Final rendering of proposed LDS Meeting House at 241 Danbury Rd.

Being “constructive and collaborative” with people applying for new development projects in Wilton is a primary part of the Architectural Review Board/Village District Design Advisory Committee‘s mission. The Committee members fulfilled that mission on Thursday, Aug. 4, when they held a special meeting to review four projects that will soon be heard at the Planning & Zoning Commission.

The fact that there was even meeting was part of that collaboration. The ARB/VDDAC had not been scheduled to meet during its planned summer hiatus until Sept. 8, which would have delayed these four projects from advancing to P&Z until at least late September. Instead, three of the projects are now eligible to be on the P&Z agenda as soon as Monday, Sept. 12 and one, M&T Bank, was able to get on the agenda for Wednesday, Aug. 24. 

As part of its advisory role with P&Z, the ARB/VDDAC “work[s] with applicants … to foster successful design outcomes that are appropriate to and representative of Wilton’s unique character.” With the early special meeting on Aug. 4 helping move the approval process along, each of the four applicants that presented thanked the committee for holding it.

Minor Signage Changes Coming to Danbury Rd.

The committee worked quickly through two straightforward signage applications: M&T Bank at 31 Danbury Rd. and Hartford Healthcare Corp. at 50 and 60 Danbury Rd.

The former was an application to update existing signage following M&T’s acquisition of People’s Bank. ARB/VDDAC member Kevin Quinlan called the plan, “minimal, clean, and elegant.”

The latter was an application for new signage at the back of the Hartford Healthcare Corporation complex to indicate two new tenants, Advanced Radiology at 60 Danbury Rd. and Soundview Medical at 50 Danbury Rd.

Both projects were well received and ARB/VDDAC agreed to recommend that they move forward with P&Z.

Final Tweaks for Residential Conversion of Girl Scouts Offices

The first of two more substantial projects was a second and final review of design plans for the adaptive reuse of two office buildings at 523-529 Danbury Rd. into a nine-unit apartment complex. The structures in question are the former Girl Scouts of America building and an adjacent 1820 federal-style structure. They sit on a site that also includes a third office building, a small cottage, shed, and fenced dog runs built by exiting tenant Bone & Bark Inn.

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Presenting for the applicant, architect Philip Cerrone went over changes made in response to feedback from ARB/VDDAC at the prior review on July 7. The new proposal updates the window plan for the historic structure from casement to double-hung windows, more in keeping with the style and era of the building’s construction, and reduces the number and height of light poles across the site.

Google Maps Image of 523 Danbury Rd. showing six-over-six windows in place on both floors

Chair Rob Sanders spotted an error in the proposed renderings, recalling that the second-floor windows at 523 Danbury Rd., which are not being changed as part of the project, are six-over-six panes as well, not four-over-four as shown. Screenshots via Google Maps appear to back up his recollection. ARB/VDDAC requested the applicant make one final change, to use six-over-six windows throughout the building, which the applicant was receptive to. The group also briefly discussed septic plans for the site, its potential impact on existing trees, and the need for a more robust landscape proposal when the project is heard at P&Z. With those final comments and changes noted, Town Planner Michael Wrinn agreed to produce an advisory report to P&Z recommending the project for consideration.

Third Time’s the Charm for LDS Meeting House

The lengthiest discussion of the evening concerned the application for a new Mormon meeting house at 241 Danbury Rd., the long-vacant lot that sits across from Town Hall. After two rounds of design feedback on June 9 and July 7, architects Robin Benning and Rob Burgheimer were back with updated plans incorporating any previous recommendations made by the ARB/VDDAC members.

Benning presented the changes, which included adding planted parking lot islands and peninsulas, relocating trash facilities and storage shed, and incorporating new dormers along the roof fitted with louvers to accommodate mechanical attic units. The latest design also eliminates a historical monument area that conflicted with central LDS rules and which the committee felt the project would be better off without.

Apart from some discussion of lighting specifics in the parking lot and debate about the best color for the roof louvers (the committee prefered white over black), the design was well received.

“I think you’ve done a wonderful job with this version,” Quinlan said. “The landscaping is greatly improved, and you indeed addressed the site, parking, and lighting issues we brought up. The building looks great.”

Burgheimer thanked the committee for its time and insight throughout the process. “Honestly,” he said, “This is a much better project today than where we started.”

Benning closed the presentation by saying, “We feel strongly that the Wilton Meeting House will be an attractive addition to your community and we request that you prepare the report recommending that we move to the next step. We look forward to working with you in this important process.”

Looking Ahead

The next meeting of ARB/VDDAC is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8. Before concluding the meeting, Chair Rob Sanders asked Wrinn if there had been “any movement” on getting a new member for the committee to replace former member Laura Perese.

Wrinn reported that “he hadn’t heard a name yet” but encouraged the committee members to send suggestions for new members and he would get them to the First Selectwoman for a potential appointment.