Last month’s shocking turn of events in the ongoing saga surrounding 183 Ridgefield Rd. and AROD (age restricted overlay district) regulations will be center stage again, when the Planning and Zoning Commission convenes tonight. They’ll be meeting at an earlier-than-usual time–starting at 6 p.m.–and in a different location–the Wilton Library‘s Brubeck Room–in order to deal with the matter at hand.
At last month’s meeting (June 12), town counsel Ira Bloom suggested that the town rescind the controversial AROD regulation when a lawsuit filed by Ridgefield Rd. resident Patricia Frisch to block AROD development identified a “defect” in the way the town had posted public notice after P&Z approved the AROD regulation last November. Because the town published notice that the regulation would take effect on the same date the regulation took effect, rather than before the regulation became effective, case law would prompt any CT court to void the regulation.
In a surprise twist, town P&Z officials have since discovered four additional regulations that had been approved over the last year that would also fall victim to the same defect. In all, five regulations are affected:
- Regulation 16354, rescission of resolution #0716-4REG, which allowed temporary and portable lighting with outdoor recreation and/or performance events (e.g. for youth football at Guy Whitten Field or youth field hockey at North Field in the fall)
- Regulation 16355, rescission of resolution #1116-5REG, pertaining to assisted living developments and affordable housing, submitted by Young’s Nursery, Inc.
- Regulation 16356, rescission of resolution #1116-6REG, establishing provisions and procedures for age-restricted housing within Wilton’s single and multi-family zoning districts
- Regulation 16357, rescission of resolution #0117-1REG, pertaining to parking requirements for medical or dental offices or clinics
- Change of Zone 17358, rescission of resolution #0317-1MAP, changing zone from Residential (R-1A) to General Business (GB) District for 578 Danbury Rd.
At tonight’s meeting, P&Z will have to go through a lengthy administrative process to rescind each of the five regulations. First there will be a public hearing on the rescission of each regulation. Members of the public and interested parties are able to give testimony or comment on each regulation to be rescinded, and then each hearing is closed. Then, later in the meeting, the commissioners will deliberate on each one whether or not to rescind.
Once they are rescinded, whoever brought each original application to the commission in the first place–either an applicant or the commission itself–will have to bring it back up for consideration again.
“The AROD [discussion] was pursued by the commission,” says Wilton’s town planner, Robert Nerney, “but the others were through property owners or outside applicants in town.”
Nerney calls the process ‘corrective’ and, “a methodical approach, of holding the hearing to rescind, deliberating and then rehearing applications as they’re resubmitted.”
He adds that the process for reconsidering some of the regulations has already started to happen.
“Young’s Nursery, on the assisted-living facility, they have gone ahead and taken the initiative of reapplying. That will be heard later in the evening,” Nerney confirms. “Rescission has to happen first, but they have gone ahead and have proactively reapplied.”
Similarly, an application has been refiled to reintroduce the regulation on temporary lighting, and it too is scheduled to be heard tonight.
As for the application brought by Ridgefield Rd. resident Vicki Mavis, to amend the AROD regulation to delete Ridgefield Rd. from the list of possible town roads where AROD would be considered, it gets a little complicated. “If the [AROD] regulation is rescinded, it disappears. The question then becomes, ‘Is there anything to amend at that point?’ The answer is, ‘No.’” Nerney explains.
Technically, the public hearing on Mavis’ application to amend the regulation is still open, but her attorney has submitted a letter asking P&Z to continue it until the next meeting on July 24.
The application from 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC, and developer Jim Fieber, to change the zoning on the property at that location from two-acre residential (R-2A) to age restricted overlay (AROD) is also impacted. Casey Healy, the attorney on that application, has also sent a letter asking that discussion on their application be put off until July 24 as well.
Will AROD be Reintroduced?
During the last P&Z meeting on June 26, commission chair Joe Fiteni said that all five of the regulations that were found to be flawed will eventually be reconsidered by the commissioners.
“Over the next couple of months, we will continue to have new public hearings to reconsider each one of the actions that we will be rescinding. We will schedule them as time is available, from oldest to newest, so that everything is above board,” Fiteni said.
When the commission does decide to reintroduce discussions on age-restricted housing regulation, Nerney says the public will be well-informed. “There would be certainly proper notice given, descriptive notice, and the ability for people to participate.”
That means that when–and if–discussion begins again on AROD, it won’t be overnight. “The focus at the moment is trying to deal with the flawed effective dates,” Nerney says.