A fairly light agenda awaits the Planning & Zoning Commission this evening, due in part to a jampacked meeting on Monday, June 26 that included four public hearings. In addition to reluctantly approving an 8-30g affordable housing project at 12 Godfrey Pl., the Commission took a historic vote greenlighting the town’s first-ever hotel and worked through a series of applications brought by major local employers and commercial tenants.
A Thumbs up for Wilton’s First Hotel
Wilton’s long-awaited hotel is finally a go. In June 2016, P&Z approved a zoning change to allow the project but had been waiting ever since for a full application to be submitted. That day finally arrived last fall, when the town received an application proposing a four-story hotel with 120 rooms and 9,000 square feet of meeting rooms and amenities at the iPark site along the border between Wilton and Norwalk.
With approvals in place from the Architectural Review Board, Inland Wetlands Commission, Water Pollution Control Authority, Conservation Commission, Department of Public Works, Fire Marshal, and more, and a lingering parking question now resolved, P&Z was able to make quick work of the application.
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The project was approved unanimously, with the applicant’s representative, Lauren Calabria of National Resources, thanking the Commission for “a cooperative and pleasant process.”
New Parking Signage Coming to ASML
As part of the new driveway project taking shape at its facility at 77 Danbury Rd., ASML returned to the Commission with applications for a site development plan and zoning regulation change to allow for new directional signage on the property. The new signs will help direct traffic into and within the on-site parking garage, including dynamic screens that show visitors how many parking spaces are available on each floor.
Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini questioned whether a regulation change was necessary in this case, given that Wilton offers an alternative signage program that property owners can pursue. Town Planner Michael Wrinn explained that the decision to pursue a regulatory change was ASML’s choice.
After a discussion about dimming, wayfinding, and whether the signs would be visible from nearby properties, the Commission voted to approve the new signage with a requirement that the screening be reassessed once the property’s new landscaping has had time to grow in.
Rethinking Parking Requirements for Medical Offices
Wilton Investors LLC, owners of the 2-story office building at 88 Danbury Rd., intend to convert the property to serve as medical office space. The new tenant will be OrthoConnecticut, which is currently operating out of the iPark site discussed earlier in the evening. The group intends to relocate and make 88 Danbury Rd. its new flagship space.
Wilton’s current zoning regulations require that one parking space is provided for every 200 gross square feet of medical office space. Presenting for the applicant, attorney Liz Suchy outlined a proposal for three separate categories of medical space, each with different parking requirements based on their use:
- Typical medical offices: one parking space per 200 gross sq. ft.;
- Physical therapy offices: one parking space per 300 gross sq. ft., due to the larger room sizes used for individual patients; and
- Diagnostic testing offices (offering MRI, PET scans, etc.): one parking space per 500 sq. ft., due to the large scale of the machinery used and the fact that only one patient can be treated at a time.
In making her case to the Commission, Suchy referenced comments from First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice about the value of encouraging a “medical corridor” along Danbury Rd. She also cited a statistic that office space in Wilton is currently 40% vacant and offered that more flexible regulations on details like parking might encourage more adaptive reuse projects like this one.
This argument was echoed by Dr. Paul Protomastro, one of the doctors at the OrthoConnecticut practice, who testified to the Commission about the economics of suburban medical office space and the challenges of abiding by regulations based strictly on gross square footage. He offered a “Day in the Life” analysis showing that the group’s property is typically only partially in use at any given time.
“This amendment would be helpful to us,” he said. “But I think it would be helpful to Wilton to be flexible about the amount of real medical office space that a building needs and tailor the parking requirements to it.”
In deliberations, Chair Rick Tomsetti called the application, “A good market-based approach from people who understand what they need and come to us with good metrics, real evidence, and facts.”
The Commission is expected to vote on the application this evening.
A Change of Plans—or at least, Timelines—at 183 Ridgefield Rd.
Representing the Wilton Land Conservation Trust, attorney Kathleen Royle relayed the group’s request to phase the project at 183 Ridgefield Rd. Specifically, the Land Trust is asking for permission to begin programming on-site once the essential functional elements of the site are in place — the new driveway, parking areas, and septic system — but before the aesthetic improvement plans are complete.
Earlier this spring, P&Z approved a new proposal for 183 Ridgefield Rd., a site purchased by the Land Trust to be used for educational programming. This came after nearly a year of back and forth with the Commission, a process that ultimately ended with the Land Trust withdrawing the application and starting over. One of the elements of the updated proposal that received approval was a requirement that the Land Trust repair granite stone walls on the property that run alongside Ridgefield Rd. This project is among those the Land Trust was now seeking to delay.
After Commissioner Chris Pagliaro raised concerns about whether the wall project would ever be completed, Suchy agreed to return to the Commission with further details and a timeframe that the Land Trust would be willing to agree to. The project is back on the agenda for this evening.
The next meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission will be held tonight, Monday, July 10 at 7 p.m.
Commissioner Florence Johnson has notified Town Planner Michael Wrinn of her intention to resign. She was not in attendance at the Monday, June 26 meeting but is expected to submit a formal resignation to the town clerk and First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice. At that point, the search will begin for a new commissioner to serve out the rest of Johnson’s term, which concludes later this year.