Two new apartment complexes may soon be headed Wilton’s way. On Monday, Sept. 11, the Planning & Zoning Commission held pre-application hearings for 131 Danbury Rd. and 64 Danbury Rd., two sites that are currently home to underperforming commercial office buildings. The Architectural Review Board weighed in on both proposals last week.
As always, Chair Rick Tomasetti clarified that the purpose of a pre-application hearing is to allow prospective applicants to have a “candid discussion” with the Commission about a project earlier on in the design process. These discussions are non-binding for both sides and no public comment is allowed at this stage.
131 Danbury Rd. Gets all the Love
The first of the two projects is a proposal for a 208-unit multifamily residential complex by AMS Acquisitions. This site lies directly south of 141 Danbury Rd., the 173-unit multi-family complex proposed for the former site of the Melissa & Doug corporate office. The project would be “as of right,” meaning it complies with the existing zoning on the site and does not need to pursue a special permit or regulation change.
The design for the site includes a wood-framed, public-facing amenity structure dubbed “the jewelbox” by the applicant, a description that the Commission members would echo in their comments. Tomasetti praised the concept as a way of breaking up the scale of the larger building behind it.
Several Commissioners called the proposal “thoughtful,” and Commissioner Chris Pagliaro praised the applicant team for presenting a coherent vision for the site. Environmental elements of the proposal were also well received, particularly the plans to remove invasive species and restore a riparian border along the Norwalk River.
Before closing, Town Planner Michael Wrinn previewed next steps, including the likelihood that the Commission will ultimately request a peer review of the traffic impact of the project, which was also required at neighboring 141 Danbury Rd.
64 Danbury Rd. Doesn’t Delight
The second pre-application of the evening picked up a project that was originally brought to P&Z in 2021 but never formally submitted as an application. The developer, Samuel Fuller, explained that the pause was caused by tenant issues at 64 Danbury, which have since been resolved, combined with the emergence of the 141 Danbury site as a more immediate opportunity.
The new design calls for a 100-unit multifamily complex of mews-inspired townhouses, each with its own private entrance. Although Tomasetti and others questioned whether the mews concept works in the current form, the Commission members acknowledged that the challenging nature of the site itself limits the possibilities for the building design and site layout. Fuller previewed that he will likely seek a zoning regulation change like the one ASML recently received, to ease the requirements for building on a steep slope.
But the Commission pushed the applicant to revisit the architectural design of the site, which went through revisions over the weekend in between ARB’s review and this evening’s meeting.
“The other one looked like a Super 8, this one looks like marine barracks,” said Tomasetti. “But it’s going in the right direction.” Commissioner Ken Hoffman echoed those concerns, saying that the current concept “has an institutional quality to it.”
Fuller promised to return with a clearer vision on placemaking, revised architectural designs, and better renderings of how the complex will appear from Danbury Rd.
In addition to the two pre-application hearings, the Commission discussed the future of zoning regulations related to cannabis businesses, outdoor dining, and dance studios, a group of agenda items that will be covered later this week.
And a tentative date for the next meeting of the Greater Wilton Center Area Master Plan Subcommittee was mentioned: Tuesday, Sept. 19. Tomasetti noted that the final product the group is working towards is more than a master plan—zoning regulation changes to Wilton Center and the nearby Danbury Rd. corridor are also being finalized and presented alongside one another.