Author’s Note: Due to a potential conflict of interest, this story was not written or edited by GOOD Morning Wilton‘s editor. Any future GMW coverage of the developer’s application for 2 and 24 Pimpewaug Road will be handled similarly to avoid any conflict of interest.
The Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission recently conducted a pre-application review of a developer’s conceptual plans for an apartment complex on Pimpewaug Rd., near Danbury Rd., to be named Alterra Wilton.
It was the second such review conducted by P&Z at the request of the developer, Continental Global Ventures, LLC, (CGV). And much like the first review, P&Z sent a clear message that CGV has not convinced the commission that the project would be in Wilton’s best interest — at least, as the developer currently envisions it.
The very purpose of the pre-application review is for such open dialogue. It is an informal, non-binding discussion between an applicant and town officials, a preliminary step in the process toward a final application, which may or may not ultimately be approved by the town.
In the first pre-application review, held on Apr. 26, CGV representatives described the complex they envisioned as a “first-rate, luxury community” with 162 apartment units and an array of what they called “resort quality” amenities.
However, P&Z commissioners identified a long list concerns about the initial concepts, including several related to setbacks, affordability, wetlands, traffic, pedestrian connectivity, and the impacts to neighboring residences. Also of concern, the historic Gregory house (shown below) was not part of the plans.
Howard Rappaport, a principal with CGV, began by saying, “We listened very carefully to the concerns and suggestions that the commission provided to us in April … We made numerous modifications in response to those concerns and suggestions.”
Rappaport went on to discuss what he called “the most significant modification,” which involves the preservation “in perpetuity” of the historic Gregory house at 2 Pimpewaug Rd.
“At the April pre-application [review], your commission expressed to us the historical importance of the Gregory house to the town,” Rappaport said. “We’re happy to report tonight that after careful study, we’ve revised our plans to preserve the Gregory house in its present location.”
Rappaport explained that preservation efforts would include refurbishing the house, installing a new roof, addressing structural issues, new landscaping, and other improvements. CGV would plan to convert the offices currently occupying the first floor of the house to a residential apartment. The second floor would either be used for CGV offices or also converted to an apartment.
In order to accommodate the house and address other P&Z concerns, the site plan was modified, shifting the three proposed residential buildings slightly to the north and east, and reducing the number of units from 162 to 156 (73 one-bedroom and 83 two-bedroom units). The revised plans also forced some changes to parking.
The CGV team was hoping the commission would be pleased with their efforts to address P&Z’s initial concerns, but after listening to the applicant’s presentation, commission chair Rick Tomasetti was far from satisfied with the new plans.
Tomasetti first took aim at the proposed changes to the parking areas, which come within just a few feet of neighboring property lines.
“That’s not a positive improvement,” Tomasetti said, emphasizing that Wilton’s regulations pertain not just to building setbacks, but parking areas as well.
While lauding the goal to save the Gregory house, Tomasetti felt the revised plans lacked a creative or thoughtful approach to the unique topography and property as a whole.
“I appreciate trying to retain the historic structure. As a community, we would like to retain it … [but] it’s like an orphan. It’s not included in this site plan as anything meaningful. Honestly? I think all you’ve done here is check the boxes off,” Tomasetti said.
“I don’t see where you’re doing anything here that’s inventive or creative or exciting,” Tomasetti said frankly. “You’ve jockeyed some stuff around, but I don’t see the great strides. You’re not hearing that we want you to be inventive. You’re asking for relief from regulations and I don’t think you’ve created anything here that’s really inviting.”
“Where’s the excitement?” Tomasetti asked. “You [CGV] didn’t figure it out.”
Commissioner Chris Pagliaro echoed Tomasetti’s criticism that the latest plans fall flat, saying he had hoped to see something that “really played to the topography” and “addresses the uniqueness of that intersection.”
CGV’s plans are significantly constrained by wetlands in the center of the property. Commissioners recognized CGV’s efforts to avoid encroaching on the wetlands or their buffer areas, but wanted to see more architectural vision in CGV’s presentation and not just a “utilitarian” assessment of what could be done on the property.
“Where’s the delight”? Pagliaro pondered. “There’s no presentation about the delightfulness of how the buildings are doing something to utilize the site and why it’s beneficial and why this is a good solution.”
The CGV team was disappointed with the feedback, but they defended their approach as having prioritized attention to the Gregory house and wetlands issues as a first step.
The project’s civil engineer, Patrick O’Leary, assured the commission their traffic questions would be also addressed, once there is general agreement on the site plan.
“We’re hoping to settle on a site plan prior to moving on to topics like a traffic signal or traffic at the intersection of Pimpewaug and Route 7,” O’Leary said. “We remain committed to a traffic study. We remain committed to doing a warrant analysis that may provide an opportunity to construct a [traffic] signal there [and] similarly, working with the community and the [P&Z] commission on the manner in which pedestrian connectivity from this [Pimpewaug] side will be provided to the train station.”
Tomasetti offered some encouragement to the CGV team.
“I think there’s something here, but you haven’t hit it yet, Tomasetti said. “Don’t be too disheartened. This is part of the process. [The feedback] is intended in good faith to make your project better and better for the community. We look forward to another dialogue.”
The development at 2/24 Pimpewaug Rd. is just one of several potential multi-family housing projects being considered in Wilton at this time. See GMW‘s recent special report on the direction of Wilton’s housing landscape for more information.