intervenors' environmental consultant, Stephen Danzer, said the proposed location of the ballfield -- the site where the house on the Parsells property now stands -- would have too much of an environmental impact, citing in particular grading planned for the rear of the property where a new meadow would be created.
TPZ Commissioner James Kennelly questioned whether, for example, a four-lot subdivision wouldn't cause more damage to the property than a two-acre ballfield and seven acres of meadow.
During the earlier hearing, one neighbor said he would rather see houses built on the property than the ballfield.
But a subdivision, Kennelly contended, would generate traffic all year, with construction on much more of the acreage.
Michael Parks, an ornithology consultant, said the environmental impact would depend if the houses kept the birds' habitat intact.
Ainsworth, however, said a four-house subdivision is not currently proposed. "You have to compare the current proposal," he said, "not what someone might hypothetically do."
But Kennelly pointed out that ballfield opponents were basing their criticism on the prospect of three ballfields, which is not the town's current proposal.
Ainsworth contended that town officials have said in the past that they would like several fields to be developed on the property.
Acting TPZ Chairman Seth Baratz said the ultimate decision as to how many fields is up to the TPZ. "He's allowed to make whatever comparisons he wants and you're allow to ask whatever questions you want. I'd rather stick to the facts."
The consultants for the intervenors also raised questions about additional netting for the safety of the softball players that they said could be harmful for birds, as well as the detrimental impact on property values of allowing the ballfield in a AAA residential zone.
John Knuff, the lawyer for the town's application, responded to the opponents by noting there is only one ballfield on the table for the TPZ's consideration; the roads are not private but public, and that the project includes the creation of a meadow habitat that opponents say is what should be on the property.
In fact, the town's environmental consultant Robert Jontos said it makes no sense for opponents to recommend putting the ballfield in the rear meadow rather than developing the field on the site already disturbed by the existing house and driveway.
Knuff said the intervenors failed to show, as state statutes require, "a reasonable likelihood of unreasonable pollution" if the softball field is built. He added that the TPZ has no jurisdiction over a project's impact on birds.