P&Z Seems Ready to Approve First Hurdle for Wilton Heights
At Monday night’s (Sept. 24) meeting, the Planning & Zoning Commission seemed to indicate its readiness to make a planned development at 300 Danbury Rd. happen. Following the last of several public hearings on two applications for the property, P&Z commissioners made favorable comments about their willingness to approve changes in town regulations the project’s developer has asked for.
The developer of the planned Wilton Heights project has described a mixed use commercial and residential development on the parcel now known as Crossways Plaza at the intersection of Danbury Rd. and Ridgefield Rd. (Rtes. 7 & 33).
The proposed development includes two buildings that will be designed to appear to be five separate structures in a downtown setting. There are two and one-half stories of residential space above one-story of neighborhood type retail that will be broken into 5-10 separate businesses. There are 74 residential units currently planned. Retail parking will be in front and on the sides and residential parking will be hidden from view under the buildings. Some of the structures are touching, which the developer has said adds to a village appearance.
There have been multiple hearings on two applications filed by Wilton Heights LLC–one seeking a zone change for three residential lots adjacent to the plaza at 3, 7, and 11 Whitewood Ln., from Residential (R-1A) to Wilton Center (WC) District; and the other proposing text changes to regulations on building height and lot size requirements (area and bulk).
The discussions Monday night took on a curious tone, because technically, no one was supposed to be talking about the project itself–a third application for a special permit for the actual project–won’t be heard until later in October. Commissioners scheduled the opening of the public hearing for that application on Oct. 22 hoping to have the first two applications settled and any changes in place before they hear and review the site plan for the redevelopment.
On Monday night, the majority of the public who spoke about the applications did so in favor–more than 20 people who filed one by one to sit in front of the commission to briefly state their names and say, “I support the zone change and text changes.”
Opposition came from three speakers, two of whom live in the Crowne Pond development abutting the Danbury Rd. and Whitewood Ln. parcels.
The zone change would extend the Wilton Center zone across Rte. 7. One issue the commission debated is the question of whether it would include an affordable housing component–something currently precluded in Wilton Center zoning. The developer has argued in the past that any affordable housing component would make the project economically not feasible.
Support for the development has come from town officials–from the first selectwoman to the Economic Development Commission–and residents, many of whom have signed an online petition in support. They say they’re eager to pursue opportunities for change to Wilton’s zoning regulations that will encourage development and help grow the town’s commercial tax base.
One argument against the project urges P&Z to delay making such changes until the town completes the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) update, a process that is concurrently underway but won’t wrap up for another year.
In their comments during discussion after the public hearing closed, the P&Z commissioners seemed to favor making the changes.
Sally Poundstone noted that the developer, “…has worked with us… and has been very responsive to our comments… We have heard from the community. I think we should take action…it’s time to do something positive.”
Chris Pagliaro noted that “…a lot of these changes are in line of what we’ve discussed in the future POCD,” and added that waiting until the POCD process was complete would be too long.
Bas Nabulsi agreed: “The town can’t come to a standstill while we work on the POCD. This application has been looked at in all angles, we have a full record, insight from a lot of people, we should move forward…”
Commissioner Doris Knapp was straight to the point: “… to deny with so much going for it would be an exercise in stupidity.”
The Commission instructed town planner Bob Nerney to draft resolutions of approval for review and discussion at the Commission’s next meeting on Oct. 8, 2018.