Original article: 4:39 p.m., Friday: Darien town government may buy about 16.3 acres of land from Ox Ridge Hunt Club, according to an item on the agenda for Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
— NOW UPDATED below, with information from First Selectman Jayme Stevenson —
Not much information on the possible sale could be gathered late Friday afternoon, after this item was found on the board’s meeting agenda, just published on the town government website:
Discuss and Take Action on a Resolution for the purchase of 16.296 +/- acres of land from the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, Inc. at 512 Middlesex Road and Authorizing the Issuance of Bonds, Notes or Other Obligations of the Town to Meet Said Appropriation
Among the questions not yet known publicly: the price of the land, where it is on the Ox Ridge Hunt Club property, why the club is willing to sell it to the town, what the land would be or might be used for.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson was not immediately available for comment shortly after 4 p.m. [see update below]. Town Administrator Kathleen Buch was not in the office, and a receptionist at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club said an official there was not expected to be available until Monday.
An executive session of the Board of Selectmen is scheduled for 6:15 p.m., before the public meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday. The purpose of the session, as stated on the agenda, is for consideration of various topics, including land acquisition.
Buying land, which can involve consideration of negotiating points, is one of the topics that state law allows boards and commissions to discuss in private. Any votes would have to be taken in public, and those are usually accompanied by public discussion from board members.
Darienite.com has asked for more information about the land purchase from the First Selectman’s Office and, if no information can be released before the executive session, at least confirmation that the executive session involves discussion of the land purchase.
On its website, the Ox Ridge Hunt Club states that it owns a tract of 37 acres, including the 22-acre “front field” (leaving 15 remaining acres):
Our extensive indoor and outdoor facilities represent some of the finest in Fairfield County. The Club is situated on thirty-seven acres, twenty-two of which consist of the beautiful front field that is used for a variety of riding activities through the summer. The field provides the premier setting for our June Show and recognized dressage competitions. In addition, the field is used on a regular basis by members for instruction, horse show and pleasure riding.
Any purchase of land would need approval from the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.
UPDATE: Stevenson Says Town Examining Purchase Since April
Update, 5:08 p.m.:
“I’m very excited and eager to be bringing a land opportunity to the Board of Selectmen and the Town of Darien,” Stevenson said in an interview late this afternoon.
The 16.3 acres being considered for purchase is “part of the field space” on the club’s tract of land, she said. She added that town officials have been considering whether or not to purchase it since this past April.
For years, the town government has had agreements with the Ox Ridge Hunt Club and the four country clubs in Darien that if land were sold as part of a tax settlement agreement, the town would have the right of first refusal on the property.
Under the agreements, the town would not necessarily remove a property for use by a club, Stevenson said. The tax settlement agreements allow for clubs to continue to use a property under special deed restrictions, she said.
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Stevenson didn’t say so, but a deed restriction can include, for instance, a prohibition on developing land for any other use — including building on it.
Stevenson said that due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations with the horse club, she couldn’t give out many details of the proposal until after Monday night’s executive session of the Board of Selectmen. Selectmen will discuss legal options, then discuss them in the regular meeting and expect to take a vote, she said.
Once public, the proposal will then go before the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting for further public discussion and approval.