The debate over higher-density age-restricted development (AROD) zoning on Ridgefield Rd. has gotten even more complicated, with two new hurdles for proponents of such zoning change to jump over to make this type of real estate development happen there.

Opponents to such development have made legal moves to make it more difficult to proceed–or halt it entirely. In two instances they’ve targeted an application made by 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC to change the zone of that property from 2-acre residential to AROD. As of now, the application and public hearing is scheduled to begin at the July 10 meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z). Such a zone change would open the way for developer Jim Fieber to move ahead with a planned development of age-restricted residences there.

The first move to try and block the application has been made within Wilton’s own municipal structure–submitting a petition to make any potential vote on the 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC application require a supermajority. The second effort to completely halt the application was made as a civil lawsuit and request for an injunction through the State Superior Court, resulting in a court date for a status conference, scheduled for July 10–the same day as the zone change application is scheduled to be heard by P&Z.

These recent moves to block such development on Ridgefield Rd. are separate from and in addition an earlier application that has been hotly debated in the most recent Planning & Zoning Commission meetings. That application, filed by Vicki Mavis, seeks both to amend current regulations by removing Ridgefield Rd. from potential AROD zoning districts and to place a moratorium on future AROD development on Ridgefield Rd. until the town has the chance to create the next Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), scheduled to happen over the next two years.

Petitioning for Supermajority

Last week, a petition was filed with Wilton’s Planning & Zoning Department to require a supermajority vote on the 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC zone change application.

There’s a 500-ft. radius area beyond the boundaries of a parcel under consideration which is the “notice area.” If more than 20% of that geographic notice area is opposed, then it triggers a supermajority vote requirement–meaning that any zone change would have to pass by a two-thirds majority of the P&Z Commission rather than a simple majority. That means more P&Z commissioners would have to vote in favor of changing 183 Ridgefield Rd. from 2-acre residential (one residence per two acres) to the higher-density AROD zone, which permits three residences per acre

“A lot of people think it’s based on the number of people [in the notice area]–it’s not. It’s based on geographic area,” town planner Robert Nerney explains.

While the application and public hearing for the proposed zone change for 183 Ridgefield Rd. appear on the meeting calendar for Monday, July 10, “notice has not gone out at this point,” Nerney says.

Lawsuit and Injunction Sought

This past Tuesday, June 6, Patricia Frisch, a Ridgefield Rd. neighbor who lives directly across the street from 183 Ridgefield Rd, filed a civil lawsuit against the Town of Wilton; the Planning & Zoning Commission; the Planning & Zoning Department; the department’s director, Nerney; and Lori Kabak, Wilton’s town clerk.

In her complaint, she asserts that public notices published by P&Z on Nov. 3 and Nov. 10, 2016 in the Wilton Bulletin for a public hearing on Nov. 14 about regulation changes establishing AROD zones on Danbury Rd., Westport Rd. or Ridgefield Rd. were insufficient. She contends that the “notices did not identify the potential areas to be affected should the proposed amendments pass.” Later, the suit states, “The Notice of the Public Hearing…did not describe the area … to any degree whatsoever.”

The suit charges that Frisch and other residents who would be affected by creation of an AROD district on Ridgefield Rd. “were not adequately apprised of the November 14, 2016 public hearing …” and that they were “deprived…of the opportunity to intelligently prepare for or participate in the single public hearing which was held regard the adoption of the Regulation.”

Moreover, Frisch says that P&Z approved the AROD legislation on Nov. 14, to become effective on Nov. 17. The first notice that the Commission had approved the regulation was published in the newspaper on that same day, Nov. 17. Accordingly, the complaint states that, contrary to Conn. General Statutes, it wasn’t published before such effective date.

The complaint also says that as a result of the “deficient notice” Frisch was denied the opportunity to appeal the P&Z decision, in violation of the Conn. General Statutes and “her constitutional due process rights.”

Frisch asserts that any AROD enacted on Ridgefield Rd. would be “permanent” and have “irreversible effects.” The complaints points to the hearing on 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC’s application scheduled for July 10, 2017, and states that Frisch is at “imminent” risk to “suffer … irreparable harm.”

Frisch is seeking relief for the following:

  • a declaration that the notices were insufficient to adequately inform the residents of Ridgefield Rd. or to adequately inform them of their right to timely appeal of the P&Z AROD decision; that the notice of effective date violated CT law that it wasn’t published before the effective date;
  • that the AROD regulation approved by P&Z on Nov. 14 be declared “INVALID, NULL and VOID.”

The complaint asks that if the court doesn’t declare the regulation invalid, null and void, that the court would reopen the 15-day appeals period to allow Frisch and other potentially affected residents an opportunity to appeal the P&Z AROD decision.

Frisch is also requesting a “temporary and permanent injunction” to halt the July 10 public hearing on the 183 Ridgefield Rd. LLC application to rezone the property, and to prevent P&Z from “accepting, hearing and/or approving any and all pending or future applications for the establishment of an AROD zone,” as well as dismissing current applications for such a change.