On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) convened a special meeting with just one topic on the agenda: the application by Baywing LLC to extend a sewer line from Danbury Rd. to the property at 19 Cannon Rd. and connect a multifamily development to the system. The main piece of news out of the evening is that the public — and the developer — will have to wait a bit longer than expected to hear a final decision on the controversial project.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice announced that the applicant will request a 65-day extension, moving the deadline for a decision by the WPCA from Wednesday, Nov. 16 to Friday, Jan. 20.
This extension will allow Baywing’s team additional time to respond to a memo from Wilton Director of Public Works Frank Smeriglio that was received on Tuesday, Nov. 1 — just two days earlier. Later in the evening, the applicant’s attorney Timothy Hollister noted that they did not anticipate needing the full 65-day time extension and promised to advise the WPCA before Friday, Dec. 2 on a date when their responses would be submitted.
Vanderslice set the stage by explaining the relatively narrow scope of the evening’s discussion.
“I want to remind the public that this Authority’s role is restricted to the sewer — we don’t make zoning-related decisions,” she said. “So, for example, traffic and all of those zoning-type topics are not relevant to the Water Pollution Control Authority.” Vanderslice also noted that if Baywing were to proceed with an application to the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) to redevelop the property, there would be a public hearing process with P&Z where the public would be able to register zoning-related concerns.
Attorney Hollister presented briefly on behalf of his client, directing his comments mainly at P&Z, in response to the negative report the Commission issued on the proposal last week. GOOD Morning Wilton covered both the Oct. 17 meeting in which Hollister presented to P&Z and the Oct. 24 meeting in which the Commission deliberated and voted.
“Candidly, we’re very frustrated,” he said. “I tried to point out that the issue on the 8-24 referral was whether sewer extension was consistent with the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which does name this area a sewer growth area. We advocated that this should have been the be-all, end-all of their report. But they did not see it that way. They chafed under my efforts to limit the scope of their discussion.”
Since their last meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 14, the WPCA has received a series of additional responses about the application, including the negative report from P&Z, which essentially recommended against granting the sewer extension. Signed by Town Planner Michael Wrinn, the report states that the proposal is not in line with the goals and objectives of the POCD.
In particular, the Commission notes that the maximum structure allowable under current zoning (a single-family home) can be reasonably serviced by a septic system and does not require a sewer connection, and that the POCD — although it does identify the Cannondale node as a “potential sewer growth area,” — also states that the town should conduct a master planning process to inform changes in density in the neighborhood.
Hollister noted this evening that Baywing did not feel it had gotten “a good answer” on the question of how long the Town expects Baywing to wait for a master plan to be completed. During the Oct. 17 meeting of P&Z, Chair Rick Tomasetti had responded to the question by outlining the progress already underway in the series of master plans emerging out of POCD process. The first master plan, which looks at the future of Wilton Center, is nearing its final stages, and the second, which looks at bolstering town amenities, kicked off earlier this week. The master plans looking at the future of the Cannondale and Georgetown neighborhoods are expected to follow.
The WPCA has also received a memo from Smeriglio outlining open questions about the proposal and requesting additional information from Baywing. Additionally, the Town engaged the services of Wright-Pierce Engineering to provide technical analysis of the proposal, which they outline in a report that follows Smeriglio’s memo in the Town file.
In comments delivered on Thursday night, Smeriglio reiterated some of the concerns identified, in particular, cautioning Baywing about the logistical complexity of their proposed sewer route.
“You really have to have conversations with the State about what they would and wouldn’t allow,” he said, speaking to the applicant’s team and referring to the initial application materials. “A GIS plan that shows a line across Route 7 is really insufficient compared to what other applicants give us. Crossing Route 7 is very difficult to do and maintaining that line across Route 7 is a whole different animal. Those conversations with the State have to start now.”
He also urged Baywing to submit design plans for the pump station and the force main being proposed for both Cannon Rd. and Route 7, and to obtain exact measurements for the slope of the pipe path to be used.
During the question period with the WPCA members, Vanderslice asked whether other privately owned pump stations and force mains exist in Wilton, similar to what Baywing has proposed. Smeriglio noted that the former convent on Belden Hill Rd., School Sisters of Notre Dame, has a similar arrangement but there is no agreement in writing about the ownership of the force main, to his knowledge.
There was a brief public comment in which two Wilton residents spoke. Pamela Aris, who also submitted a letter and a follow-up message as part of the online record, registered her objection to the proposal. However, as her comments mainly pertained to zoning-related issues about the appropriateness of a 70-unit building in the neighborhood, Vanderslice interjected to clarify that the topics mentioned fell beyond the purview of the WPCA.
Architect Barbara Geddis, who serves on the Wilton Center Master Plan Subcommittee, flagged for the applicant and the WPCA that the area surrounding 19 Cannon Rd. has high groundwater and reiterated concerns Aris mentioned about the impact of development on nearby wetlands, flood zones, and the adjoining aquifer.
Steven Georgeou made a final public comment stating, “I’m really confused about how we’re planning to extend a sewer to a building that has not been designed or proposed. How could we as a town plan for such an important construction without a real understanding of what’s being built?”
On this comment, Hollister replied, reminding the group that Baywing had originally planned to submit designs and plans for a pre-application hearing with P&Z earlier this year, but that they were informed that the application to WPCA needed to happen first.
“There’s a saying in land use,” he said. “You need multiple permits, and someone has to go first. We’re doing what we were told.”
The WPCA now has an additional two months to weigh its decision on the sewer extension, though both Vanderslice and Hollister seemed to suggest that the discussion could wrap up sooner than Jan. 20.
If the sewer extension is approved, Baywing is expected to proceed by ultimately invoking 8-30g, Connecticut’s affordable housing law that effectively allows developers to sidestep local zoning in towns like Wilton where less than 10% of residential units are considered affordable. If it is not approved, Hollister has alluded to contingency plans to challenge the decision.
“If there is a negative report [from P&Z], and if WPCA turns us down, we have a right to appeal to court,” he said during the Oct. 17 meeting with P&Z. “We are interested in what you do but it’s not going to derail the application.”