Wilton’s AROD zoning demands town solution

Last Monday night’s hearing on Preserve Wilton’s attempt to remove Ridgefield Road from the age-restricted overlay district (AROD) was not Wilton’s finest hour.
The conflict at the hearing was not the respectful dialogue I had intended. The room’s setup selected by the town for the meeting was not ideal for the PowerPoint display, placing the screen behind the commissioners. Nevertheless, I believe the presentation was comprehensive and presented important information to the commissioners. For the public, this was the first opportunity to voice their concerns about this matter, since the notice for AROD did not cite the location where it would apply.
Unfortunately, residents feel as though their concerns regarding the environment, health, heritage, traffic, safety, and the 2010 Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD) were not heard. While the POCD is advisory, it is a planning document that should be considered. The Connecticut General Statutes require that “in making its decision [regarding a zoning regulation or district] the commission shall take into account the plan of conservation and development and shall state on the record its findings on consistency of the proposed establishment, change or repeal of such regulations and boundaries with such plan.” CGS, Section 8-3(b).
Where applied, AROD encourages and facilitates a six-fold density increase on a property. It can be applied anywhere on the entire length of Ridgefield Road. Over time it will have a serious, irreversible impact on Wilton’s most historic scenic road, its residents, surrounding neighborhoods, and the residents who drive on it daily, and Wilton’s character itself.
It is my sincere hope that the commissioners hear the cries of the hundreds of townspeople and multiple organizations that have spoken out against the inclusion of Ridgefield Road in AROD. And I hope that they are open to the fact that we have legitimate questions.
Perhaps the commissioners were unaware of the February 2016 email from Fieber Group LLC that I referenced at the hearing. It was sent to our town planner with the subject line “183-ARHD regs” referring to a “rough draft for Age Restricted Housing Development Zone.” A copy has been provided to The Bulletin.
Town Planner Bob Nerney drafted a regulation and the town proposed it to P&Z. On May 2, 2016, The Bulletin reported Casey Healy “asking for passage of age-restricted housing development regulations.” The article did not mention any specific location. Age-restricted housing appeared as a topic on the agendas for 10 meetings from April to November 14, 2016. Yet there was no discussion of Ridgefield Road in any meeting minutes. There was also no discussion of what criteria were used to determine why Ridgefield Road was included.
It seems unfathomable from the period of the initial email from Fieber Group LLC in February 2016 until November 14, 2016, that there was no mention of this regulation to the residents of Ridgefield Road.
If P&Z decided AROD was not appropriate for the whole of town, why was Ridgefield Road chosen to be included? Why Ridgefield Road instead of other roads that have town water and sewer services? Why were the POCD provisions indicating Ridgefield Road is incompatible with such development not followed? Why weren’t Ridgefield Road residents who know the road better than most consulted about drainage, traffic, safety, and density, among other relevant issues?
It should not require multiple FOIA requests and an amendment application to obtain information on a public matter. The basis for Ridgefield Road being included in AROD is the latest example of a lack of transparency felt by citizens.
Mr. Nerney’s recent staff report on the amendment advises commissioners to consider whether there are any “overlooked considerations.” I believe there are many such factors that should lead the commissioners to remove Ridgefield Road from AROD.
The Historic District Commission, the Wilton Historical Society, the Wilton Land Conservation Trust, and former Selectman and Town Historian Bob Russell have joined a growing group of citizens from across our town who have registered support for the amendment to remove Ridgefield Road from AROD for many valid reasons.
As this hearing continues next week, I urge all citizens to attend the meeting on Monday, May 22, at 7:15 p.m. at the Clune Center. Come and see, and then judge for yourselves whether the right thing is being done for our town.
Vicki Mavis, Founder
Preserve Wilton