At the Monday, July 11 meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission, two “straight-forward” applications received approval, while a third hit the latest in a series of stumbling blocks along the road to consideration. Commission Chair Rick Tomasetti also previewed the next in the town’s master plan series, which will focus on Wilton’s town amenities.
Wilton Land Conservation Trust — 183 Ridgefield Rd.
The Wilton Land Conservation Trust’s (WLCT) application to use a historic barn on its 183 Ridgefield Rd. property as an educational center was continued to a fourth meeting. Since being urged by the Commission to “up your game” and submit a more robust application in the initial May 23 hearing, the project has been beset by technical challenges and confusion about the review procedure.
Originally introduced by architect Rob Sanders, the project is now being presented by Stephen White, WLCT president, due to a perceived conflict of interest given Sanders’ role as chair of the Architectural Review Board (ARB). ARB is an advisory committee to P&Z whose members are appointed by the Commission.
The latest issue was a misunderstanding about the role of a letter addressed to Wilton Police Chief John Lynch. Signed by Lt. David Hartman, the letter addresses traffic safety at the sole entry/exit point for 183 Ridgefield Rd. and recommends that visitors exit only to the right, southbound, due to inadequate sightlines in the northbound lane. The applicants believed this letter would double as the traffic report required by the special permit process, but the Commissioners explained that a traffic study looks at questions beyond the Police Department’s review.
“A traffic study and a safety review are two different issues,” Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini explained. “Whether or not the safety issues can be remedied by a right-turn-only sign — I’ll weigh in on it, I think the answer is no — that doesn’t go to the point of whether a traffic study should be provided. A traffic study would not just be related to safety.”
White agreed to return at the next meeting scheduled for Monday, July 25, with updates on the traffic study and a full presentation on the stormwater drainage study also required as part of the review process. The Commissioners also outlined additional information they would like to see about plans for the use of the site, including a tentative calendar or schedule of programming, and more detail regarding on-site staffing, trash removal, plantings, and lighting.
Rolling Hills Country Club Addition Rolls Along
Appearing for the first time, representatives of Rolling Hills Country Club presented a special permit application to allow the construction of an addition to the existing clubhouse, as well as an outdoor terrace area. These changes, described as “de minimis” by the applicant’s attorney Doug Bayer, are not intended to have any impact on membership or traffic in and out of the property.
The Commission did receive one letter of concern from a neighbor on Cobblestone Place regarding water runoff. Bayer noted that the club has made efforts to meet with neighbors concerned about this issue and “is committed to addressing anything that isn’t working properly.”
After a brief question and answer session and an opportunity for comment from the public, of which there was none, the Commission proceeded to close the public hearing and later voted unanimously to approve the special permit.
Wilton Child Development Park — 11 Grumman Hill Rd.
The final special permit heard during the meeting was an application by Wilton Child Development Park to allow a portion of its property at 11 Grumman Hill Rd. to be used by existing tenant Center for Growth and Development (CGD) as a child daycare facility. CGD offers applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism.
Casey Healy, attorney for the applicant, explained that the site is zoned as a Design Enterprise District (DE-5), which normally requires a minimum lot size of five acres. However, the property was first developed 250 years ago and is grandfathered in at a size of 0.85 acres. He outlined the two buildings involved in the application, one a historic structure dating to the 1750s and the other a newer office building constructed in the 1980s. The applicants are seeking to replace an existing addition to the historic building and add a porch and access ramps, along with an exterior staircase for the newer building. A fenced playground will be added to the site as well.
The project has already completed the required reviews by ARB, Inland Wetlands Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Fire Marshall, and other town entities.
“It would be a good asset for the community to have a use like this basically across the street from ASML,” said Tomasetti. “It’s a way to convert an older building and keep it in use, which takes the pressure off it as a historic site.”
The Commission voted unanimously to approve the special permit with two amendments, one to require that adequate sight lines be provided by relocating a ground sign and trimming vegetation, and a second to require Department of Public Works approval of the drainage system.
Ignition Started on Amenities Master Plan
As a final topic, Tomasetti introduced the Commission’s upcoming master plan process on town amenities, which is set to begin just as the Wilton Center Master Plan prepares to wrap up this fall.
Tomasetti explained that throughout the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) process, discussion of amenities in Wilton was a frequent topic, especially as they measure up to offerings in nearby towns. He cited Ridgefield‘s Tiger Hollow Stadium, New Canaan‘s Waveny Park, and Darien‘s Hunt Club as competing examples.
“There has never been a comprehensive plan to deal with our amenities,” he said. “These are our open spaces, trails, parks, sports facilities, turf fields, and non-turf fields. We don’t understand their capacities or what we need in terms of the future of these amenities.”
P&Z will take the lead due to its experience with master plans and its staffing capacity, with input from a broad range of stakeholders. Tomasetti reported that he has spoken with former P&Z chair Scott Lawrence; Parks and Recreation Commission member John Macken; and current P&Z commissioner Chris Pagliaro about serving on a subcommittee that will shepherd the process forward. Representatives from the Conservation Commission and Inland Wetlands Commission are also expected to serve on the subcommittee.
The group will look to distribute a request for proposal (RFP) in early fall and will begin by reviewing similar planning processes underway or recently completed in Fairfield and Darien.
The next meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission will be held on Monday, July 25. Several active projects are expected to be on the agenda, including the new driveway at ASML and Kimco’s redevelopment of its Wilton Center campus.
On Wednesday, July 20, the Greater Wilton Center Master Plan subcommittee will meet with consultants BFJ Planning to discuss the latest work underway in the process.