At Tuesday night’s (Oct. 12) meeting, the Wilton Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) managed multiple public hearings and took action on some key matters, ranging from a new two-lot subdivision to a temporary ban on cannabis establishments and much more.
It was certainly the longest P&Z meeting in recent memory. Here’s our re-cap:
863-875 Danbury Road (Connecticut Humane Society)
By far the most substantive part of the P&Z meeting involved the Connecticut Humane Society‘s application for a new headquarters on 863-875 Danbury Rd., amid an open public hearing in which the applicant’s team of lawyers, engineers, architects, landscape designers, sound engineers and traffic experts are fielding a number of questions and criticisms.
Due to the complexity of the discussion and the level of public interest, GMW will be reporting on this in greater detail in a separate story. Our coverage will include:
- Comments by CHS director of operations Theresa Geary about what residents can expect in terms of key activities and procedures at the CHS facility
- The analysis presented by an acoustic engineer and noise control expert, who concluded there would be “little to no auditory impact on neighboring residences” from barking dogs
- Assurance by CHS’s land use attorney that no plans for future expansion are being considered at this time
- Defense of the proposed modern architecture as warm, welcoming and inviting, consistent with CHS’s design goals and the “language of the site”
- Results from an additional traffic analysis, specifically addressing activity at the nearby sports field, estimating an average of 48 cars per hour during game times
- More comments from neighbors in the area, primarily concerned about noise and property values
The public hearing has been extended until the applicant’s team re-appears at a future P&Z meeting, most likely on Nov. 8. Notice will be posted on the Town website.
30 Sturges Ridge Road
P&Z continued an open public hearing on a two-lot subdivision application for a roughly 5.75-acre site in a residential zoning district.
The application materials, including drainage reports and survey work, can be found on the Town website.
One resident submitted a letter of concern about the project and also spoke during the hearing, notably about water drainage issues she feared could impact her neighboring property.
Since the public hearing was initially opened, the applicant has received feedback and approval from Wilton’s DPW, including the proposed drainage plans. Some changes had been made based on the DPW feedback, such as changing one driveway from pavement to gravel, along with a curtain drain.
Commission chair Rick Tomasetti recused himself from the discussion and subsequent vote due to a conflict. The commissioners present voted unanimously to approve the application. The public hearing is now closed.
481 Danbury Road
The commission has opened a public hearing on a special permit application that would allow an addition to the existing veterinary clinic adaptive use at this property.
The original house on the property was built in 1837. It was approved for adaptive use as a veterinary clinic in 2005 and is presently the location of the Cannondale Animal Clinic.
The addition would include a new 248-sq.ft. exam room and 43-sq.ft hallway connector.
The commissioners were not particularly concerned about the proposed addition and other modifications at the site which are entirely at the back of the house and modest in size.
The application materials can be found on the Town website. The public hearing will remain open until the Health Department gives its approval as well.
“Sunset” of the Architectural Review Board (ARB)
P&Z considered a zoning regulation change that would remove the sunset provision that would otherwise end the current ARB function as of November 5, 2021.
As the application explains, “In Nov. of 2019, an Architectural Review Board (ARB) was created, with a sunset provision of two years, ending the ARB on Nov. 5, 2021 unless [P&Z] action is taken.”
The proposed amendment “would eliminate the sunset provision allowing the ARB to continue.”
One option would have been for the commission to extend the sunset provision to a future date rather than eliminate it entirely. Director of Land Use and Town Planner Michael Wrinn said he felt the two year “trial” since the ARB’s inception has been sufficient for the commission to have gauged the ARB’s value.
Noting that the ARB’s work is closely related with P&Z’s, commission chair Rick Tomasetti said, “This commission has been advocates of higher design. The ARB is part of the process. I think it’s worthwhile.”
While Tomasetti favors extending the life of the ARB, he also wants to review how it’s working.
“At some point, and through the master planning, we need to look at all the ARB’s processes [and] how it’s working out in terms of what they’re delivering to [P&Z] … We need to be discussing what our expectations are, what the deliverables are … the idea here is to make design better,” he said.
Commissioner Chris Pagliaro agreed. “It’s been successful. The bar of design has been raised since we implemented this.”
Commission vice-chair Melissa-Jean Rotini echoed the support. “When we put the ARB in place, the point was to get an upgraded level of design in town. I think they’ve done that.”
Commissioners Doris Knapp, Florence Johnson, Peter Shuie, Eric Fanwick, Jill Warren and Matthew Murphy also expressed appreciation for the ARB’s contributions and the belief that the ARB’s function should continue.
ARB chair Rob Sanders joined the public hearing to offer his input. “I am very proud and appreciative of the work of my fellow board members,” he told P&Z.
Sanders responded to Tomasetti’s comments about the ARB’s processes and deliverables. “You’ve touched on the hardest thing, which is the interface between the ARB as an advisory group to [Planning and Zoning] and the Board of Selectmen, and [knowing] what our range is.”
The commissioners present voted unanimously to approve the regulation change, removing the sunset provision. The public hearing is now closed.
Temporary Prohibition of Cannabis Establishments
As GMW previously reported, P&Z conducted a public hearing last month on a proposal to temporarily prohibit all cannabis establishments in Wilton for a period of one year.
The move is intended to give the Town a window of time to observe the rollout of the complex new law (enacted on July 1) that legalized cannabis in the state and to assess what commercial activity is in Wilton’s interests to ultimately allow or prohibit.
The commission initially discussed the proposed zoning amendment at its Sept. 13 meeting. That was followed by the public hearing on Sept. 27.
The vote to formally adopt the resolution took place at Tuesday night’s meeting. With commissioners Pagliaro and Warren absent for the vote, the commissioners present voted unanimously to adopt the resolution.