This evening at 7 p.m., the Planning & Zoning Commission will hold its first meeting since July 24, kicking off what promises to be a busy fall. If you’ve lost track of the many residential projects proposed within Wilton Center and along Danbury Rd., GOOD Morning Wilton will have a special report coming soon that looks at what’s approved, what’s still in contention, and what’s on the horizon in the coming months.
However, what is less certain are details on the Greater Wilton Center Area Master Plan, the ambitious project that kicked off in December 2021. A subcommittee — led by P&Z Chair Rick Tomasetti, along with other representatives from the Commission as well as the Village District Design Advisory Committee, the Inland Wetlands Commission, and local architect Barbara Geddis — was enlisted to help see the process through.
Officials envisioned redesigning Wilton Center’s zoning regulations as the first in a series of neighborhood master plans that would one day tackle Georgetown and Cannondale as well. The Board of Selectmen voted in 2021 to approve starting that process. That original contract with consultant BFJ Planning set October 2022 as the deadline to deliver a new zoning code for the area to the town.
Today, the project seems poised to run at least one full year behind schedule.
Delays and Problems
The effort came under fire publicly beginning in December 2022, when local architect Rich Granoff proposed a four-story, 32-unit multi-family residential complex for 12 Godfrey Pl. in Wilton Center. With Granoff seeming to bristle at the Commission’s expectations that his project be put on pause until the conclusion of the master plan process, his attorney Liz Suchy said on Dec. 12, “Two weeks is one thing, six months is a whole other ballgame. I’m not trying to be cute or condescending, but we need to move this ahead.”
Tomasetti himself pushed back on the idea that the new regulations were as far as six months away, replying that they would be available “by the end of this year .”
When P&Z meets this evening, nine months will have passed since that exchange.
Granoff went on to resubmit the project as a larger, less aesthetically-designed 8-30g affordable housing proposal, which P&Z reluctantly approved in June, facing the specter of a costly and hopeless litigation process. Earlier in the spring, the subcommittee committed to weekly meetings “from now until it’s done,” citing the growing number of applications for development within Wilton Center. Later, the group announced that despite the usual summer recess, the subcommittee would continue to meet in the month of August. The minutes of July 20 state that: “The goal remains to be to have a public meeting in early September. Two meetings with the consultants in August.”
However, those meetings shifted from weekly to sporadic almost immediately, and in August, with no future meetings appearing on the public town agenda, GOOD Morning Wilton reached out repeatedly to Town Planner Michael Wrinn (beginning on Aug. 7) and Tomasetti (beginning on Aug. 30) seeking any update on the master plan process. We received no response, and as of publication, no master plan meetings appear to be scheduled for the month of September either.
Regarding the promised public meeting on the zoning proposals, little is known. As reported by GOOD Morning Wilton, during the Oct. 21, 2021 BOS meeting when the contract with BFJ was approved, Selectman Ross Tartell said from a “community involvement perspective” it is important that “the public will have an opportunity to contribute, and that will help them feel like they’ve been heard.” He was assured by Wrinn that there would be multiple occasions for the public to participate in the process.
However, nearly two years in, the sum of public engagement opportunities has been a single, two-hour workshop held 18 months ago in March 2022. And although the initial schedule presented by BFJ Planning included three separate public engagements events (scheduled for Months 4, 7, and 10, in what was then a 10-month process), the second of those engagement opportunities appears to have been eliminated.
The original schedule laying out three public hearings (shown as green squares in the second to last row in the chart below) still appears on the town’s Wilton Center Area Master Plan website, albeit with a note that says only two will be hosted. The Get Involved page of the same site still lists the March 2022 workshop under “Upcoming Events.”
So what is the status of the long-awaited Wilton Center master plan? Perhaps we’ll learn more tonight.