Vox Populi

Originally published on 1/7/2015

Recommendations for the future of the remaining acres of the Schlumberger parcel are a-plenty, with opinions ranging from “hold it”, to “sell some of it”, to  “sell all of it, “ “do XYZ with it”.  What is not opinion is that the town of Ridgefield voted in November 2011 to buy the parcel, based upon the town electors’ choice to own this valuable real estate and control its destiny.  Acquired by the town in 2012 (after the approval via the referendum), a parcel has been sold (5 acres) and a second parcel is under negotiation for sale to be developed as low-density, age-restricted houses/condos (revised proposal based on voters’ interest in more moderate/mixed purchase prices for housing). The revised, proposed terms of the sale must come before the voters for final approval, sometime in 2015.

The Board of Selectman has called for citizens to input, research and review potential uses for the 30-acre former Schlumberger property on Old Quarry Road.  A committee of nine, (with possible input from elected boards which may include BOS, BOF and P&Z), will meet regularly and work closely with a planner or planning company to create ideas for use of the 30-acre property.  Serving on the committee is anticipated to require devoting considerable time and effort.

This is a pivotal time for Ridgefield residents to make their voices heard and to consider not only the overall use of the site now and in the future, but also the financial impact to town taxpayers.  There are exciting conversations in progress led by BOS, with the Maurice Sendak Foundation about displaying his works in the Philip Johnson building, a glass structure designed by the famed modernist architect.  Although the Foundation is not taking an active role in organizing a non-profit to fund and manage a museum, there may be potential for others to step up. Presently, while agreeing to pursue these conversations, the BOS has indicated that only limited funds can be committed to maintain the building. This structure requires roof repairs and an upgraded security system (the town owns it presently).  Clearly, this subject is one of many to be discussed.

Finances of course also must be taken into account. Acquisition costs not remitted by the voter-approved sale of 5 acres to Zemo are presently funded via short-term instruments in anticipation of revenue from the sale of other parcel (s).  If no additional revenue is received (via sale of a parcel or parcels), a minimum of $5.75MM must be financed with long-term debt instrument (s), thereby increasing the town’s debt.

Regardless of one’s point of view, the citizen’s committee organized by the Board of Selectmen is a smart way to gain input into the ideas that will be used in determining Schlumberger’s future.  Ultimately the voters at large will have their say, but for now, vox populi gets underway this month.