It’s back — a proposal to extend a sanitary sewer line from Danbury Rd. to 19 Cannon Rd. and make way for a 70-unit affordable housing development in Cannondale will return to the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) later this month. Six months ago, the same project by Baywing, LLC, was before P&Z and seemed headed for a likely rejection when the application was withdrawn.
Although 8-30g, Connecticut’s affordable housing law is not explicitly referenced in the application, details of the project suggest that the developer intends to invoke the law. The 8-30g statute effectively allows developers to sidestep local zoning if a project includes affordable housing units in a town like Wilton where less than 10% of available housing options are considered affordable.
The application this time around is nearly identical to the previous one, with one notable addition: Timothy Hollister of Hinckley Allen & Snyder, LLP is now serving as lead attorney on the project. A staunch defender of 8-30g projects, Hollister helped draft the original 1990 legislation and is a veteran of some of Connecticut’s most contentious battles over affordable housing, including the recent fight over 751 Weed St. in New Canaan.
The current application is not a proposal for the broader residential development Baywing hopes to build on the site. This application covers only the extension of sewer services needed “to facilitate a proposed multi-family residential development, consisting of 70 units.” It falls into the category of an 8-24 referral, a Connecticut statute that requires an opinion from the local planning and zoning commission for certain municipal improvement projects, such as the extension of sanitary sewers.
At the prior hearing, P&Z Commissioners struggled with how to assess the appropriateness of a sewer extension with a capacity to serve hundreds of residents on a lot that, under current zoning, would only allow a single-family home. At the time, P&Z Chair Rick Tomasetti called the Commission’s charge in the 8-24 referral vague and unclear.
“We’re just looking at this particular part of the development — expanding sewer — and we’re not looking at the development itself,” he said. “But then, why extend the sewer if not for the development?”
For its part, the applicant argues that P&Z’s mandate in an 8-24 referral is clear in that the Commission may only consider the merits of the sewer extension itself.
“I keep going back to the simple facts in front of you tonight,” said LANDTECH’s Peter Romano, engineer for the project, during the Mar. 14 hearing. “We want to extend the sewer, we have the capacity, and [the POCD] recommends extending the sanitary sewer into this area. I think those are the parameters you have to vote on.”
Earlier that evening, Romano had also pointed out that this section of Cannondale is noted in the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) as a “Sewer Growth Area” where sewer extensions could be considered.
Although the project remains largely the same, the new application package submitted in September is more extensive and opens with a cover letter by attorney Hollister, who writes that Baywing has “regrouped and reassessed its rights” since the prior application and wishes to “advise” the town of certain legal parameters, copied below.
- “The Town and this WPCA may not use sewer connections and discharge capacity allocations to control land use. Zoning decisions are the exclusive purview of the Planning and Zoning Commission. WPCA’s are directed and limited to managing the sewer system.
- “A property owner in general and an applicant for an affordable housing development, in particular, may obtain permits in whatever order makes the most sense, and a town does not have the authority to prohibit collateral permit applications from proceeding unless and until a sewer approval has been obtained.
- “A town and its WPCA may not impose a de facto moratorium on sewer applications simply because a town agency is conducting a study or preparing a revised plan or infiltration study that involves the subject property.
- “While a sewer extension is characterized in court cases as discretionary, such discretion must be exercised fairly, and for reasons strictly related to management of the sewer system.”
Of the prior application’s hearing at P&Z in March, Hollister’s memo states, “Most of the discussion was about the proposed residential units, not the merits of the sewer extension or the discharge per se.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), chaired by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, held a largely uneventful meeting about the project. Hollister presented the new application and the WPCA voted to refer it as an 8-24 back to P&Z.
One point of contention addressed in the WPCA hearing included an apology from Hollister for incorrectly attributing to Wilton Director of Public Works Frank Smeriglio the following comments, which appear in the application’s cover letter.
“In a conversation with Robert Andrews, principal of Baywing L.L.C. in May 2022, Public Works Director Smeriglio confirmed that the existing system has capacity for the proposed discharge. There are no engineering or environmental issues with this application.”
Smeriglio had submitted a memorandum to the WPCA ahead of the meeting objecting to this characterization of his comments and noting that the Public Works Department had only begun its initial review of the submission.
On Thursday, Oct. 6, during the Historic District and Historic Property Commission meeting, Chair Allison Sanders took issue with another element of Hollister’s cover letter: his assertion that “The parcel… is not in a historic district.” Sanders submitted a letter of concern to P&Z, noting in part that Cannondale is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and that the existing home at 19 Cannon Rd. appears on Wilton’s Historic Resource Inventory (HRI).
The application had been on the agenda for Tuesday evening’s (Oct. 11) P&Z meeting; however, GMW has learned that the discussion will be delayed. It is now expected to be heard on Monday, Oct. 24.