Previously, an application for a private baseball field in a residential neighborhood being used for practice by the owner’s son’s Cal Ripken team had been cited twice for a zoning violation.
The applicant hoped to get permission from the Planning & Zoning commission for the field after the fact, but at two public Zoom hearings neighbors expressed their objections based on noise and traffic.
After the commission asked the applicant, Ray Bartoszek, back in June to try to work out a compromise with his neighbors, he returned in mid July to say they failed to come to an agreement.
As a result, on Tuesday night the commission discussed conditions they would make if they were to approve the application:
No commercial use, no paid coaches, no games or umpires, and no more than one Greenwich based team allowed to practice at the field.
Also, no parking allowed outside the property during practices, or for drop off or pick up.
Overflow parking must be accommodated by the main driveway at existing residence.
Aluminum bats are prohibited during scheduled practices, but are permitted for use by the resident and his children.
Also, the property owner shall limit fertilizer and pesticides as much as possible to limit runoff to adjacent pond. The material used on the field must be organic, and of course follow all the conditions of the applicant’s original wetlands approval.
Practice times prohibited on Sundays, with a maximum of 3 practices (not greater than two hours each) every 2 weeks including one practice every other Saturday, coincident with the town of Greenwich League Play. Practices shall end by 6:30pm on weekdays and 5:00pm on Saturdays.
The commission noted that the team also has access to town fields one evening during the week and one two-hour block on the weekend, on either a Saturday or a Sunday.
“They can ask for more time, but he (Don Mohr of Parks & Rec) tries to be fair as possible across all the teams,” said P&Z director Katie DeLuca.
Team signage and banners should not be visible across the street or to adjacent properties or across the pond.
Ground maintenance and work on the playing field, equipment and accessory structures shall be limited to once a week, excluding maintenance on grounds of the residential property.
Evergreen screening around the practice area shall be maintained in good health at all times and replaced in kind if necessary.
If conditions are not met, then the special permit is subject to being revoked.
There had been discussion about off site repairs to a neighbor’s private property across the street from 56 Clapboard Ridge where guests visiting the baseball field had damaged the lawn and grading by the shoulder. However, the commission declined to include this as a condition. “You can’t impose something on someone else’s property,” said Katie DeLuca, P&Z director.
P&Z chair Margarita Alban described the two sides of the controversial application.
“One side is minding the invasion of privacy and felt the use has been too intense,” she said. “The other side said it would be ‘Orwellian’ to stop kids from having fun and playing baseball.”
“I love to hear the sound of children playing, but at the same time, just listening to all the conditions you’re putting on this special permit, you’re making so many restrictions because it’s really beyond what should be going on in this neighborhood. You’re changing it to make it acceptable, and in your view it becomes acceptable, but how does one enforce this?”
Also Alban said she was concerned about a precedent being set, saying it was not a natural use to the zone.
“If we get 10 more of these we’d have to have a zoning enforcement squad dedicated to making sure there are only two practices here, and no aluminum bats there, and that someone is not having a hockey championship,” she said.
“Are we opening a door? Where does this go? We’re saying it’s okay to have playing fields and team events on private property,” Alban said, noting that several prominent attorneys were present at the Zoom meeting.
P&Z commissioner Dave Hardman said he saw a distinct difference between team practice and team competitions.
“Are you comfortable with this type of use becoming pervasive in residential zones?” Alban asked.
She noted that P&Z conditions special uses in schools zones, but noted this was for a private activity in a residential neighborhood.
Alban said that if the vote were to come out in favor of approving the special permit with conditions, that if the conditions were subsequently not met that the commission would retain the right to revoke the special permit.
“A revocation would again mean that the zoning enforcement officer would have to go out. It’s not enough to have neighbors report a violation. It has to be verified. It’s tying up our staff,” Alban said.
Peter Levy said although he was concerned about “creep,” given most of the commission was willing to condition an approval, he said, “I’m willing to go along with it.”
Commissioner Nick Macri made the motion. Dave Hardman seconded. In favor were Peter Levy, Dave Hardman, Nick Macri and Peter Lowe. Margarita Alban voted no.
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