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Neighbors raise concerns about expanding events at Farmington Polo Club

By Paul Palmer

Staff Writer

Residents have expressed broad support for the The Hometown Foundation’s Dream Ride Experience, which includes a car show as shown here in 2020. The non-profit, working in conjunction with Bozzuto’s, Inc. and its IGA retailers, supports animal welfare, emergency response personnel, individual with intellectual disabilities or in need, major illness, and the military. Many neighbors of the Polo Club, however, have opposed adding more events at the facility.

FARMINGTON – An effort to modify conditions of previously approved special permits for events at the Farmington Polo Club has run into opposition from the club’s neighbors. The club’s owners - Town Farm Development LLC, a subsidiary of Cheshire-based Bozzuto’s Inc. - want to increase the number of non-equestrian or polo events, but opponents say there is already too much noise and too much traffic coming from the fields.

“Frankly, it’s disturbing when you hear loud music,” said Douglas John who lives on Pembroke Hill. “Even with the doors and windows closed it is unpleasant.”

Paul Chotkowski lives across the street from the John family and calls the Polo Club a bad neighbor.

“All summer I can’t sit out in my yard with all their noise,” he told the Farmington Plan and Zoning Commission at a public hearing regarding the proposed modifications. “The thing they call a polo match goes on into the night with a dinner.”

“We have regulations for the betterment of our residents,” Plan and Zoning Chair Inez St. James said. “We’re seeing complaints.”

Neighbor Dave Dahle, who lives along Town Farm Road, is one of those that has been seeking help from the Town of Farmington. “I can appreciate all the good deeds,” he said of the Polo Club and its owners. “But these people get to go home to their quiet and have friends over. This (noise) really destroys our lives. If you had to torture someone, you couldn’t do a better job!”

Mike Bozzuto, President and CEO of the food distribution company that bears his name and whose subsidiary is Town Farms Development LLC, agreed that there is noise associated with the events. “What is concerning is we have made many attempts to improve things,” he said.

The most notable change now being sought by the owners is to allow an increase from 12 to 25 non-equestrian or non-polo events on the grounds. Speaking for the owners, David Falt said that the Polo Club has demonstrated it is responsible to concerns from neighbors. “We have invested in low-power speakers to mitigate sound volume at polo events. We’re bound by the town noise regulations and have never been cited by the town.”

In 2022, in addition to the weekly polo matches between May and September, there were also 10 other polo related events and 10 events with cars. Among the events held are many charity events, including the annual Dream Ride - which even the club’s neighbor’s support.

John Kuk lives on Waterville Road and came forward in opposition to the request to modify conditions.

“I appreciate all the positive things, but I am against the proposal,” he told the commission. “This group has not proven to me that they can prevent noise from disrupting our lives. The excessive and uncontrolled noise has forced us to give up time we could be enjoying in our backyard or along the river.”

In addressing the noise issue, Falt said that during the polo matches there are announcements and that they have purchased a new sound system for the events.

The other major complaint from neighbors concerned safety-especially along Town Farm Road during so-called “Muscle Car” shows that take place. Referred to as “Coffee and Cars” by the Polo Club, it is a showcase for cars, many of which have been customized. Neighbors say not only do some drivers rev their engines at the show, but also on Town Farm and other nearby roads. In addition to it being a problem of noise, many neighbors said they worry about safety. Some presented audio and video recordings of cars on town roads near the location revving engines and driving in what they said is an unsafe manner.

The events are normally held on Sunday mornings and Town Farm Development has agreed to push the start time back from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. They will be limited to 4 hours and, according to the paperwork filed, “shall not include amplified music or announcements, shall require additional police presence for enforcement of motor vehicle laws, shall require advanced notification to attendees regarding appropriate protocols and driving etiquette expected on premise and on Town Farm Road, and shall be limited to 12 total occurrences within a calendar year.”

But to some neighbors, the dangers of speeding, reckless driving and excessive noise need to stop. “Take that one video of the car revving its engine that I submitted and multiply it by 75 every, every Sunday morning and multiply it again when they are leaving,” said Jon Schoenhorn who lives opposite the Polo Grounds. “As they are leaving, they peel out onto the road,” he added addressing the speeding and safety issues. “I’d estimate they are going between 65 and 70 miles per hour within 3 to 4 seconds on a residential road.”

Falt said that the owners are working with the Farmington Police Department and will hire private duty officers to enforce traffic and speeding laws. Speaking about the issue, Bozzuto said he does not want to see the racing and dangerous driving on Town Farm and nearby roads. “When they are on our property we can do something,” he told the Commission. “But when they are not, we can’t. I do not enjoy it.” He added that he would participate in whatever makes the road safe. “I want to make sure we are doing the right things.”

There were those in attendance that supported the Polo Club and the attached Farmington Equestrian Club. Meredith Marinaro of Farmington said she appreciates the noise concerns but said her experience at the Equestrian Center has been positive. “My horse would have ulcers and the horses at the polo grounds all of them would be really miserable but they are not,” she said of the noise. Jennifer Bennet said she and her daughters have made wonderful memories at the Equestrian Club and hopes that a middle ground can be found. “FPC has given us so many wonderful memories I want to stand up and say let’s not stop that. I do believe we can as a community come together and work out some of the bumps, but let’s not stop the entire thing and take away a gem of the Farmington Valley.”

The Plan and Zoning Commission decided to continue the public hearing at its next scheduled meeting on April 24. They submitted additional questions to Town Farm Development and asked its representatives to also prepare answers to some of the concerns raised.

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