Author’s Note: Due to a potential conflict of interest, this story was not written or edited by GOOD Morning Wilton‘s editor. Any future GMW coverage of the developer’s application for 2 and 24 Pimpewaug Road will be handled similarly to avoid any conflict of interest.
At Tuesday night’s Oct. 12 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), Wilton’s Director of Land Use and Town Planner Michael Wrinn updated the commission on big news about a potential new apartment complex at 2-24 Pimpewaug Rd.
The developer, Continental Global Ventures (CGV), has withdrawn from the review process and will not be submitting a formal application.
3 Strikes, Now Out
Each time, P&Z essentially sent the developer back to the drawing board for what the commission judged to be uninspired vision along with a lengthy list of concerns about the developer’s plans for the roughly 7-acre property.
Although the members of the commission expressed that CGV was moving in the right direction and being responsive to commissioner feedback — with plan revisions such as preserving the historic Gregory house on the property and moving more parking underground — they generally concurred with commission chair Rick Tomasetti‘s assessment that the developer was merely “checking off the boxes” and had not yet produced a truly visionary site plan.
Wrinn did not indicate whether CGV had offered any explanation for its decision to stop pursuing their plans, but his comments suggested that CGV recognized the high hurdles they would have to overcome before they stood a chance of gaining P&Z approval. (GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to two representatives of CGV’s project team for comment, but did not get a response before publishing this story.)
“The commission in my view has been very development-friendly, trying to make these projects go through. But [P&Z has] a certain level of expectations, ” Wrinn said. “The commission has been doing the right thing, trying to raise the level of a project. This was a case where [commissioners] were trying to encourage [CGV] to go in a certain direction with their project, and it just didn’t work out for them.”
Commission chair Rick Tomasetti reacted to the news, saying, “It’s a tough site, it’s got the historic house, it’s not in a commercial zone. It was a big ask.”
He further reflected, “As a commission, we are setting a high standard. We’re ok with development, it’s just that we want good development that measures up to what the community is looking for… but it’s a good [pre-application review] process that we go through that benefits us and the applicant. Not every application gets approved, but we’re here to listen and make projects better.”
In a matter-of-fact manner, commission vice-chair Melissa-Jean Rotini noted, “Not every pre-app[lication] becomes a real app[lication].”
Is A Home Run Even Possible?
Throughout the review process, Tomasetti has emphasized that the Pimpewaug Rd. property is challenging.
For one reason, a large swath of wetlands cuts across the center of the property, limiting developers’ options for site planning. They would also have to contend with slopes, adjacent residential neighborhoods, and the historic home.
During P&Z’s three reviews of CGV’s plans, Tomasetti and other commissioners pressed the applicant again and again for greater vision and better solutions that would ultimately serve Wilton’s best interests. (Similar pressure has been applied to other applicants for the various development projects being considered in recent months.)
In the Sept. 27 meeting, Scott Gance, a Wilton resident and consultant to CGV on the project, pushed back on P&Z’s resistance to the latest plans, urging the commission not to miss the opportunity for a good solution for the Pimpewaug property’s challenges in a search for the perfect one.
Furthermore, Gance argued, the risk of inaction on a property like 2-24 Pimpewaug Rd. could mean further deterioration of the site.
He emphasized the economics of a lower-density project such as townhomes or a “village” concept just aren’t feasible for the developers.
Further complicating any development of the site is a small, 0.2-acre sliver of town-owned land on the Danbury Rd. side of the property. (CGV had been working to either acquire that parcel or work around it.)
CGV is not the first developer to initially pursue a project on that site but eventually decide to walk away from the Town’s application process. In 2019, a plan to develop a senior-living facility on the site was withdrawn by the developer, following some public opposition and P&Z obstacles, despite support for the plan at the time by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
Since that time, P&Z has made greater overtures to developers about its willingness to consider concessions on zoning regulations in cases where they serve important goals in Wilton’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
Still, the plans for Pimpewaug Rd. were fraught with details that would push the acceptable standards for building height, density and setbacks, among other issues, such as pedestrian connectivity to Wilton Center and traffic flow.
Now that the latest developer has walked away, the question Tomasetti raised in the previous P&Z meeting seems to remain as the big open question:
“What is that that we think is the best use from a planning perspective for this property?”