Months of tension came to a head during Monday’s (June 12) meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission as a politically-tinged shouting match broke out between several Commissioners. Chair Rick Tomasetti, Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini, and Secretary Eric Fanwick were at the center of the dispute, which concerned the proposal for a residential complex known as Wilton Lofts at 12 Godfrey Place and Connecticut’s 8-30g legislation.


The project at 12 Godfrey Place was initially presented in a pre-application hearing in March 2022 as a four-story 30-unit building with three of the units earmarked for affordable housing. This iteration of the design, which formally went before P&Z in November 2022 and received positive design feedback, would have followed the standard public review process and been subject to Commission approval.

After weeks of delays driven by the Commission’s desire to complete its months-overdue master plan for the area, and explicit threats by the applicant team that they were not willing to wait, the application was withdrawn and resubmitted as an 8-30g project. Section 8-30g of Connecticut’s affordable housing law effectively allows developers to sidestep local zoning in towns like Wilton where less than 10% of residential units are considered affordable.

Now topping out at five stories with 40 units, the project will offer 12 units of affordable housing, six of which will be set aside for residents earning less than 60% of Connecticut’s state median income and another six for those earning below 80%.

Original proposal for 12 Godfrey Place (left) vs. new 5-story 8-30g Proposal (right)

Upon seeing the project update and the changes to the building, Architectural Review Board Chair Rob Sanders said, “Let this be a lesson to us.”

A Few Final Tweaks to a Long-Evolving Project

Monday night’s hearing began with attorney Liz Suchy outlining the latest changes to the proposal made in response to the prior hearing with P&Z. The updated proposal reduces the number of units from 42 to 40, a change made possible by turning four 1-bedroom units into two 2-bedroom units. Parking for the proposed building will remain at 40 spaces, with only one vehicle per household and no allotment for visitors.

Rotini followed up on earlier questions about the handling of e-bikes on the site, in light of the growing fire risk associated with large lithium-ion batteries. Despite noting in its summary to P&Z that “E-bike storage will not be permitted to be within the interior spaces of the building,” the applicant team confirmed that e-bikes will be stored and potentially offered charging stations within the garage that lies directly beneath the building’s residential spaces. Rotini questioned whether the fire marshal had been made aware of this prior to issuing an approval of the project.

During the public comment period, local resident and A Better Chance of Wilton (ABC) House host family member Bill Lalor reiterated requests from the institution that construction at 12 Godfrey Place be restricted during the times of year and hours of the day when their resident students are most likely to be home.  

Resident Farah Masani spoke as well, saying, “I am a huge proponent of downtown living. I want neighbors; I want to see people walk in my neighborhood. But I just don’t get that vibe from this proposal.” Citing concerns about parking and safety with e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries on-site, she concluded, “I hope you will come up with solutions, not just build a monstrosity under 8-30g.”

Sparks Fly as Deliberations Begin

From there, the discussion quickly devolved as the Commission began its deliberation period.

“We all read the Facebook comments,” said Tomasetti. “People feel like ‘you should have just approved [the original application], we would have been better served by that.’ But this isn’t a function of P&Z saying ‘no’ to things. This is a function of an applicant being very heavy-handed with an application, saying ‘this is what we’re going to do, take it or leave it and we’re going to do an 8-30g.’”

“Whoever doesn’t like this, this is what these clowns in Hartford throw at us when they think one size fits all from town to town,” said Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro.

Echoing Pagliaro’s sentiment with an explicit reference to “recently elected officials who felt that this law did not need to be repealed,” Rotini called 8-30g “an unfortunate result of an experiment that has run its course.”

Regarding 8-30g itself, Tomasetti added, “It’s been tens of years and hasn’t changed a damn thing. And it’s really frustrating to sit here as a Commissioner and listen to all of this stuff because frankly, our legislators haven’t done what should have been done for years in trying to make Connecticut more affordable by deregulating other things.”

At that point, Fanwick interjected saying, “Mr. Chairman, I think you’re going on and on, I think we should get back to the issue at hand.”

Tomasetti shot back, “I will not be silenced on this issue. I’m not in favor of it and I’m allowed to vent. Our community is electing legislators who are for this stuff. Stop electing these people!”

The trio then engaged in a charged back and forth about whether State Sen. Ceci Maher and State Assembly Member Keith Denning, both Democrats representing Wilton, “support” 8-30g.

After a few minutes, Town Planner Michael Wrinn managed to halt the debate and Commissioner Florence Johnson brought the group back to the substance of the application with a discussion about what rights nearby property owners have to restrict residents and guests from using their parking spaces.

Commissioner Ken Hoffman then asked for clarification on the rules for voting on the project, confirming that the Commission may freely vote against an application regardless of its 8-30g status, but that the applicant can then challenge that decision through litigation.  

Looking Ahead

Closing out the discussion, Wrinn explained that the rejection of an 8-30g proposal must be grounded in an argument that the project poses a threat to the environment or to health and safety that is significant enough to outweigh the value of affordable housing. Several Commissioners commented that the concerns about e-bike storage could be addressed as a condition of the approval and would not stand up as grounds for rejection.

The Commission will reconvene for its next meeting on Monday, June 29, where they are expected to vote on the application.

13 replies on “Tempers Flare as P&Z Reckons with 8-30g Project”

  1. I love how now that the legislative session has ended and Republicans can no longer blame Denning and Maher for bills they didn’t support that didn’t pass, they’ve pivoted seamlessly for blaming them for bills that passed decades before they were elected. Next thing we know the RTC is going to start sharing a grainy photo of the two of them outside of the capitol building in 1989, at their current ages and standing next to a Delorean.

    Also, the attitude of P&Z members makes it pretty clear that the actual reason we ended up stuck with this building was pride, and not the good kind. Even if you buy their framing that this was a particularly pushy or bad-faith developer, nevertheless, the law is what it is; if somebody has you dead to rights like this, you can either engage with them and try to find a compromise, or you can refuse to negotiate on principle and end up with a much worse outcome.

    (also, they gave ample warning they were going to go this way, and did so only after months of being held up waiting for the completion of a Master Plan, for which P&Z could promise no specific completion date, which they already knew the broad outlines of, and which, in any case, they themselves would be responsible for enacting; it would have been perfectly reasonable for them to conclude that P&Z was itself acting in bad faith, and was stringing them along with no intention of ever actually approving the project)

  2. It’s too bad 8-30G has become a sort of legal weapon. “If you don’t like my proposal then I will go 8-30G on you.” They never tried to figure where 8-30G would best fit. Nor has anyone defined what the price of a 8-30g unit would be. Nor have I heard anything about subletting a unit. Its a poorly written law that takes aim at affluent towns. New Canaan is having a lot of problems with it as well. I’m all in favor of finding a way to do this but the process has been horrible.

  3. As a member of New Canaan’s P&Z and former Town Council chairman I’m interested in how Wilton addresses 8-30g. We are all in this together. The solution has 4 prongs: 1. Hartford needs to reform the law 2. P&Z needs to create a path forward for developers 3. Towns need to fund that path forward (by creating affordable housing, partnering with developers, and incenting affordable development) and 4. Developers need to work with us instead of threatening lawsuits when they don’t get immediate satisfaction.

    1. Disagree on some of your points John. The state has to become a better partner on affordable development and on recognizing towns that are working on achieving an 8-30g moratorium. The state uses [its] own state coffers to fund development in certain large cities (Hartford and New Haven get 100’s of millions) and the state also gives the outsized allocations of housing vouchers to these same cities, while it excludes or gives very little to small towns and suburbs — the ones they are vilifying on their percentages under 8-30g. It’s a biased metric to calculate affordability.
      [Massachusetts] has a much better version of 8-30g. It has two significant differences relevant to this discussion: 1) it does not allow developers to override height restrictions, which means projects are of the scale with the existing developments in any community; [and] 2) it requires a cooling off period of one year before an 8-30g application — so if a developer threatens a “take it or leave it we will go 8-30g on you,” with very little affordability attached, they would have to wait an entire year before filing their 8-30g. It is time for REAL 8-30g reforms.
      Many towns have an inclusionary policy to create affordable housing on every multifamily project in their communities like Westport (20%), Darien (14%), New Canaan (15%), [and] Fairfield (10%) — this also can ensure a town get[s] affordability with higher density projects. Unfortunately, [in] some communities, since the percentage only kicks in over 10 units, developers will stop at only [nine], or they often will sacrifice the quality of the development to squeeze more profits. Not a win for any community.

  4. …So we have to accept any terrible proposal, otherwise the town will be blackmailed and given a worse option by the developer. This isn’t about fair housing, this is about developers and profit. One parking spot per unit, no guest parking… goodbye to our easy parking. Really they couldn’t do better? They just don’t care. Developers build it, move on, and leave us with the consequences.

  5. There is ONE public safety issue that *could* prevent the development of 12 Godrey Pl., although it could also complicate/prevent development for the rest of the Town Center, which will upset many in town. Our 2022-2023 Town (draft) Masterplan is still using the out-of-date 2013 FEMA Flood Insurance Maps and that is a major problem because it suggests 12 Godfrey Pl. is free from flooding, which it may not be, as most of the Town Center is at risk from flooding by the Norwalk River:

    ‘“Maps do not forecast flooding. Maps only reflect past flooding conditions and are a snapshot in time. They do not represent all hazards and do not predict future conditions,” Michael Grimm, acting deputy associate administrator of FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, told The Post.’

    ‘“You would think, well, FEMA could just update the maps in issue,” Fugate said. “That’s not true. … Local governments have been opposed to any maps that show an increasing risk.”’

    ‘In addition to the maps being out of date, some decades-old in a changing climate, another problem is how the maps are built in the first place. They capture river and coastal flooding, not inundation caused by intense bursts of rainfall, known as pluvial flooding — a particularly dangerous problem in cities, where many porous surfaces have been paved over.’ [read: our Town Center]

    ‘This makes FEMA’s designated flood hazard zones a bad match for the intense weather events that scientists say U.S. communities will face, like the catastrophically intense rainfall from remnants of Hurricane Ida that left 13 dead in New York City last year.’

    I would say that any project that has almost full site coverage with impervious surface built very close to a historically flooding river that will likely flood more during climate change is a substantial risk for the public interest. Multi-family housing is needed, but is it worth the public safety risk?

    This comment reflects my own private views, as a private citizen, and is not an official opinion or endorsement as a Commissioner on the Town of Wilton Inland Wetlands Commission.

  6. It seems to me it would be worth exploring litigation in this matter. 8-30g is a very flawed law for all the reasons which have been cogently articulated elsewhere. I believe the commission was very much engaging with the developer in good faith here. As regards our state representatives, no one is blaming them for things that happened in the past, but it is fair to hold them accountable for not trying to amend a flawed law in the present if that is what the people who elected them want. Laws are not immutable. Thankfully, the history of this country is full of examples of terrible laws that were changed or repealed.

  7. It is important to note, the prior application for this property included a zoning change to allow over 50 units per acre within a half-mile of the train station. This meant if the zoning change had passed, Kimco would be allowed a density of over 350 units on 21 River Rd. or double the amount Kimco has been discussing in pre-application. Kimco and other property owners in the Center might have loved that density. It makes their development more profitable and the price a developer might pay for the property much higher.
    Like the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, I heard from significantly more residents opposed to this year’s housing bills than in support, especially Fair Share. They include unaffiliated, Democratic and Republican voters. As I have written in my updates, these bills are being pushed by the majority leadership, elected by the members of the House and Senate. During my numerous conversations with Democratic Rep. Keith Denning, who voted against the majority leadership on the housing bill, I have asked, ‘If Democrats in the House are opposed to Fair Share, why do they elect its major proponent as the chair?’ — a question not dissimilar to Rick’s.
    Lastly, GMW articles have reported Rob Sanders’ comment from the early April ARB meeting. The ARB deals with architecture and design, not zoning and density. At the time, Rob was not commenting on the loss of a zoning regulation that would have allowed Kimco to build 350 housing units. You can listen [to the video] for yourself. The discussion can be found after two hours.
    Lynne Vanderslice
    First Selectwoman

    1. Fifty units per acre is less than what this Hubbard Rd. project is now, and I don’t believe it would have exempted them from parking requirements either. And even assuming that that 350 unit number isn’t as exaggerated as a lot of the other numbers you’ve put forward about housing density, for that particular site I don’t think it would even be all that bad — it’s already tall and looming as is. And if you’re going to bring up inflated property values, you might also take note of how much those property values will bolster our grand list.

      Also, permitted density notwithstanding, any project going through the normal approval process — even Kimco’s — is subject to the normal level of review for design and parking and traffic and environmental and other issues, whereas, thanks to P&Z’s navel-gazing about the Master Plan, this one is not. (And of course, if Kimco really wanted to build that kind of density, they could have pulled their own 8-30g, so I assume they’re reasonably content with their plan as is — maxing out density isn’t actually always in the developer’s interest).

      As for Denning and Maher supporting Democratic leadership in the state house, I don’t think I have to explain to a Republican of all people that you can support your party without agreeing with them on everything. And as members of the majority, they have considerably more opportunities to shape the direction of these bills and to push other priorities for Wilton than a Republican would in their place, or for that matter a rogue Democrat. The closest Republicans have come to a majority in the CGA since 8-30g passed was in 2016, when Wilton was represented by two Republicans who somehow did not manage to get rid of it – blaming our newly elected Democratic representatives for one law that’s 33 years old and another one that wasn’t even brought up for a vote is simply ludicrous.

      1. Like many GM[W] readers, I have often noted your commentary under nearly every article dealing with local politics. In those comments you frequently criticize the people who are serving in voluntary roles on town boards and commissions or others who have stood for elective office such as Lynne (who has given to this town selflessly).

        The people you criticize are not professional politicians, they are neighbors who care enough about our town to get involved despite the catcalls from the comments section. I encourage you to step off the sidelines and into the arena. Run for office, serve on a board, put your ideas to the test.

        To quote the great Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man [or woman] who is actually in the arena.”

        I for one look forward to you proudly representing your party on a platform of unrestrained school budgets, vastly higher taxes, denser housing developments, and lower property values.

        1. First off, I’m hardly alone in making this sort of comment; I’m just one of the few people who makes them from the left, rather than from the right, and so Republicans like you tend to take particular umbrage at them while scrolling right past the ones you agree with.

          Ms. Vanderslice is, literally, a professional politician – she gets a salary and everything. The other board members I’ve criticized won their seats through competitive elections, and get to exercise substantial power on behalf of Wilton voters through those seats. This isn’t a dang soup kitchen; they’re volunteers in the sense that they don’t get paid, but there are hundreds of Wilton residents who would happily ‘volunteer’ to serve on one of the four main boards if it was simply a matter of showing up and volunteering.

          If any of the board members who I’ve criticized would like to resign their seat and nominate me to serve in their place, I will be more than happy to do so; I think I’ve demonstrated that I’m at least as engaged in their work as they are (considerably more so in some cases), and if this truly is the thankless act of charity you seem to think it is, then they should be happy to have an energetic Millennial like myself step in to relieve them of that great burden.

          As far as running for office, as I’ve stated here a number of times, I’m a registered independent, so I don’t know what party you think I represent. I support the Democrats, and will eagerly step in to defend them from bad-faith attacks like Mr. Tomasetti’s and Ms. Vanderslice’s, but my own politics are well to the left of theirs on any number of issues. At the same time, if I were ever to run as an unaffiliated candidate for a seat the Democrats were contesting, all I would likely accomplish would be to siphon a small, but possibly decisive number of votes away from their candidate and end up helping the opposition. (ironically the same thing Roosevelt did in 1912, when he would have served his party better by saying out of that particular arena)

  8. Mr Fenwick has the unfortunate habit of trying to suppress ideas and speech that are contrary to his own agenda. Believe me, I know! The development is grotesque…too large, not enough parking and an eyesore. Build it somewhere else where there is more space.

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