Doughnuts and Developments: P&Z Decisions Signal Progress

Monday night, Feb. 14, the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed a bevy of site development plans and special permit applications, taking action on several of them. No public hearings were held as part of the agenda, so the meeting focused on discussion and decision-making by the Commission members themselves.

The Commission took steps towards approving two applications that had been the subject of much discussion within P&Z and other town commissions and boards.

Rise Doughnuts

Hugh Mangum and Laura Malone’s effort to open a permanent location for their renowned pop-up doughnut shop at 28 Center St. in Wilton Center inched ever closer toward opening day. The Commission was briefed on last week’s discussions at the Village District Design Advisory Committee (VDDAC), which had initially expressed serious objections to the original location and design of an exterior accessibility ramp, and posed a suggested improved alternative that would run along the back and southern edge of the property line.

Town Planner Michael Wrinn provided background and context. “This project was approved [by P&Z] last year and at that time there were no plans for anything exterior. By November, building code people got involved and a few things need to be added.” These items included the ADA-accessible ramp and an air conditioning unit, among others.

“Normally this would all be done at the beginning,” Wrinn noted, explaining why the applicants were now returning to P&Z. “But they didn’t realize it had to be done.”

At the suggestion of VDDAC, Mangum and Malone revised the plans for the restaurant’s dining patio in addition to adding screening for new mechanicals, a plan that was met with rave reviews from the VDDAC, an advisory committee of P&Z. This change, along with the amendment to allow for outdoor dining, was also well-received by the members of P&Z Monday night.

“Personally, I think this is a great new use here,” said P&Z Chair Rick Tomasetti. “Extending dining to the outdoor patio makes a ton of sense. It’s exactly what we’re looking for from the Plan of Conservation and Development and in the Master Plan. And I appreciate what VDDAC did turning it into an L-shaped ramp.”

Tomasetti asked about a lighting plan and Mangum shared that Rise Doughnuts intends to hang decorative string lights during the times of the year when after-dark gathering might be happening. Tomasetti also inquired about garbage disposal and maintenance of the space, which Mangum said would be handled by Rise Doughnuts staff, in addition to offering a garbage can for public use.

Commission Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini suggested exploring a sensor option that would turn the lights on when the patio was in use after Mangum stated that the patio would be open to the public, not just customers.

Later in the evening, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the amended special permit requested by Mangum and Malone, who have said that Rise Doughnuts could be open in as little as a few weeks.

Sharp Hill Square

The Commission also reviewed updated plans for signage at the mixed-use development under construction at 200 Danbury Rd. Dubbed “Sharp Hill Square,” the development will include retail, offices, and 24 residential units. As part of the project, the developer agreed to restore the historic Raymond Morehouse House as an adaptive reuse opportunity. In January, in light of supply chain challenges, developer Patrick Downend received permission from P&Z to “phase” the project, opening and occupying parts of the complex as they finish construction rather than waiting for the entire project to be complete.

At that meeting, the Commission had balked at the size and scale of the signage planned for the site, which included a 15’ x 11’7” sign along Danbury Rd. and an 8’ x 9’3” sign along Sharp Hill Road.

“I’ll be honest, I’m scared to death of these signs,” Commission member Christopher Pagliaro — who was not in attendance Monday night — said during the Jan. 10 meeting. “I know it’s a difficult thing with these kind of developments with so many tenants, but I think we’re getting into Las Vegas territory. It scares me. I don’t know how to judge a sign of this size.”

Downend returned to P&Z on Monday night with a plan that included narrower signage positioned lower to the ground, with a 30% overall reduction in sign size, gentler LED illumination, and ground cover at the base of the signs.

The commissioners acknowledged the reduction in signage scale and seemed pleased with the updates to the design, which had previously also passed muster at the Architectural Review Board. However, Rotini spotted a significant sign element that was not included in the application.

“Those letters on the stone wall,” she asked. “Does anyone else see them?”

Downend replied, “Those are in fact on the wall. They blend in so well, I lost sight of them. They’re not necessary.”

When asked if he wanted to update the application to include the stone wall signage, Downend said, “I don’t want to complicate the submission by adding a new element this far into the process. The tenant panel is the most important aspect to this package. If I could come back at some point I might pursue it, but I’d rather lose it at this point.”

Wrinn reminded the Commission that by regulations, this complex would have one sign, and that the purpose of the special hearing process is to assess whether additional or more significant signage should be granted to an applicant.

“That said, these signs have come down tremendously in size,” he said. “I believe the Danbury Rd. sign lost nearly four feet.”

Later, during a discussion about signage for a coffee shop planned for the complex, Wrinn reiterated ARB’s feedback to the Commission that all signage should be consistent across the various tenants operating in the space.

After a brief discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to direct Planning & Zoning Department staff to draft a resolution approving the new signage plan for Sharp Hill Square.

Looking Ahead

Following these agenda items, the Commission reviewed new accessory dwelling unit regulations and heard updates from subcommittees on the by-laws review process and the creation of a master plan for Wilton Center. These topics will be covered in a subsequent article from GOOD Morning Wilton that will run later this week.

Regular meetings of the Planning & Zoning Commission are currently scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 23, and Monday, Feb. 28, however, the former is likely to be canceled. The next meeting of the Commission’s master plan subcommittee is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 24.