Rolling Hills renews employee housing request

For the second time this year, Rolling Hills Country Club has asked the Planning & Zoning Commission to allow it to house employees on site at the club, and it still does not have an answer.

Earlier this year the club withdrew an application requesting 12 externs — young people from other countries who wish to learn the hospitality business — be allowed to live in a house on the club grounds when it seemed likely the commission would deny it.

At a meeting on Monday, Sept. 10, attorney J. Casey Healy presented a revised request, this time scaled back to eight employees. The application also included detailed house rules and a plan for a house monitor to enforce the rules.

"We listened to your concerns about who would supervise," Mr. Healy told commission members, "and we came up with a job summary of a house monitor."

The house monitor would be one of the eight employees. While the employees would most likely be young — late teens to early 20s — the goal, he said, would be to hire a house monitor who was at least 21.

"What's going to keep him honest?" Commissioner Peter Shiue asked.

Mr. Healy said the monitor would get an additional stipend. Anyone breaking the rules would face immediate termination, he added.

Mr. Healy also said the club would be willing to impose a noise limitation in line with the town's current noise ordinance. Town Planner Bob Nerney pointed out that while well intentioned, the noise ordinance is aimed at things like outdoor equipment, not human behavior.

Nevertheless, Mr. Healy said the club would be willing to impose a 55-decibel maximum "outside the house as opposed to the property line," at night.

"I appreciate the efforts you've made in modifying the application," Commissioner Mike Rudolph said. He then asked if the club was still seeking 12 employees, where would the remaining four live.

Mr. Healy said the club would seek outside housing.

Speaking against the application was Ann Ferguson, who lives directly across from Rolling Hills on Hurlbutt Street.

While she said she has enjoyed living across from the club for nearly 30 years, the club has not always been a good neighbor.

"In this, our biggest concern is I'd like all of you to visit this house if you haven't," she said. "The house wasn't maintained very well. Eight people in this house is a real concern of mine."

Mr. Healy had said no exterior changes were planned to the house and Ms. Ferguson said it was "too bad because it's not pretty," citing a general lack of upkeep and junk behind the house.

To the commission she said, "It sounds like you're deciding how they are going to live, not if they are going to live there."

She said friends told her a similar living situation at the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien resulted in parties "like at a frat house."

Commission members agreed to hold the hearing open until their next meeting on Sept. 24.