Planners question experts at seventh Ridgefield winter club hearing
Planning and zoning commissioners put the screws to testimony from two experts for the Ridgefield Winter Club Thursday night in the seventh and penultimate hearing for a plan to build a private skating club at 340 Peaceable St.
The meeting was taken up almost entirely by responses from experts representing the club, who answered questions raised by the town’s peer review experts and residents at previous hearings.
Eight experts spoke out of a total of 11 speakers at the hearing.
Their testimony was interspersed with questions from attorney Bob Jewell, the club’s legal counsel, who appeared to cross-examine his own experts at times in an attempt to boil down some of their responses to simple yes or no answers.
No residents gave public comment. Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Coyle and Attorney Peter Olson, who was hired by neighbors opposed to the club, both spoke in opposition.
But it was the club’s sound expert, Edward Potenta of Potenta Environmental Consultants LLC, who received the hardest cross-examination from commissioners over statements he made at a previous hearing that seemed to imply the club would lessen the ambient noise already on the property.
“My opinion is that based on the data that we presented for the day time facility noise, there will be no impact on the ambient noise,” said Potenta.
Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli challenged him on that.
“I believe you had said that it’s going to be quieter,” he said.
“If that’s true then that’s fantastic,” Baldelli added, to muffled laughter from the audience.
Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti challenged a claim by Potenta that the project would have to be completed before sound levels could be calculated.
’I’m going to be unusually frank,” she said “I’m not comfortable with the fact that the facility has to be built before it can be tested.”
“I can’t believe it’s going to be quieter than it is now,” with the addition of an outdoor rink with music and activities, she added. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”
Commissioner John Katz made a point to challenge Potenta’s testimony when he brought a decibel meter out to record Potenta speaking.
According to Katz, Potenta’s amplified voice in the auditorium read at around 60 decibels — higher than the 39 decibels he said residents would hear at the club’s property line.
Commissioners also appeared skeptical of a claim by club lighting expert Mike Mahoney that the club’s 40-foot light poles would generate less scattered light than similar — but shorter — poles at a skating club in Greenwich.
Mahoney said that in his professional opinion, the higher poles at the proposed Ridgefield Winter Club would create about “25 percent” less scattered light than the Greenwich club, because of the steeper angle of light traveling from the lighting array to the ice sheet.
But Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti asked him to clarify how much of the light would reflect back into the sky off of the white ice of the rink.
“We all know that when we’re out on icy roads there’s a reflection or an icy glare,” Mucchetti said.
Mahoney admitted some light would be reflected.
“Yes, there will be light that will reflect off the white surface,” he said, adding that the taller poles would allow the light to mostly reflect upwards into the atmosphere.
“In my professional opinion it would be in the 15 percent range,” he said.
He also clarified that the lights would have four light fixtures per pole — not five as the plans originally called for, and as neighbors opposed to the plan have repeatedly brought up as evidence of subterfuge. He said the lower number is due to advancements in light technology.
“If you think about the car you were driving in 1977, the computer you may have been using if you were lucky enough — sports lighting is not immune to advancements in technology,” Mahoney said.
After questions from Olson and Coyle ran past 10 p.m., the commission decided to reschedule its planned deliberation and vote on an intervention pleading.
The intervention was filed by Jeff and Jennifer Hansen, Old South Salem residents who live across from the proposed site.
That will go forward at the club’s final public hearing Wednesday, Dec. 12.