Author’s Note: Due to a potential conflict of interest, this story was not written or edited by GOOD Morning Wilton‘s editor. Future GMW coverage of the developer’s application for 2/24 Pimpewaug Road will be handled similarly to avoid any conflict of interest.

On Monday night, April 26, 2021, the Planning and Zoning Commission conducted a pre-application review of a developer’s potential plans for a sizable, amenity-filled apartment complex on Pimpewaug Road, near Danbury Road.

The meeting is just the latest one in which the commission has tackled head-on the subjects of diverse housing options, housing density, affordable housing, and the direction of local zoning regulations in Wilton.

As an easier task, the commission also unanimously approved amendments to Regulation 21386, which will extend the permits on outdoor retail and dining in Wilton Center and other business zones through March 31, 2022. Those permits were initially approved to help businesses deal with COVID-19 restrictions, but the commission sees benefits for merchants and the public in extending those permits and will likely seek to make such outdoor activity more permanent after March 2022.

The pre-application discussion for 2 and 24 Pimpewaug Road, which could include 162 apartment units as initially envisioned by developer Continental Global Ventures, LLC, was a more challenging agenda item for the commission.

Continental is not the only developer expressing a desire to build apartments in Wilton right now, raising strategic questions about the direction Wilton may be heading and the collective impact of multiple development projects.

“Unprecedented” Interest 

Just days before the P&Z meeting, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice raised the topic in her April 19 update to the town, with a headline that read, in part, “400+ New Apartments?”

Vanderslice wrote, “Interest in building apartments in Wilton is at an unprecedented level. The Planning and Zoning Commission has had or has scheduled pre-application discussions with developers about four projects totaling 493 apartments. A discussion doesn’t guarantee an application and the discussions are non-binding. You can read more on this link, scroll down to Other Matters & Preliminary Reviews.

Besides 2/24 Pimpewaug Road, other potential projects include 3 Hubbard Road (27 units in Wilton Center), 64 Danbury Road (116 units in the Wilton Corporate Park) and 141 Danbury Road (188 units at the former site of the Melissa and Doug corporate office).

While Vanderslice is encouraging residents to be aware of these potential developments, the need to increase Wilton housing options is one imperative of Wilton’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which aims for approximately 2,000 new units that would serve a more diverse population (such as young singles, downsizing homeowners and affordable housing qualifiers), among other goals.

Pimpewaug Road Pre-Application Review

A pre-application review is an informal, non-binding discussion between an applicant and town officials, just the first step in the process toward a final development plan, which may or may not ultimately be approved by the town. (NOTE: all renderings shown below are very preliminary. They do not represent final site plans or architectural designs.)

Several representatives from Continental’s project team, including Wilton resident Scott Gance, a commercial real estate professional, attended the meeting to discuss various aspects of the planning for the complex, which is being called “Alterra Wilton“.

The lots at 2 and 24 Pimpewaug Road are just under 7 acres, combined. While the property does not actually possess Danbury Road frontage, one of the proposed buildings on the site would have a strong visual presence along Danbury Road, as seen in the rendering below.

In addition to the building above (designated as Building 1 in yellow, below), Alterra Wilton would potentially include two other buildings (Buildings 2 and 3, also in yellow below), plus a 5,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse (shown in pink).

Continental representatives were quick to describe the complex as a “first-rate, luxury community” and highlight the array of what they called “resort quality” amenities, such as a pool area with cabanas, fire pit and outdoor lounge areas, as well as a number of indoor amenities, as shown in the two conceptual renderings below.

According to Continental’s team, Alterra would target “renters by choice,” who were described as those who can afford to own but who choose to rent for lifestyle reasons, like empty nesters, young professionals, and others in transition, such as from divorce, building a home, etc.

There would be a total of 162 units, including 67 one-bedroom and 95 two-bedroom units. In that respect, the Continental team felt the proposal would be consistent with the goals in Wilton’s POCD. They also believed the complex would be “an incubator” for new homebuyers, particularly those new residents coming out of New York.

The project team noted the property’s unique topography several times. The property includes significant wetlands (outlined in the center of the site plan rendering above), which the developer says would be a “feature” rather than a “constraint” in their proposed plans.

“It would be our intent to construct a walking path with a bridge through the wetlands, clean up the wetland areas… to refurbish those areas and create an amenity, a walking area through there with seating areas, etc., [where] people could actually enjoy some of the natural features associated with it [such as] an intermittent stream that goes through there, stone walls, a number of different types of wildlife, [etc.],” a Continental representative said.

Continental acknowledged the final choice of architecture, “fitting with the community” and having “a pleasant aesthetic,” would be important, and emphasized the designs presented were a work in progress. They specifically sought to work with the commission and the Architectural Review Board before finalizing their plans.

“The Devil’s in the Details”

P&Z Commission chair Rick Tomasetti, who has been amenable to working with various applicants in the desire to advance Wilton’s POCD housing goals, enumerated a fairly long list of questions and concerns he felt the Continental team would have to address before the Pimpewaug Road project could be approved at some point in the future.

Key among the concerns were:

Setbacks: the proposed setbacks do not meet the minimum requirement that Wilton’s current zoning regulations would allow. Continental is wagering that the town will approve an amendment to the zoning regulation (specifically for the Pimpewaug site) in order to achieve progress toward its POCD housing goals. In addition to Tomasetti, commissioners Chris Pagliaro and Melissa-Jean Rotini also expressed great reluctance to make those types of amendments, even in a site-specific way, that could be seen as a precedent by future applicants.

Affordability: while Continental says 10% of the units would be designated as affordable housing, some commissioners felt the “luxury” aspect of the development would effectively preclude younger or lower-income renters from living there. Commissioner Jill Warren was particularly vocal on the point.

Wetlands: in addition to facing scrutiny from Wilton’s Inland Wetlands Commission, Tomasetti pointed out the proposed site plan may not maximize the wetlands as the “feature” Continental hopes it would be, since the apartments are not sited in a way to offer views over that area.

Traffic: the intersection at Pimpewaug and Danbury Road is already seen as challenging, if not dangerous. Commissioners suggested a “warrant analysis” for a traffic signal should be considered.

Pedestrian connectivity: Being located within 2,000 feet of Wilton’s train station, the project is positioned by Continental as a transit-oriented development (TOD). Commissioners questioned how “safe and convenient” the pedestrian access to the train station would be, and whether improvements to sidewalks and additional crosswalks would be required, noting those would fall under state jurisdiction. They also questioned whether the property would be considered “walking distance” to town center restaurants and stores.

Despite the proximity to the train station, the commission seemed a bit skeptical that the development would truly be considered transit-oriented, and whether the mix of 1- and 2-bedroom apartments would be optimal. The concerns were driven by the pandemic’s drastic reduction in the number of commuters and the seismic shift toward working remotely. With more people working from home, would a “plus office” be needed for the apartment floorplans?

One issue that did not appear to be of concern was parking. The plans include 310 parking spaces (averaging nearly two spots per unit), which would include 100 “podium” parking spaces (below grade) and 210 at grade level.

After the lengthy discussion of the various issues, Town Planner Michael Wrinn commented that he thought the commission was asking the right questions. He said, “I think the commission is right on point. The devil’s in the details.”

Wrinn also reiterated a concern for the nearby residential neighbors. Aerial views in Continental’s pre-application documents did not show a number of properties in proximity to the back property line. Though the project team said that it had been “sensitive to neighbors in the area” when it came to factors like siting, building height, and landscaping, there could be concerns from neighbors on Pimpewaug, Old Wagon Road or Powder Horn Hill.

Tomasetti concluded the discussion with Continental with a reminder that the numerous questions being raised were a constructive part of the process. He said, “This has been productive. I know there’s been a lot of questions and, you know, this is the way we get through it. I do think that the pre-application review is a good process, because we can get all this stuff out on the table now… I think there’s been a good dialogue and I thank you for it.”

History to Consider

Wilton residents may be familiar with Gregory’s Sawmill, also at the corner of Pimpewaug and Danbury Roads. The Gregory family, whose ancestors were among the very earliest settlers in Wilton, owned the property at 2 Pimpewaug Road until 2009, and built the home in 1860 (pictured below) which still remains on the property today.

According to Continental, the home is not listed on any historic registers and does not appear to be pending any historic designation.

P&Z commissioners pushed back that official designations were one thing, but local sentiment was another.

When pressed by members of the commission on what, if any, effort would be made to preserve any aspect of the home, Continental’s team was vague but indicated the concern would be taken into consideration in final plans.

Author’s Note: Due to a potential conflict of interest, this story was not written or edited by GOOD Morning Wilton‘s editor. Future GMW coverage of the developer’s application for 2/24 Pimpewaug Road will be handled similarly to avoid any conflict of interest.

One reply on “Developer Eyes Pimpewaug Road for 162-Unit Apartment Complex, But P&Z Approval Won’t Be Easy”

  1. Does it have to be as ugly as sin? Could there be any slight attempt to blend into the look and feel of the neighborhood?

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