At the Monday night, Dec. 1 Board of Selectmen meeting, a lawyer for developer Patrick Downend proposed to Wilton town officials a change in tack from his original controversial plan to develop the 1-acre property at 44 Westport Rd. into multi-family housing that would including affordable units.
Downend’s attorney J. Casey Healy explained that his client has proposed purchasing a 1-acre town-owned lot at 1 Old Danbury Rd. for a multi-unit development project; as part of the deal Downend and the town hope to strike, the property at 44 Westport Rd. would remain as a single-family property, a condition that would stay with the deed in perpetuity if the deal is negotiated to completion.
After what he called “vigorous objections,” from neighbors and town residents, Healy said Downend went back to the drawing board for modifications to the plan. “Having received the neighborhood comments, Mr. Downend tried to look for a solution.”
First selectman Bill Brennan explained that the town has been working with Downend for some time, and if the deal is signed, it will be a “win-win situation for the town and for Mr. Downend.”
“Obviously this is a proposal the town has been seeking–it gives more affordable housing, in the right places, that’s appropriate and suitable. We wanted to solve the problem over at 44 Westport Rd. We reached out and spoke with Casey and Mr. Downend and had several meetings over the last couple of months,” Brennan said.
Lisa Huff, one of the main organizers of the citizens’ group “Save 44 Westport,” which opposed the original planned development, embraced the new plan.
“We’re really happy to hear that 44 Westport will be saved. The one acre lot near the train station and near town center seems to be a much better fit for a large multi-unit housing building,” Huff told GOOD Morning Wilton.
Both Healy and first selectman Bill Brennan agreed that the site was “ideal” as it’s located within walking distance from Wilton Center, and very close to the train station and other transportation, as well as other town amenities like Merwin Meadows. (see project renderings, below)
The new proposal would involve Downend building a 30-unit apartment building at the site, and nine of the units would be classified under the 830-g affordable housing program.
Brennan said the project has “a lot of plusses for the town, to accomplish many of the objectives we want to accomplish. The negotiations are not accomplished yet, but we’re very close. But we wanted to get this out to the public.”
One condition for the deal to close is that Downend wants to make sure that his development plan can get through all land use approvals, including from Wilton’s Inland Wetlands Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission. He will almost certainly put the property at 44 Westport Rd. up for sale.
“Whether 44 Westport Rd. will be put up for sale now or after he receives approvals is to be determined,” Healy said.
Answering a question from selectman Michael Kaelin about how the town insures that the property at 44 Westport Rd. is not developed, Healy told the selectmen that, “There will be a deed restriction in perpetuity that will not allow multi-unit development on the property.”
The development, tentatively named “Station Place,” would be situated close to Wilton Commons. There are plans for a second-phase expansion of Wilton Commons, adding on an additional 23 units. According to Healy, the development would have no effect on any plans for Wilton Commons, as determined through consolation with the town planner Bob Nerney.
Nerney confirmed that. “The town has a lease arrangement with Wilton Commons to utilize 4.8 acres of land, with a fixed boundary. Any expansion would bend away from the property being discussed tonight,” he said.
Brennan added that the new development would compound any efforts the town has made at increasing affordable housing in Wilton.
“We’ve been trying to get more affordable housing, and we’ve done a good job. With 23 additional units at Wilton Commons, it will bring the total number of units to 75.”
Healy added that some of the town’s current affordable housing units are due to expire soon, and the nine units proposed by his client Downend would help supplement any town need. “This will at least replace 9 of them,” he said.
The nine units would be classified as affordable housing for 40 years, and would be included in the count of affordable housing units the town must have, per state statutes.