Darien’s Great Island Allowed to Continue Riding Lessons, Horse Boarding

Serenity Stables in Great Island, Darien (CT Examiner)


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DARIEN – The Planning and Zoning Commission has voted to allow riding lessons, horse boarding and nonprofit programs at the Great Island stable, ending a monthslong debate over the facility’s legality. 

Over the course of two public hearings, the town and current stable lessee Serenity Stables argued that for-profit operations at the facility – which was built in 1912 by the previous property owners, the Steinkraus-Ziegler family – predated the adoption of town zoning regulations in 1925, which named Great Island a residential zone. Darien purchased Great Island for $85 million in May. 

Vice Chair George Reilly, the sole member who opposed the application, maintained at the Tuesday meeting that the horse stables are not permitted in a residential zone. 

But commission member Michael Nedder compared the Great Island stable to Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club, another equestrian facility in a residential zone. Established in 1914 as the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, the stable offers riding lessons, horse boarding and operates the nonprofit Ox Ridge Charitable Foundation. 

“I would liken it to Ox Ridge Hunt Club. Same thing,” Nedder said. “It’s a not-for-profit that has people making a profit out of it.”

Despite Reilly’s doubt, the remaining commission members agreed to allow commercial stable operations on Great Island to continue under specific conditions outlined in a final resolution released by the Planning and Zoning Department on Wednesday.

While many Darien residents wrote letters to the commission in support of the stable, two residents living less than a mile from Great Island aired their concerns

In the June letter, residents Allan Andersen and Ina Ghaznavi said they can clearly see and hear Great Island traffic from their house. They said trucks transporting horses to and from the stable sometimes arrive at night and wake them up.

“The noise of the truck, the beeping that trucks are required to do when they’re backing up, and the shouts of instructions disturb the quiet enjoyment of our property and a good night’s rest,” the neighbors wrote. “The trucks’ glaring lights used at night cause further disruption.”

Under the approved resolution, Serenity Stables cannot schedule horse pickups or deliveries after 9 p.m. Additionally, the stable cannot house more than 18 horses at a time, can only hold lessons by appointment and cannot ride horses on the accessway, within 20 feet of a residence or on the beach.

Earlier this month, the commission delayed their vote on the application as they waited for the planning and zoning staff to write the resolution. 

In a Wednesday statement to CT Examiner, Serenity Stables owner Ruth Nicodemus reflected on the commission decision and the stable’s history.

“I am proud to be the stable that gets to continue on the legacy of riding on Great Island, and that I look forward to continuing to serve the residents of Darien with our riding program and therapy program,” she said.

Full coverage of the meeting can be seen at Darien TV 79 here