They say, ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over.’ Well, in the case of the controversial, proposed development at 183 Ridgefield Rd., it may be heading in the direction of ‘over.’
Late last Friday, Sept. 22, in an unusual move, Casey Healy, the Gregory & Adams attorney for Jim Fieber, the developer behind the project sent over a notice to the Planning & Zoning Department office. The short letter on behalf of his client (183 Ridgefield Rd., LLC) requested a postponement of the public hearing scheduled for tonight’s P&Z Commission meeting on their application for a regulation amendment (#17365) designating zones where Age Restricted Overlay Districts (AROD) could possibly be established. The notice asked for a postponement until Oct. 10.
But, in an even more unusual development, that same notice from Healy also requested a postponement of another public hearing, one for an application filed by Patricia Frisch for a regulation amendment (#17366) setting a moratorium on any AROD applications for Ridgefield Rd. properties until after the town had finished creating its next Plan of Conservation and Development–in 2019. Frisch’s amendment essentially was intended to block Fieber’s AROD amendment.
Why, then, were these two opponents, who have been engaged in a contentious fight over a much-debated planning and zoning issue, filing a joint notice?
GOOD Morning Wilton was in the Planning & Zoning office when it was delivered, and was able to read the notice first hand. The last sentence in the notice was an interesting one, that gives an indication why. It reads: “183 and Mrs. Frisch are exploring other options for the use of 183’s property located at 183 Ridgefield Rd. in Wilton.”
The signatures of both parties–Fieber and Frisch–were on the notice.
Even better? The notice was hand delivered to P&Z by Fieber himself.
What’s Going On?
Not many people wanted to go on the record to discuss what was up. But GOOD Morning Wilton was able to speak to a source close to the parties who was willing to provide some details without being identified, because they were unauthorized to speak publicly.
According to this source, there was a meeting on Friday morning between Fieber and individuals associated with Preserve Wilton–Patricia Frisch; her husband, Rodger Frisch; and group founder Vicky Mavis. The face-to-face meeting was reportedly nudged along by town planner Robert Nerney. The intent was for the parties hopefully to work out some sort of compromise.
Discussion centered on how to satisfy everyone–for the Preserve Wilton folks to secure the 14-acre parcel at 183 Ridgefield Rd. as open space, and for Fieber to recoup his investment. Those involved hope to work out a way for the town to secure ownership of the property, for potential use as fields or passive recreation.
What they are likely going to propose is to offer the parcel to the town. To afford it, the town would need to float a bond around $3 million (said to be the cost basis for the property), with the hope that the Land Trust would participate financially as well. In addition, the Preserve Wilton organization would actively work to raise funds to reduce the principal on the bond. Details would have to be worked out moving forward, and of course the Town would have to approve the deal through a special town meeting, and both the Boards of Finance and Selectmen would need to approve it. But essentially, it roughly translates to about $270,000 a year. Whether those funds could be raised privately and to a large enough extent to cover yearly expense is yet to be seen.
The sit-down was reportedly “amicable,” although nothing definitive was signed to lock everyone in to the deal. But with the mutual notice that was delivered to the town Friday, postponing the hearings, it’s a pretty significant step that appears to signal the sides are headed toward an accord.
While both sides asked for postponements in Friday’s notice to P&Z, it ultimately means both applications are being withdrawn. That also means that any public hearings scheduled for the P&Z meeting tonight (Monday, Sept. 25) have been cancelled.
Nerney didn’t want to confirm anything specific and wouldn’t comment on 183 Ridgefield Rd., but did say, “I personally see no issue with people sitting down and talking out their differences. The world would generally be a better place if people did more of that.”
Frisch replied to an email request from GOOD Morning Wilton, “We have no comment at this time.”
Mavis didn’t respond to an email asking for comment.
Fieber declined to say anything other than that he was hopeful they would come to an agreement.