Wilton has always been an animal-friendly town. If all goes according to plan, Wilton may raise that profile even higher with the possible arrival of the CT Humane Society, which is exploring building a large facility on Danbury Rd. at the north entrance to town.

Next Thursday, March 4, Wilton’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) will conduct a pre-application review of preliminary plans for a CT Human Society location on an 18-acre parcel at 863 Danbury Rd. According to the conceptual designs, informal materials presentation and draft site plan, the facility will feature an animal shelter, a veterinarian clinic, and offices, as well as pathways and exterior animal runs and play areas.

The informal materials plan shows a drawing of a building with a bit more modern and contemporary than the architecture that’s typically seen in Wilton. The documents describe the vision for the plan as “Modern and Forward-Looking” as well as “Open and Light-Filled.”

Other phrases that describe feeling that the developers are aiming for include “Welcoming and Safe,” “Exciting to the Eye,” “Warm and Friendly,” and “Professional and Compassionate,” with “Inviting and Visible Entrances.”

The documents include examples of materials and architectural elements that the developers hope to emulate in the project.

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Wilton’s town planner Michael Wrinn explained that the pre-application review is the first step of a much longer process toward any final development. It’s an informal discussion for an applicant to start to get initial feedback from town officials and doesn’t have any legal bearing on any application just yet.

“Essentially this is just testing the waters with the commission on their conceptual designs and give them some back-and-forth direction of what [ARB members] would like to see or their feelings on the particular materials or type of building that [the Humane Society] is proposing,” Wrinn said.

To get to an approved development stage on any proposed project, an applicant typically has to go through a formal application with up to three land-use boards:

  • the Architectural Review Board to seek direction on design and aesthetics, especially as it fits into the site and with adjacent properties
  • the Inland Wetlands Commission if the project is situated within 100 feet of any wetlands or watercourse, to determine if the project is environmentally safe and that any wetlands on the property are protected according to town regulations
  • the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), either to make sure the project conforms to the town’s land-use regulations for where its located, or to seek approval for special exemptions or potential changes to regulations in order to carry out development.

Gregory and Adams attorney James Murphy will represent the project in front of the town boards on behalf of the CT Humane Society. He said the project isn’t yet an official application, but he has also scheduled pre-approval hearings with Inland Wetlands and P&Z as well as with the ARB, and confirmed that his client is very eager to move forward with this project in Wilton.

Using feedback from the informal reviews, Murphy will eventually file a formal application, and the project will have to go through public hearings and consideration at all three boards. Both Murphy and Wrinn agreed that the likely timeline for this project doesn’t make it a reality until likely next fall or winter.

“It certainly could take until New Years to get this all done,” Murphy said. “We have somewhere between eight to 10 hearings over the course of the next six or seven months.”

One of the hurdles that Wrinn said the application will have to overcome is the terrain.

“It’s a difficult property in that it may be 18 acres, but you do have a lot of it that is heavily sloped, so there’s not too many uses for that. And you do have some wetland issues there–you’ve got a watercourse that goes through it. So all of a sudden it starts to get tricky in how you design it, and how you propose a site plan that actually works with those obstacles,” he explained.

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One other thing Wrinn said the boards will look at is how well the completed project would work in context with the wider neighborhood–how will it deal with traffic, will there be noise coming from the facility, can you put the size of the building they hope to build on the property given the current zoning?

There’s also one issue in particular that Inland Wetlands will consider–animal waste.

“There’s no question the Inland Wetlands Commission is going to be looking at that when they review that, they’re keenly aware of that issue. If they have a large area outside, that’ll go along with correct processes in order to resolve any of those potential issues. Their run/play area, is it gravel or is it paved? Is it some sort of rubber surface? That’s a detail that we’re not even looking at at this point, but obviously it will be on the table the minute it gets to Inland Wetlands,” Wrinn said.

Following the ARB pre-application review on March 4, (the agenda is online and there is a Zoom call scheduled, beginning at 5 p.m.) the proposal is also on the agenda for P&Z on Monday, March 8 at 7:15 p.m.