They say there are two sides to every story. Sometimes there are even more than that.
That adage seems best illustrated by 183 Ridgefield Rd., the 13-acre property recently at the center of news-making debate in Wilton. The story surrounding the property calls up several themes: property rights, historic preservation, economic development, available housing options, municipal governing, community character, zoning regulations, how Wilton serves its aging population, and more.
Last week we interviewed one main character in the story–James Fieber, the developer of the property and the principal of 183 Ridgefield Rd., LLC which owns the parcel in question. In February, Fieber applied to extend the sewer from Wilton Center up Ridgefield Rd. to number 183 in order to serve a 35-unit age-restricted housing development he proposed for the site, setting off a dramatic chain of events. So it surprised the town late Friday afternoon when he withdrew that application. [Editor’s note: We have more on that further down below].
Today, we bring in our conversations with other characters in the story, to further flesh out the narrative of 183 Ridgefield Rd.. Some things ring similar between each person’s account; some recollections and perspectives are different. Such is the nature, perhaps, of a story as complicated as this one.
We also update the news with recent events that have happened that may impact the discussion. But first, a little background on why age-restricted housing has become part of the story.
What regulation did P&Z approve and how does it impact 183 Ridgefield Rd.?
Wilton’s Planning & Zoning Commission approved a regulation change last fall (Nov. 2016) that could enable Fieber to apply to build an age-restricted development at 183 Ridgefield Rd.. If he wanted to do so, Fieber would still have to successfully navigate the P&Z approval process to make it happen, but the regulation change would allow an Age Restricted Overlay District (AROD) to be considered for the parcel at 183 Ridgefield Rd..
That move by P&Z last November simply changed a zoning regulation; it did not make any change in the zoning district. Bob Nerney, Wilton’s town planner, explains that as of now, the regulation change only designates certain areas of Wilton as potential locations for ARODs. If a developer would like to build age-restricted housing in R1A or R2A zones (one- or two-acre residential districts) there are only three roads–Westport, Danbury and Ridgefield Rds.–that could be considered as potential locations for ARODs. Currently, there are no age-restricted floating zones in Wilton.
In other words, the regulatory change simply gave an opening for someone to come in with a particular site to apply for a change in zone–it didn’t change the zone where 183 Ridgefield Rd. is located. The property is zoned Residential R-2 at this moment.
Nerney calls the regulation enabling legislation. “It allows for applications to be made because we simply don’t have any provisions that acknowledge age-restricted housing in any form or fashion.”
To get the location’s zone changed to an AROD would require several things: “It requires a change in the zone; it requires the submittal of a special permit application; it also requires the submission of a site development plan. None of which have been sought anywhere in town for this zoning provision,” Nerney says.
He adds that surrounding towns have created zoning regulation to encourage development of age-restricted housing.
“Ridgefield, Newtown, those communities were trying to accommodate a social need by having language that would allow for the possibility of an application to be made. Certainly it doesn’t guarantee that any particular site at the end of the day would be found suitable. That’s a discussion for a later day under a particular application,” he says.
How did the zoning change come about?
According to Nerney, early last spring (2016), Casey Healy, an attorney who specializes in land use issues with Gregory & Adams (and represents 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC, as well as other property owners), approached the P&Z commission with the concept of age-restricted regulation. At the time, 183 Ridgefield Rd. was not the only site with developers attached who were interested in the idea; Nerney says there were people connected to several sites on Danbury Rd. who were making similar inquiries, which led to Healy contacting the commission to ask if there would be interest in pursuing such a change.
“The discussion that ensued with the commission, I think they felt that generally the idea of trying to recognize that this is a type of regulatory provision that’s used in other communities, that this is something that should be pursued. I don’t think they were too interested in having the application come from an outside entity; that’s when the commission said, this is something we should explore, but it’s something that should be spearheaded by the commission,” Nerney recounts.
In fact, the eventual regulation that was approved was “substantially more detailed” than what Healy had originally brought to the commission, and it not only looked at single family, one- and two-acre zones, but it included multi-family districts as well.
There are examples of age-restricted housing that already exist in Wilton, although they are not the same as what’s being discussed now.
“The only age-restricted housing I’m aware of is sort of retirement housing–Ogden House comes to mind, Wilton Commons. It’s a different type of housing that has an affordability component. This (183) is different,” Nerney adds.
In helping the commission craft the legislation, Wilton’s town planner looked at other properties in surrounding towns–”…Newtown, Newtown Woods, Sunset Lane in Ridgefield, a number of others to get an idea and educate myself on the nature of the product and how it fits in or doesn’t fit in,” he says.
At the time, there was what Nerney calls “a good amount of [media] coverage,” and there was a public hearing in the fall to solicit public input before the commission adopted the regulation change in November 2016.
There’s been some speculation about whether Ridgefield Rd. was added as an afterthought to the regulations changes written and passed by P&Z, and whispers about the regulation being changed specifically on behalf of this project by town officials, including Wilton’s first selectman, Lynne Vanderslice, and possibly others.
Along those lines, it seems, Victoria Mavis, who has long led efforts to halt demolition of the house and development at 183 Ridgefield Rd., submitted a FOIA request last week for communication between Nerney, Vanderslice and Joe Fiteni, the chair of P&Z. [Editor’s note: Mavis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.]
Nerney says Ridgefield Rd. was not an afterthought or added after the fact, and that all three roads are locations that could possibly fit criteria for where age-restricted developments could conceivably go–subject to significant review, of course.
“They are major, arterial roadways. All three are state highways; they’re regional highways. As a floating zone, the language is just that–it’s language; there’s still a map change process that needs to be pursued, where the commission has discretion and can look at it in that light. That hasn’t played out yet, it has not been sought yet. It’s allowed in R1A and R2A districts, but subject to certain locations where there’s transportation infrastructure that’s potentially more conducive. That’s a finding that gets made when a site-specific location comes in–subject to further review and approvals, some of which lend great discretion. So there were checks and balances made so that suitable locations at the end of the day were found and there would be opportunity for public comment to be made.”
For her part, Vanderslice says she did not participate or provide any input on the process at all, over the months during which P&Z wrote the regulation.
“It is not my understanding that the regulations were developed with any specific property in mind. Rather they arose based on an expressed need from several sources within and outside the community. I recall being present at a Planning and Zoning meeting early in the process where the Commissioners discussed various age-restricted projects outside of Wilton. Every Planning and Zoning meeting is taped for audio. To facilitate public access, we started putting those tapes on the Town website in late February 2016,” she says.
As for the role she did play, Vanderslice points out that she has met with lots of developers since taking office–at least 10 property owners and or developers, and some more than once. “I have averaged more than one meeting per month since coming into office,” she says, adding, “Normally I don’t volunteer who I meet with in case the developer or owner/developer is in the process of bidding or buying the property or decides not to submit an application. In the past I did disclose a meeting with the developer of the Young’s Nursery property after he made his intentions public to P&Z and the neighbors.”
But she says she did meet with Fieber.
“At Casey Healy’s request, I met with Casey, Jim Fieber and Keith Russo from Jim Fieber’s firm. As was typically the case, Bob Nerney was also at the meeting in case there were questions which I could not answer. At that meeting, Jim Fieber encouraged Bob Nerney and me to visit his other projects, including a development in Stamford called River Oaks,” she says, referencing a property Fieber says is similar to what he envisions for 183 Ridgefield Rd..
“As it was a gated community, we could not do go on our own. We did not initially accept. After looking at other developments by other developers throughout the area, I was interested in seeing that one. I had heard that a couple who, I personally didn’t know, had downsized there after selling a large home in Wilton. I discussed the idea with Bob Nerney. Casey Healy took us there where we met Jim Fieber and Keith Russo. The latter took the three of us through a townhouse, the clubhouse and the pool area. It is a fairly large development so Casey, Bob and I also drove around a bit on our own.
Those kinds of meetings with developers is in her job description, she feels, because it encourages investment in the town.
“As I have said since I came into office, my door is open. Developers have come in with a project in mind or with a couple of different ideas. Some solicited my thoughts. I don’t hesitate to say if I think a project will be objectionable or controversial, but it isn’t my role to say whether a project can move forward. I am not that decision maker. That is the job of the Planning & Zoning Commission and the community through their input into the POCD. Of course I want to see reasonable and appropriate development. And I encourage developers to think in those terms. The Sewer Plan and the Plan of Conservation and Development are critical components in defining what the community considers reasonable and appropriate.”
Plan of Conservation and Development–Time for Change?
Zoning regulation change is something that’s happening with increasing frequency in Wilton.
Within the last several years, many of the applications coming in front of P&Z have required other kinds of regulation changes–increasing the allotment for parking in commercial districts, or allowing developers to increase the height of proposed projects, for example. Such an uptick in the need to change existing regulation to accommodate the regular flow of land use applications may indicate a need to revisit how well the Plan of Conservation and Development reflects the town’s ability to meet current needs.
Nerney says the POCD that was passed in 2010 reflected what the town needed then, at that point in time.
“The POCD was started in late 2008 and extended into all of 2009. The document became effective Jan. 1, 2010. That was a massive undertaking, and involved a tremendous amount of public involvement–community meetings, charettes, meetings at the library, even at the high school cafeteria, all very well attended meetings. There was a community survey that was done by an independent polling company to insure accuracy. I think back to the time frame, it was the time when the recession was just getting underway; we might have just been going into it. If you look at the POCD, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on acquisition of open space, quality of life very important, retaining quality of education in the community. It’s not just a land-use plan, it really touches all facets of the community and affects all parts of local government, commissions and boards. In fact as part of the process there was a lot of reaching out to different entities to try and integrate downtown, it was very important, trying to make downtown more vibrant. Sidewalks–that was interesting, bicycle and pedestrian access, all of those were important.”
What was true then, says Nerney, may not be as fitting today.
“What was not mentioned to a great degree was the concept of economic development and business retention. So those sands have kind of shifted. Fast forward to 2017, the things I mentioned–quality of life is just as important today as it was back then, but there’s a belief that economic development is part of that equation. When you think about it, one doesn’t exist without the other. If you have a poor economic climate then you’re not going to have the resources to sustain the quality of life. If you don’t have the quality of life it’s not going to be an attractive venue for someone to come and stay in a community.”
All of that leads to the question–is it time to look at revising the POCD and making it better reflect where Wilton is today?
Nerney is clear on how he feels: “I think the answer is ‘Yes.’”
Vanderslice agrees, noting that whatever discussions have taken place up until now should be something the town takes on as a whole.
“We now need to take that community wide, document it and formulate a plan. That happens by updating the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). The POCD is to be updated every 10 years, but we put funds in the FY 2018 proposed budget to accelerate it. Hopefully it will begin by the fall. The reasons are many:
- We have a high level of developer interest in investing in Wilton.
- We are pretty much developed out for single family. Market demand is in other forms of housing.
- We are in year 2 of a 4-year moratorium on affordable housing.
- Demand is down for commercial building space. Today’s businesses operate with much smaller space to employee ratios.
- The State’s fiscal health is in serious difficult. This has and will continue to impact Wilton.
Vanderslice says that in addition to the POCD being updated, there should also be an official sewer plan adopted by the town, given how that impacts future development, and will likely be something the town will have to deal with on a growing basis.
“The Wilton Pollution Control Authority should have a sewer plan. Town counsel Ira Bloom told that to the board when he attended our meeting on Feb. 13. I’ll be working with Ira in advance of our next meeting to understand what that document typically contains and what if any type of consultant the WPCA should engage to help with the process. I’ll bring that information to the Board at our April 12 meeting,” she says.
Kevin O’Brien, Original Realtor for 183 Ridgefield Rd.
GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to Kevin O’Brien, the realtor who represented the sellers of the 183 Ridgefield Rd. property. O’Brien declined to say anything on the record aside from, “I represented the Schlichtings on the sale of their property. I did not represent Jim [Fieber] on the property–he had a broker that represented him.”
He did confirm something he told GMW in a prior interview, that there was never a condition of sale to keep the house structure. “It was never in writing that [Fieber] had to save the place–they never made it a condition of him purchasing the property.”
The Schlichting heirs did want things to stay if they could, O’Brien says, but they knew it wasn’t a condition of the sale.
Leslie Nolan, executive director of the Wilton Historical Society (WHS), said she wasn’t aware of an offer of the Schlichting house by Fieber to the Society. She suggested we reach out to Lee Wilson and Karl Dolnier, two Wilton residents who have been on the WHS Board of Trustees and serve as co-vice presidents, chairing the Buildings and Grounds Committee. Nolan said the two men would have been more likely to have any kind of conversation about such a potential donation.
Wilson, a former president of the Board of Trustees, told GMW that, to his knowledge, the house had not been offered to the Historical Society. Dolnier, who noted that he’s a personal friend of Dave Schlichting, emailed GMW to say, “I don’t know of any offer having been made.”
We emailed Fieber to ask who he spoke to at the Historical Society to make the offer, but haven’t heard back as of press time.
In the interview we did with Fieber last week, he mentions architect Rob Sanders multiple times. Sanders is a well-known architect who specializes in historic buildings. We asked Sanders to give his perspective on the same interactions, and their accounts sometimes seem to differ.
Fieber said he had worked with Sanders to find someone to buy the barn. Sanders says he was working with his clients, a Wilton couple named Foster, who wanted to acquire the Schlichting’s barn structure before demolition, and he contacted Fieber on their behalf. Sanders considers the part he played in the story to have been that of intermediary on behalf of his clients, rather than anything else, and doesn’t see himself as having consulted or worked with Fieber on the 183 Ridgefield Rd. development.
“When Fieber had acquired the property I made the first call because the Fosters were interested in the barn. It was known that Fieber already had purchased the property at that point. We talked about the barn and at that point, the house was still standing. The barn was what they were looking for, so I reached out. He called back, and then went on to some discussion about the notion that he thought that the town needed what he described in your article–upscale, 55-plus, high quality, smaller, some form of cluster development,” Sanders recounts.
Which points to another difference in timelines about what happened and when it happened–in particular, when the idea for an age-restricted development was discussed.
Fieber’s account of the timeline seems to indicate the 35-unit plan wasn’t developed until more recently once the regulation change happened in November 2016. Sanders recalls hearing about plans for the larger development about a year earlier.
“We disassembled the barn a year ago, so my guess is, looking at the calendar, November 2015, around Thanksgiving. He had talked about his vision that it would be some kind of development for that demographic, and he referred to the Stamford project,” Sanders says, referencing River Oaks.
In our interview with Fieber, he said he had spoken to Sanders “loosely” about the project, and has been talking to the Wilton architect “for more than a year about this project.” Again, Sanders recalls his interactions with Fieber differently:
“I was interested in preserving the Schlichting house–although I have never been in it–and suggested that he needed to document what it was and that perhaps it would be an architectural inspiration for what was developed on the rest of the site, so there would be a historical influence. He did not particularly react one way or another.
“I’m an architect; I imagine design. Given the distinctive character of that house, here would be something interesting to try to do to reinterpret in complimentary structures around the site. We had conversation basically to that extent. But the house was still standing. He was undertaking remediation of hazardous materials–in old houses there’s lead paint and I don’t know whether there was any asbestos, and whatever was on the house–which is why it was wrapped in blue plastic for a while. Again, not with our advice. Preservation efforts generally try to go more lightly than what the remediation seemed to involve there.
“Beyond that, what I was interested in was connecting him with the Fosters to assure that the barn would at least be preserved in some fashion in Wilton. I ended up being the intermediary, that that was in fact acceptable. The notion that in lieu of accepting payment for it, the Fosters would make a donation to charities of their choice that were Wilton focused, was the agreement. The Fosters paid for the disassembly and storage of the barn. Fieber did not have any demolition costs, but neither did he make any profit from the barn frame ‘sale’. That was revenue neutral and hopefully one day will be a positive outcome for that particular structure.
“Beyond that, we have not had any discussion, so we were never engaged as architects for any work that was done or not done on the house, nor any site planning or any architectural design on the project. We haven’t had anything to do with the approach that he’s taken–which is the legal subdivision, [or] a feasibility site plan that was put together.”
And the last time Sanders says he spoke with Fieber?
“He came here in November of 2015, and when the barn was being disassembled, he asked me to sit in on a meeting with the Wilton Bulletin reporter [to discuss] that a deal had been made to disassemble the barn. That was the last time I’ve seen nor heard from Jim. That was probably three months later. We took the barn down early spring, around the same time last year. And that’s the last I’ve heard.”
As someone who has grown up and lived in Wilton for a long time, and with a professional eye, Sanders has an opinion that there are better areas in town for denser development than there on Ridgefield Rd..
“There are still holes in Wilton Center that need to be denser to create a planning energy. I did Library lectures and symposium about ‘Where is Wilton Going?’ People were very intrigued and excited by the notion of developing more residential properties in Wilton Center, to try to create a commercial vibrancy, and to strengthen the concept of what Wilton Center is. And there are a lot of little houses converted to offices which are pretty dead. There are properties on Horseshoe Rd. that are clearly just holding on until something larger comes along. Those would be the next natural areas, in my sight, for more development than the kind of thing Fieber, I suspect, is probably quite good at developing,” Sanders adds.
Would Sanders consider working with Fieber on the 183 Ridgefield Rd. project at that location?
“I think it’s fairly unlikely that he would ask us to be the lead designer on it. That’s a matter of scale: we are a small, custom residential firm; he is somebody who is producing $100 million projects. In many ways we would not be a good fit. As optimistic as one might be about practice, in reality, I’m not even sure we could serve him well. I’m realistic. If it were a $30-40 million project…”
But, Sanders adds, he still has his opinions.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t have a design opinion, and that we couldn’t have useful input for him. But in all likelihood, it would be associated with–and he mentioned this–he uses architectural firms (which I don’t know, which are either New York City based or based in Stamford) which are focused on larger-scale development than we typically do. As the businessman that he clearly is, he would look for something called a production outfit. There are good ones and there are bad ones. The difference is, Wilton is Greenwich is Rye to them. They don’t know the local territory, and that’s where we could add value. So I think that’s why he spoke to us.”
Sanders says he was surprised to read last week’s GMW interview–but can understand some of what was in it.
“Wilton has a particular dynamic. I’ve lived in this town all my life. I understand the sensitivities of both the market and the historical tradition of how Wilton got to be the environment that it is. In that way I have knowledge and that’s what everybody needs.”
From his unique perspective on Wilton life, Sanders says he can see some merit in some of what Fieber said in his interview about economic development in Wilton–to a point.
“Talking about it from an economic point of view, he’s absolutely right. However, then there’s the planning and social construct of what the town is, and that point of view is much more in question, as evidenced by the vehement reaction of the neighbors. Yes, it’s eminently developable land. But look at the larger context in between the 30 acres or so of the cemetery, and the northern neighbor to 183, the historic house–I actually worked on that–and the rest of the residential context. The town plan never foresaw that as a prime location for density. If the town plan represents the consensus of the population, then that has to impact this discussion.”
That’s not to say that Sanders doesn’t think it’s a good idea to build upscale age-restricted housing. What he doesn’t think is a good idea is to put it at 183 Ridgefield Rd..
“Even if I do think we really do need a place for somebody who has done well and is sitting on a $2 million house, and doesn’t want to leave town. They should be able to find a place that’s lower key, smaller and easier to maintain but still high quality from a design point of view and aesthetics. There should be that alternative, and right now Wilton doesn’t have that really wonderful track record of creating those kinds of things. The quality of the design has not been as high as I wish it were. Look at a lot of the clustered, attached housing being built in New Canaan–it’s high quality. It has a design character. I’m sorry but the out-of-town forces that have played on the field of cluster housing in Wilton–they’re kind of colonial-ish, but they could be anywhere; they’re not contextual here. I give Fieber some credit that what he does is a higher level of design. I just wish it weren’t at that site.”
Finally, Sanders weighs in on the demolition of the Schlichting house. While he never actually entered the house itself, Sanders says it was a structure that he thinks could have been saved.
“I wish the old house were still standing there. After the conversation that we did have, it’s unfortunate. He solved the problem that he had a right to solve. But he made the wrong move. Because it was an interesting house. Yes, it was a wreck but we’ve fixed up worse. It could have been saved. And moved on the site, saved where it was, it doesn’t matter. But it could have been saved, and it could have been an interesting jumping off point for what the rest of the thing would have been, and he might have had an easier time now, if he hadn’t torn it down, both from an architectural point of view of starting something interesting, and with the neighbors and expressing the good will, saying, ‘It’s going to be different, but you’ll recognize it still is Wilton.’ It’s now a beautiful open field, and the house is gone, and done. That saddens me. Do I feel differently that back in that November when there was a house and a barn sitting on the property? Yes, because it’s all gone now.”
Public Attempt to Reverse Wilton’s AROD Regulation
Last week, some Wilton residents made moves to try and get the AROD zoning regulation change rolled back.
On March 7, Victoria Mavis submitted an application to amend the AROD regulation by removing Ridgefield Rd. as a potential location for age-restricted overlay district changes. As part of that, she asked that a moratorium be placed on any developments that may be considered under AROD regulation and that the matter be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next P&Z meeting (scheduled for tonight, Monday, March 13, at 7:15 p.m.).
[Editor’s note: Nerney says that while Mavis’ application will get formally accepted by the P&Z commission tonight, it won’t be discussed by the commissioners or the public until the next meeting. It will also be referred to the regional planning agency, Western CT Council of Governments, per statute.]
Mavis argues in the application that developing Ridgefield Rd. with high-density age-restricted housing countermands both Wilton’s POCD as well as the intention of age-restricted housing regulations, noting that the character and use of Ridgefield Rd. would make it incompatible with such a development. She also notes that such a development contravenes the status of Ridgefield Rd. as a state-designated Scenic Route.
Mavis did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding her amendment application or Fieber’s withdrawn sewer application.
GOOD Morning Wilton also spoke with Peter Gaboriault, who is president of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust. He says the Land Trust would have made the same application to amend the AROD zoning regulation until he learned that Mavis had already submitted her application. Instead, Gaboriault submitted a petition to the same effect, asking that Ridgefield Rd. be removed from the AROD regulation.
Despite asking for the same thing, Gaboriault says he and Mavis didn’t speak to one another ahead of time.
“Keep the rest of the district on Westport Rd. and Danbury Rd., which is appropriate. It’s a good idea–just not on Ridgefield Rd.. The biggest problem we see is if you put sewer on Ridgefield Rd., you open yourself up to basically unlimited affordable housing applications, and you can wind up with not age-restricted. Could be multi-story, multi-family. You could potentially ruin the entire character of town,” Gaboriault says.
He says the Land Trust has a definite interest in getting involved in this–especially since there is precedent for the town getting involved in more direct ways.
“One of the stated purposes of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust is to engage in and otherwise promote the benefit of the general public the preservation and conservation of natural resources of the town of Wilton. Obviously he owns a beautiful meadow. In years gone by, in Wilton there would have been town resources potentially extended to save something like that. I get the fact that financially that’s not going to happen now, but it has happened in the past. We feel like we have to take the role in the conservation end of things to protect what the character of Wilton and its natural resources,” Gaboriault says.
But the realities are, the horse is already out of the barn–Wilton doesn’t have the economic resources to purchase the land, and Fieber has the property rights to develop as he wishes (within zoning regulation parameters). What alternative does the Land Trust, the neighbors and the town have? What can they do and what are the options?
Gaboriault thinks Fieber should stick to the original proposal that has already been approved by P&Z.
“He’s got the rights everybody else has in a two-acre zone. He’s got five approved lots and he’s free to develop them, within the rules of the town. To expand on that, and put 35 lots in a two-acre zone, and bring the sewer up, which potentially could mean unfettered development, we think at the Land Trust–the Board voted on it–that it’s something we should oppose,” he says.
Nerney says that the planning department has received just some letters–”I personally have not received a lot,” he adds, noting that each of the commissioners does have a separate town email, and he doesn’t know if any of them have received public input.
Fieber Withdraws Sewer Application Late Friday
Very late Friday afternoon, Fieber withdrew his application to extend the sewer line up Ridgefield Rd.. We spoke to him shortly after the news broke.
“We’re considering any and all development possibilities for the property. As I said previously, age-restricted housing is not the only development possibility for 183 Ridgefield Rd.,” he said, noting that some options might not require being served by sewers. “There is development potential for the site that is more intense than what is proposed without bringing the sewer to the site.”
Fieber mentions affordable housing.
“One option requires no zoning change at all, and would probably be something that the town would have little control over, in terms of approving or disapproving, which would be an affordable housing option. We’ve completed a site plan for an affordable housing concept and we are currently considering offering that to the town for consideration.”
He says that it’s possible to build multiple units on the parcel even without bringing up the sewer line.
“Based on the analysis performed by our engineer and professional site planner, my belief is we could get 66 units on that property without sewer.”
Fieber also says that town officials have known the 183 Ridgefield Rd. property is a possible location for affordable housing.
“This site has been identified by the first selectmen to the other selectmen a long time ago as a potential affordable housing site. I think it’s the intent of the selectmen as a group to be aware of all sites that can be potentially developed as affordable housing sites, for two reasons: so they can be aware of the sites, and so they can evaluate the impact of the development of the sites. If this site were developed as an age-restricted community, that would foreclose future development of this site as an affordable housing site.”
Fieber is aware that people–like members of the Land Trust–are concerned that if he does eventually persist in trying to bring sewer up Ridgefield Rd., it would open up more areas to other developers. He says that while it’s a legitimate point, he doesn’t think it’s likely.
“We discussed that at the WPCA hearing. There is no other viable site along the path of the proposed sewer application, which is now withdrawn. In addition, we would offer to the town to put in a private sewer line, which would only serve this property if that were a real concern,” he says.
However, Fieber says it shouldn’t be a real concern.
“The reality is that there aren’t properties between the Congregational Church and 183 Ridgefield Rd. that should be a concern about affordable housing or more intense development. Our regulations don’t permit it.”