Local Developer Proposing New Community Believes It Meets a Real Need in Town
The main reason developer and lifelong Ridgefield resident Martin Handshy became interested in The Coach Homes at Ridgefield was the experience of his parents, lifelong Ridgefielders themselves, had when they needed to get away from the stairs and maintenance of their single family home in town. “When my parents wanted to downsize, there wasn’t anything in town that met their need for a home on one level in a maintenance-free community.”, said Mr. Handshy, “So they ended up moving out of Town even though they really had wanted to stay in Ridgefield and be close to my wife and I and their grandkids.” As he looks to his own future as well, Mr. Handshy notes that in a few years he and his wife will be ready to downsize and will be faced with the same decision: leaving the town they have lived in all their lives to move to a 55+ lifestyle community with single level homes somewhere else. “We really want to stay here.” continued Mr. Handshy, “It is a great town we have called home for 50+ years. Based on the multitude of people who have contacted us since the news of our proposal came out, we believe a lot of people in town feel the same way.”
Mr. Handshy, managing partner of Charter Group Partners, LLC who is proposing to build a community of 45 single level “coach homes” and 9 townhomes plus clubhouse and walking trails on ten acres of the former Schlumberger campus off Sunset Lane, believes his family’s experience and the need for 55+ housing that is relatively affordable is not uncommon and is backed up by demographics. Per Mr. Handshy, of the approximately 9,200 homes in Ridgefield, an estimated 7,000 of them or so are valued at $700,000 or below with a very large segment of those (~2,700) falling between $500,000 and $750,000. In addition, a large portion of the town’s population (~36%) is currently over the age of fifty and by 2025 the largest population group in town will be over the age of 55. Looking at those demographics together, Mr. Handshy believes there is ample evidence there needs to be a community designed specifically for the town’s aging residents at a price they can reasonably afford without being so called “affordable housing” subsidized by government programs such as 830-g. “I think that was one of the major criticism against the prior proposal from Toll Brothers,” said Mr. Handshy, referring to the proposal by Toll Brothers in 2014 to build 30 55+ townhomes on the property priced around $700K and up which was defeated in a town-wide referendum, “If you look at the statistics, most older folks in town can’t afford to sell their home and buy a $700,000 townhome. Even amongst those that can, at this stage in life they are looking to sell their home and buy something for less so they can either keep the rest to use in retirement or in some cases get a second home down south to escape the brutal northeast winters. With the Coach Homes at Ridgefield projected to be priced in the mid $400’s for the single level condominiums, we believe it perfectly meets the needs of the community.”
Besides the developer, at least some residents in town seem to agree. “As a resident and homeowner in Ridgefield for the past 27 years, I am looking to downsize in the next couple of years with a strong desire to stay in my home town of Ridgefield. The single-level coach home concept being proposed is ideal for me and meets all of my criteria, as I am looking to have a turn-key living solution, all on one floor with garage space, and within walking distance to the town. I truly hope everyone in town will vote yes to this development proposal.” said Deborah Murphy, who went to see The Coach Homes at Ridgefield’s sister community in Brookfield named Newbury Village. Even former lifelong Ridgefield residents have chimed in. Michael and Christine Steele, currently residents at Newbury Village, who raised their family in Ridgefield, wished such a community existed when they were looking to downsize. “The reason we moved to Newbury Village was we couldn’t find anything like this in Ridgefield, of this quality and with the social aspect of a clubhouse, etc.”, said Mr. Steele, “We really wanted to stay in Ridgefield. If there had been something like this when we were looking – we would never have left.”
One piece of criticism the proposed project has received has been the increase in the number of proposed homes from thirty homes under the failed Toll Brothers proposal to fifty-four homes under Charter Group Partners’ current proposal and specifically what that increased density means in terms of traffic. “We completely understand the concern,” said Mr. Handshy, “the first thing I think that is important to remember is that any traffic the community will generate pales in comparison to the 300+ commuters that were working at Schlumberger each day or that would travel to and from the property in the morning and late afternoon should it be turned into a commercial or corporate space. The other important thing to realize is that not all home types create the same traffic. For instance a single family home with 2 or 3 cars and both parents commuting each day to work is vastly different than a retired person or couple with 1 car who doesn’t commute during peak driving hours at all. When we first met with the Board of Selectman they were concerned about traffic as well when we proposed a higher density of single-level apartment style condominiums (the so-called “coach” homes). We were able to provide them with empirical data on actual buyer/vehicle demographics from our experience at Newbury Village that demonstrates that buyers of the coach homes tend to be older, retired or semi-retired residents who on average have only one car and travel during non-peak hours.”
|At Newbury Village…||Townhomes||Coach Homes|
|% Single Occupant||17%||51%|
|% One Car||20%||74%|
Mr. Handshy believes The Coach Homes at Ridgefield address a real housing need in town and believes if he can make his case to enough town residents they will agree. To that end, he and his partners will be hosting a series of informational sessions to explain the proposed community and his vision for it, along with offering residents a chance to ask any questions they may have. The first information session is scheduled for Thursday, January 28th and 7 pm in Ridgefield Library’s lower level conference room, another Saturday January 31st at 10 AM in the lower level conference room in town hall with the last one Saturday, February 21st at 10 AM back at the lower level of the library. In addition, Mr. Handshy encourages anyone interested in learning more to visit The Coach Homes at Ridgefield’s sister community Newbury Village in Brookfield. Information and directions to the community can be found at www.newburyvillage.com
 2012 Grand List
 2014 League of Women Voters Housing Study
 2014 League of Women Voters Housing Study
Coach Homes at Ridgefield Project Promises to Pay Back Town’s Entire Investment in Schlumberger Property in a Few Short Years
With the proposed sale of 10 acres off of Sunset Lane to a local homebuilder, and the forthcoming property tax revenues the proposed community of fifty-four age restricted homes will generate, the Board of Selectman in a few short years will fulfill their promise of recouping the investment the Town of Ridgefield made in purchasing the Schlumberger campus. At that point, the Town will own free and clear one of the largest pieces of property remaining in the heart of downtown Ridgefield.
In 2011 the Board of Selectman received approval from voters to purchase the 45 acre Schlumberger property for $7 million so the Town would have input as to what happens with the property. As part of that approval, the Board of Selectman promised to pay back the $7 million by subdividing, rezoning and eventually selling part of the property for residential development.
In 2013 the Board sold five acres of the property off Old Quarry Road to Zemo Properties, LLC for $1.25 million. This month the Board reached agreement with Charter Group Partners, LLC to sell a ten acre parcel off Sunset Lane for $4.3 million for the construction of an age-restricted community. That sale will be put forth to voters for approval in a referendum next month. If approved, with those two sales the Board of Selectman will have recouped $5.55 million of the initial $7 million investment, with the Town retaining ownership in thirty of the forty-five acres. “What we like about the sale of these two parcels is that not only is the Town given the opportunity to have input as to their development, but with the majority of the $7 million paid back to the taxpayers, we have thirty acres in the center of town with time to decide what as a community we want to see there.” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi.
In addition to the majority of the Town’s money recouped through these two sales, the property tax revenues that will be generated from the age-restricted community proposed by Charter Group Partners, LLC will in a little over three years completely pay back the Town’s investment in Schlumberger and significantly add to town coffers in years ahead. “One of the reasons it was important to the Board that the project proposed for the Sunset Lane parcel be age-restricted was so the town would benefit from property tax revenue equal to or higher than corporate tax revenues that would be generated and less peak commuter hour traffic”, continued Mr. Marconi, “with the community Charter Group Partners is proposing, we estimate it will bring in approximately $456,000/year in property taxes. With that, the remaining $1.45 million the town spent to buy the Schlumberger campus will be paid back in just over three years. At that point, the Town of Ridgefield owns thirty acres in the heart of downtown free and clear. We think this is a great deal for the town and hope the voters agree.”
|Town’s purchase of 45 acre Schlumberger Property:||$7,000,000|
|Less Sale of First 5 acre Parcel to Zemo:||($1,250,000)|
|Less Sale of Second 10 acre Parcel to Charter Group Partners, LLC:||($4,300,000)|
|Length of Time before Charter Group’s project’s annual tax revenues (~$455,598/year) pay off balance:||3.18 years|