Saying it’s a reasonable request given the COVID-19 virus-related restrictions, the Planning & Zoning Commission last week agreed to make special allowances for The Glass House to operate this summer.
Allowing a limited number of visitors to drive directly to the Ponus Ridge site and for others to park at West School (pending approval by the Board of Education) will help the National Trust for Historic Preservation site during a challenging time and will not have a negative impact on the neighborhood, P&Z members said during their May 26 meeting.
Just the opposite, according to Chair John Goodwin.
“I think quite frankly this will help the property values of the neighbors because we are not in the money business, but these guys need to make money and if they are not, and that property falls into disrepair it’s going to negatively impact the values of the properties of those neighbors,” Goodwin said at the meeting, held via videoconference.
Under rules that will be in effect through August with an option to renew them depending on guidance from the state, The Glass House will sell tickets online only for a “grounds pass” that provides access to the 49-acre site’s upper 13 acres and no building access. Other conditions proposed by Glass House Executive Director Greg Sages include that grounds passes will be limited to a maximum of 25 visitors at a time, with no group larger than five, and that on-site parking will be limited to 10 cars. The limitations on visitors are designed to accommodate social distancing requirements.
P&Z voted 9-0 in favor. Those voting included Goodwin and Commissioners Jack Flinn, Dan Radman, Kent Turner, Dick Ward, John Kriz, Krista Neilson, Claire Tiscornia and Phil Williams.
Ward, a Glass House neighbor who has begrudgingly recused himself in the past on P&Z matters related to the organization, was the only commissioner to ask questions of Sages—10 in all, including some that merited responses. Ward asked whether there’s a limit on the number of vehicles that would park at West (it’s limited because there’s a limit on how many ticket-holders can visit the site), when during the day that would happen, whether visitors could arrive whenever they wish, whether the Board of Ed needs to approve the parking at the school (yes), whether instructions will be given to visitors on where to park (yes), whether it would be clear that there’s no parking on neighborhood side streets, whether visitors would be instructed on how to get across Ponus Ridge from the school (yes) and whether there’s a fixed time period for the exceptions to be in place (much depends on future guidance from Gov. Ned Lamont).
The Commission agreed to condition the approval not only on the BOE’s separate decision about school parking lot use, but also on Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni’s sign-off on “crowd control” measures.
In a letter to P&Z, Sages noted that The Glass House’s major annual fundraiser—the Summer Party, originally scheduled for June 13—is to be re-scheduled for Aug. 15, though the limit on how many would be allowed to attend will depend on future guidance from Lamont.