Wilton’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) opened two public hearings at last night’s Sept. 13 meeting, both pertaining to properties on Danbury Rd.
One public hearing — for an application to convert space in two existing buildings at 490 Danbury Rd. to apartments — was straightforward enough to conclude during the meeting. However, the public hearing on the Connecticut Humane Society‘s proposal to construct a roughly 14,000-sq.ft. building on an 18-acre property has generated opposition from some residents and will remain open.
490 Danbury Rd.
Property owner Polito Builders (Ropo, LLC) has submitted an application for a special permit and seeks to convert space in two buildings currently located on the property to residential apartments.
The main building on the 3.7-acre property is a two-story structure that was approved by P&Z in 2011 for a mix of office and residential use, with three apartments. The owner seeks to add two more apartments on the upper floor of the building, bringing the total number of units to five.
The property also includes a historic accessory structure called the “Red House” (seen in photo below) which is very visible on the Danbury Rd. frontage. The house dates back to 1795 and was once owned by the Hurlbutt family. With a reference to the state of Connecticut’s Historic Resources Inventory, the application says the Red House, also known as the Hurlbutt-Keiser House, was “identified as an important example of one of Wilton‘s earliest house forms” and is “important to Wilton‘s architectural history.”
No additions or exterior alterations are being proposed.
The application “proposes to modify the 2011 approval and change the use of the Red House from professional office to a mixture of residential and office,” including the creation of two new residential units in that building.
Floor plans submitted by the applicant can be found on the town website.
The applicant’s attorney touted the plans for providing much-needed middle housing (though not deed-restricted affordable housing) which would serve as a good alternative to larger multi-family housing complexes, and only a short distance to the Cannondale train station.
No public comment was received. As commissioners viewed the proposal as a straightforward and beneficial use of the property, they voted unanimously to close the public hearing.
A draft resolution is expected to be presented and approved at the next P&Z meeting.
863-875 Danbury Rd. (Connecticut Humane Society)
A public hearing on the Connecticut Humane Society’s plans was less expeditious.
Even after two earlier — and generally quite favorable — pre-application reviews by both P&Z and the Architectural Review Board, significant hurdles still exist before the applicant can move forward.
Ultimately, the applicant will need a text amendment to Wilton’s current zoning regulations pertaining to a charitable organization located in a residential zone. The applicant would then be seeking a special permit to allow for the construction of a new, 14,243-sq.ft. building on the 18.32-acre site.
P&Z Commission Chair Rick Tomasetti began his remarks by commenting, “I believe the pre-application review went as well as we could have expected” and praised the applicant’s team for their responsive and thoughtful upfront work.
He indicated he was receptive to the proposed text amendment.
“The text change does things that we have discussed during our Plan of Conservation and Development, which is to be a little bit more forward-thinking about our zoning,” Tomasetti said.
“This is a good example of adding some elasticity to our existing regulations,” he continued. “The regulations were formulated some time ago and may be not overly appropriate today, for current uses… This is a very good and creative solution.”
Tomasetti and other commissioners also seemed very satisfied with the site plan and landscaping.
But now that the public is weighing in, it’s clear that many residents have concerns. By one count, 21 residents attended the public hearing via Zoom.
Several residents, particularly neighbors on New Street and others in the vicinity of the proposed Humane Society facility, submitted written testimony (their letters can be seen on the town website) or spoke during the public hearing in opposition to the project or at least raising significant concerns about it.
The issues included, among others:
- Noise: with an outdoor play area planned for the animals, noise is a major concern for some residents at nearby properties.
- Traffic: residents challenged the validity of the applicant’s traffic study, which was conducted in Dec. 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic when commuter traffic was dramatically reduced, and not reflecting the usual high volume of cars at nearby fields during the spring and fall sports season.
- Left turn exit from the property: With no traffic light, workers and visitors to the facility will have to navigate a difficult left turn when exiting the property and heading north on Danbury Rd. With the facility’s entrance directly opposite New St., some residents fear that cars entering and exiting the Humane Society facility will further complicate their ability to turn out of New St. onto Danbury Rd.
- Modern architecture: some residents felt the modern design of the building was out of keeping with the very historic homes and other buildings in the area.
- Other development: residents cited the affordable housing development being considered by the town at 872 Danbury Rd. and 31 New St., new momentum for exploring redevelopment of the former Gilbert and Bennet wire mill and other potential projects all contributing to disruption, additional traffic and changing character in the area.
The applicant will have the opportunity to respond to the various concerns and questions residents have raised during the public hearing. The commission will likely schedule the applicant to re-appear at the Oct. 12 P&Z meeting. In the meantime, the public hearing will remain open.
More Upcoming P&Z Meeting/Public Hearing Dates
- On Wed., Sept. 22, P&Z will hold a special meeting and public hearing on the proposed development at 141 Danbury Rd. The application has proposed a zoning regulation amendment that would create an “overlay” to the DE-5 zoning district and seeks a special permit to redevelop the property for multifamily housing. A Zoom link for the meeting and other instructions for public comment may be found in the public notice posted on the town website.
- The agenda for the Sept. 27 meeting will include a pre-application review — the third such review P&Z has conducted — for 2-24 Pimpewaug Road. A link to the Zoom meeting will be included in the meeting agenda when it is posted on the town website.
- The Sept. 27 meeting will also include a public hearing on a proposed new regulation that would prohibit cannabis establishments in Wilton for a period of one year.