At its Aug. 16 meeting, the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission conducted a pre-application review of potential development plans for 3 Hubbard Rd.
It was the third time P&Z had seen ideas from the applicant’s team, and the commission was very pleased with the evolution of the site plan and architecture from earlier concepts.
This time, the team included Wilton resident Jeff Kaplan, a commercial real estate expert, who was named as a consultant on the project. Kaplan is vice president of investment sales at TRUE Commercial Real Estate in Westport.
The 1.267-acre property — located in Wilton Center, between the U.S. Post Office and the intersection of Old Ridgefield Rd. — already has one apartment building, known as IVE at Wilton Center (formerly the Wilton Arms Apartments).
The plans call for a roughly 27,000-square-foot second building to be constructed on the site, up the hill at the back of the property. It would have 24 units, including three one-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom units, and four three-bedroom units.
“Exemplary” of How The Process Should Work
A pre-application review is an informal, non-binding discussion between an applicant and town officials, a preliminary step in the process toward a final application, which ultimately may or may not be approved by the town.
Commission chair Rick Tomasetti felt the iterative review process worked particularly well in this case.
“This has been kind of a long [pre-application] process, but I will say, I think it’s been beneficial to you as an applicant,” Tomasetti said, after watching the team’s latest presentation by David Goslin, the project’s architect, along with land use attorney Christopher Smith and IVE representative Kevney Moses.
“You’ve definitely listened to us,” Tomasetti told the team, praising the latest effort as “out of the box” and “not the same old, same old.”
The other commissioners voiced agreement. “I think you’ve come back with a better product that you originally started with,” Eric Fanwick said.
Christopher Pagliaro went even further. “This is exemplary as to how the process should play out.”
“I’ll use this as an example to some of the other pre-[applications] that we’ve been working with,” Pagliaro continued. “I think you went back and you listened.”
Pagliaro, who is also an architect, added, “For me, it’s refreshing to get such a presentation from an architect because I think that’s what makes great town planning … more so than just engineering and trying to get approval.”
Pagliaro’s comments were an apparent reference to a proposal for a multi-family development at 2/24 Pimpewaug Rd., where the commission felt the architect’s vision for the property was lacking.
The commissioners’ comments were likely also intended to send a message to other applicants who have recently come before P&Z with their preliminary plans and have been told by P&Z their plans lack inventiveness or inspired design or were out of step with Wilton’s interests.
The Latest Plans for 3 Hubbard
Goslin told the commission the team re-visited nearly every aspect of the earlier plans, in an effort to make them “unique and transformative,” with particular attention to the specific issues raised previously raised by the commission:
- Number stories: the proposed building has the appearance of three stories, not four, with a covered roof terrace, a shared amenity for all tenants (in addition to a balcony or ground floor patio for all units)
- Visual impression: updated and improved in many ways, including the placement of the main door, a less symmetrical/repetitive facade, modern casement windows and other building material choices
- Context: commissioners praised the plans for more effective use of the building’s design into the sloped topography as well as for taking “cues” from the surrounding properties
- Connectivity: the revised plans offer more direct pedestrian access to Wilton Center destinations and town amenities
The latest plans can be found on the town website. In explaining the changes, Goslin told the commission, “Technically by the building code it’s still a four-story building, but it doesn’t look like a four-story building. We’ve kept the scale down and we’ve introduced different materials on the elevations here to kind of break up the massing and add visual interest to it.”
Goslin also gave examples of “design cues” (such as the use of brick and triangular lines at the rooftop, for example) taken from a number of other buildings in Wilton Center and incorporated into the new design to improve its responsiveness to “context”.
Tomasetti felt the plans were successful in that regard. “I think you’ve come a long way on the architecture. It’s not just regurgitating classic colonial style. I think you’ve done a good job here of looking at Wilton Center,” he said.
Pagliaro agreed. “I think you picked up a lot of the flavor of the town.”
Goslin showed a series of renderings to illustrate the views of the building from Hubbard Rd. and along Old Ridgefield Rd., where it is largely screened from view.
Perhaps even more than the other features, the applicant emphasized the improved connectivity as a cornerstone of the project. In response to the earlier P&Z feedback, the applicant added sidewalks for pedestrian access to Wilton Center, noted in red in the rendering below.
The new sidewalk would also be designed with landscaping that would serve as a “pollinator pathway,” with native and adaptive plant species that will promote pollination.
Moses told the commission the “well-lit and safe pathway connecting our site with Wilton Center” would also be “aesthetically pleasing and good for the environment.”
As yet another benefit, Moses said the new sidewalks would also provide the neighboring Community Nursery School of Wilton with improved connectivity.
Using the aerial photo below, Moses showed the commission just how strategically located the property is in Wilton Center.
“Our proximity to the amenities that are within Wilton Center [is] vital to our operation. The two are intrinsically tied,” Moses said. “The ethos of this project is to activate Wilton Center and provide great connectivity for the residents of [the 3 Hubbard Rd.] community to the great amenities that are within Wilton Center.”
Moses highlighted the proximity of Wilton’s train station. “If there would be a transit-oriented development for multi-family use in Wilton Center, there would possibly be no better example than this property,” he said.
Transit-oriented development (TOD) has been a frequent topic of discussion at both local and state levels (though recent state zoning reform efforts failed to make TODs “as of right” to developers).
The applicant also noted 10% of the units would be designated as affordable housing units.
Moses said the team was eager to submit a final application.
Getting around the existing zoning regulations for Wilton Center will be a hurdle for the applicant, particularly on setbacks and site coverage.
The applicant will draft a proposed regulation text change for P&Z to consider.
Among other things, it would have to be mindful of other regulations in the Wilton Center zone, which, as one example, allow for retail space on the ground floor. (There is no retail space in the plans for the proposed new building.)
Both Tomasetti and Town Planner Michael Wrinn urged the applicant to schedule a pre-application review with the Architectural Review Board while working on the proposed text amendment before submitting a final application.