The (mostly friendly) stand-off between the Planning and Zoning Commission and developers eager to rush projects through ahead of the new master plan continued this week at the Commission’s Monday, Dec. 12 meeting.
Before diving back into the latest application in the debate — the new multi-family complex proposed for 12 Godfrey Pl. — the Commission elected officers for the new term. Chair Rick Tomasetti, Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini, andSecretary Eric Fanwick will all continue their roles after being unanimously reelected. The Commission also highlighted that a position is available on the Architectural Review Board/Village District Design Advisory Committee, which the town hopes to fill early next year.
Debate over 12 Godfrey Pl. Picks up Right Where It Left off
During the prior meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, the Commission held firm in its earlier comments that projects within Wilton Center requiring zoning changes should wait for the completion of the area’s master plan in early 2023. At the time, Liz Suchy, attorney for the applicant, had said of the wait, “Two weeks is one thing, six months is a whole other ballgame. I’m not trying to be cute or condescending, but we need to move this ahead.”
Pinning down this timeframe was once again the focus of conversation this week. Both Suchy and architect Rich Granoff cited “six to 12 months” as their estimate of when Wilton Center’s master plan would be fully adopted. Also, for the first time, Suchy explicitly raised the specter of Connecticut’s affordable housing law, which effectively allows developers to sidestep local zoning in towns like Wilton where less than 10% of residential units are considered affordable.
“If we can’t reach a resolution that is satisfactory to everyone, I think we would probably be faced with returning with an 8-30g. As everyone knows, that may not be something that delivers to you a project of the kind and scale and typology that Wilton Center would benefit from,” Suchy said. “But we would love to be in a position to work cooperatively and come to some compromise.”
Tomasetti responded, painting a very different picture of how long this final stage in the master planning process would take, and addressing the 8-30g comment directly.
“I don’t think this is a six-month thing, and I don’t know why you think it’s six months,” he said. “As we said in our meeting last week, this will be delivered by the consultant by the end of the year, complete with those regulations in hand. If you want to bring an 8-30g, that’s within your rights, but I don’t think that’s your goal. I think you want a nice building.”
Town Planner Michael Wrinn then laid out the final steps in the process. The Master Plan subcommittee is meeting again with the consultants Thursday evening, Dec. 15, to review the second half of the regulations, which will govern nearby sections of Route 7/Danbury Rd., and to review changes to the zoning overlay introduced for Wilton Center proper. The final master plan and proposed regulations will be submitted and posted on the Commission’s website later this month, followed by a public hearing held early in the new year.
At the suggestion of Suchy, Granoff agreed to wait for the proposed regulations to be posted later this month and revise plans at least partially ahead of the Commission’s Monday, Jan. 9 meeting. This schedule allows a public hearing on the 12 Godfrey project to proceed in parallel with the hearing on the master plan itself.
“We want to do good by the public,” he said in conclusion.
Before closing the matter, the Commission also offered preliminary feedback on the design, forecasting some changes that could be made now to bring the proposal more in line with the upcoming new regulations. Specifically, they discussed moving air conditioning units off the street level to the roof, bringing the façade of the building down to street level to better ground the structure, and rethinking the design and public/private use of a corner space on the northern end of the property.
Granoff was amenable to these changes, referring to them as, “a lot of good suggestions that are relatively easily implemented.” He and Suchy agreed to an extension of the project’s review period to allow discussion to continue at the Jan. 9 meeting.
Later in the meeting, the Commission reviewed a more modest proposal — an alternative sign package for Cycling Sports Group, soon to be formally known as Cannondale, operating at 1 Cannondale Way. In an unusual turn of events, the sign in question was mistakenly installed before being reviewed by P&Z. However, the Commission had no objections and approved the application unanimously with little debate.
Wrinn also updated the Commission on two recent pieces of news. The first is the letter from Wilton Historical Society historian Dr. Julie Hughes about the possible existence of a 275-year-old burial ground for enslaved and free Black Wiltonians located at 331 Danbury Rd. This rediscovery, if confirmed, could derail plans to redevelop the site, a matter that was covered in GOOD Morning Wilton earlier this week. Wrinn explained that with no current application under consideration, the Commission does not need to act in any way yet. However, the Building Department, Zoning Department, and Health Department have all been notified that no permits may be issued for the site until the matter is resolved.
He also shared that the Town of Ridgefield reached out to inform Wilton that it is considering a new affordable housing regulation that would require all developments with more than four residential units to incorporate at least 15 percent affordable housing. He explained that it could be informative to follow this topic as a reference point for what other towns are considering in the affordable housing sphere.
The next meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commissionwill be held on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023 and a heavy agenda is expected. In addition to the master plan regulations and revised plans for 12 Godfrey Place, the LDS Meeting House at 241 Danbury Rd. and an application for Verizon antennae at 50 Danbury Rd. are expected to be on the docket.
The Greater Wilton Center Master Plan Subcommittee is meeting tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 14, for a final conversation before the plan and new regulations are sent to the full Commission and opened for public comment.