iPark seeks zoning change

An application that would permit hotels in parts of Wilton could also affect zoning regulations.

Partially in Wilton, office campus iPark Norwalk is applying to amend certain sections of the zoning regulations that deal with the town’s two Design Enterprise districts.

The reason for this is that iPark wants to eventually build a hotel on the northerly, Wilton portion of its five-acre Design Enterprise property.

“iPark has spoken to several prospective hotel operators,” attorney Casey Healy said on behalf of the applicant at the May 23 public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission. The hearing was continued to June 13, when the commission will re-open it at 7:15 p.m. in the town hall annex.

Hotels are not a permitted use in Wilton. iPark seeks to circumvent that, however, by proposing several regulation changes, not all of which have to do with hotels in particular.

First off, with its application, iPark would like “hotels” added to the town’s list of specially permitted uses in the five-acre (DE-5) and 10-acre (DE-10) Design Enterprise districts.

Hotels and motels are defined in the zoning regulations, but as Healy explained at the May 23 meeting, the two uses are “seemingly not permitted.”

“Your zoning regulations … contain a definition for hotels and motels, but they don’t appear to be a permitted use anywhere in the regulations,” Healy said on May 23.

The office campus also wants the maximum building height and story count permitted in the Design Enterprise districts raised from three stories and 39 feet to four stories and 55 feet.

This would only apply to lots that conform with minimum area and dimension requirements of the two districts. In the DE-5 district, they’d have to be a minimum of five acres, and 10 in the DE-10 district.

Part of iPark’s application deals with the Metro-North railroad right of way and setback requirements.

As it stands today, the minimum required setback between a DE-10 property and an abutting residentially zoned property is 150 feet. In the DE-5 district, it’s 100 feet.

If an abutting residential property falls within the Metro-North railroad right of way, however, that minimum setback requirement is reduced to 50 feet, because the right of way provides additional buffer.

By that same reasoning, iPark wants the minimum reduced from 50 feet down to 10, because it is argued there are other rights of way in Wilton that create even greater buffer.

“In addition to the presence of a railroad right of way, there is also a public right of way that is the result of past planning for the Super 7 roadway construction, and, in some instances, there is an Eversource right of way as well,” a memorandum by David Schiff of American Institute of Certified Planners said.

Considering that, iPark has proposed the following text amendment to language in Wilton’s zoning regulations.

“Where adjoining property in a residence district lies within the right of way of a railroad, and where the railroad property adjoins a public utility right of way and/or a publicly owned right of way with a total width of not less than 200 feet, the building setback and the parking setback may be reduced to 10 feet,” the proposed amendment reads.

iPark’s Wilton portion is sandwiched between the Norwalk River and the Metro-North railroad. By being able to build closer to the railroad, they’d be further from the river and the river’s floodplain, which could potentially allow for a larger development.

But allowing an undeveloped right of way such as the Super 7 right of way mentioned above be used to partially satisfy a setback requirement means putting chips on that right of way remaining undeveloped.

The memorandum from Schiff takes this into account and gives the following justification.

“Given current and projected use of the buffer properties, it is reasonable to assume that the properties will remain undeveloped for the foreseeable future, with the exception of the prospective extension of the Norwalk River Valley Trail system,” Schiff’s memorandum said.

“Thus, no residential uses would be constructed within the buffer area, and the separation to any residence would remain as it is today,” it said.

One thing brought up at the May 23 Planning and Zoning meeting that did not have to do with zoning was that the town of Wilton only allows two of the state’s 60-plus liquor permits: restaurant and package store.

Whether or not a hotel use could get by with either one of these permits is a point of uncertainty according to Healy, who said on May 23 that iPark would look into this issue before its next Planning and Zoning public hearing.