At the final meeting of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) before its summer recess, the board members heard detailed presentations on two upcoming projects that will be back on the docket this fall: the new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) meeting house proposed for 241 Danbury Rd. and the conversion of two properties called “White Fences” at 523-529 Danbury Rd. into a nine-unit apartment complex.
The ARB also voted unanimously to approve minor security lighting upgrades & landscaping changes for the Bank of America branch at 117 Old Ridgefield Rd. in Wilton Center.
LDS Meeting House at 241 Danbury Rd.
Robin Benning and Rob Burgheimer from Sketch Architecture Company, based in Arizona, returned to ARB with updates to the design and site plan for the new LDS meeting house, which will be located across from City Hall. The changes responded to feedback offered by ARB members at the Thursday, June 9 meeting.
Among other alterations, Benning and Bergheimer presented a second-round design that changed the use of stone as an accent on the facade, removed dormers that had been planned to intersect the roof, reconfigured windows, and emphasized a brick “beltline” wrapping around the building that will help conceal certain mechanical elements.
The two also explained a change in plans about a public space that had been discussed for the Danbury Rd. end of the property. This element — originally described by Benning on June 9 as “a monument or plaque to a black Wilton resident that was a founding member of a church in the area” — is no longer a formal element of the design under consideration. Instead, the design will leave space for a potential future monument or plaque, but the decision about its subject must be decided as a “member item” by the church members themselves. According to Benning, the change has to do with rules within the central LDS Church.
“Our client is the Church of LDS Salt Lake,” Benning explained. “This is not allowed by church doctrine. This is something the congregation is going to do on their own. We can’t get into much detail because we don’t know what they are going to do, if anything. We’ve been instructed that it will be a member-driven item.”
The members of ARB briefly discussed whether this reserved area might fall into the Department of Transportation right-of-way, requiring additional approval but the matter was not settled. Chair Robert Sanders and Vice Chair Sam Gardner also discussed whether a spot with more “relevance and prominence” on the site might be better if the audience is the church community itself rather than passersby.
Overall, the architectural changes to the building and the site plan were well received, though the applicants were asked to return with a third iteration incorporating some final design changes, including potential alterations to the roofline and the relocation of garbage receptacles and an exterior shed.
The project will next be evaluated by ARB at the Sept. 8 meeting, with the goal of bringing it before the Planning and Zoning Commission sometime later that month.
Residential Conversation at 523-529 Danbury Rd.
ARB also heard the first presentation for a new adaptive reuse project converting the former Girl Scouts of America building and an adjacent 1820 federal-style structure currently used as office space into nine apartments. The area is already zoned for residential use and was originally a residential property. The broader property also houses Bone and Bark Inn, which received P&Z approval in April to relocate to the former ABC House at 15 Cannon Rd.
Offering one, two, and three-bedroom units, the complex will feature apartments that each have their own external entry with no common lobby. No other structures on the property will be altered as part of the adaptive reuse.
The conversion will require minimal exterior changes, mainly to bring windows in future bedrooms up to egress code, add additional entry doors, and repair damage to siding before repainting. ARB proposed and the applicant accepted a suggestion to convert windows being replaced to a more period-appropriate double-hung style.
“At some point, someone came and put in casement windows that were not in character,” Gardner explained. “Maybe this is an opportunity to bring it all into a common window language.”
The project received praise in this first presentation and the applicant was invited back to present minor alterations at the Sept. 8 meeting of ARB. The applicant hopes to proceed, like the LDS meeting house, for P&Z review later that month.
In closing, board member Kevin Quinlan called the intial proposal “a wonderful job.”
The next meeting of the Architectural Review Board and Village District Design Advisory Committee is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8.
Before closing, members of ARB also discussed the completion of the accessible ramp at Rise Doughnuts in Wilton Center.
“We took some flack for that one but we did the right thing,” said Quinlan.
The ramp, originally designed to cleave across the center of the outdoor patio space and impede on the sidewalk in front of 28 Centre Street, now wraps around the back of the seating area and delivers users out into a safer and less congested location. With the ramp complete, Rise Doughnuts is now open on Thursdays and Fridays, as well as weekends.
The headline of the story originally referred to the dog kennel that also currently occupies a building on the property, but it was changed to reflect that the kennel’s building is not part of the apartment re-use proposal.