183 Ridgefield Road developer speaks out on project, opposition
Developer Jim Fieber, who proposes to build 35 units of age-restricted housing on Ridgefield Road amid a firestorm of neighborhood opposition, briefly met with The Bulletin outside the town hall annex Monday night and arranged for an email interview the following day. The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering his request to extend the town sewer line to accommodate his proposed development.
Fieber is a longtime Wilton resident, whose wife has been a teacher in Wilton for more than 30 years and whose four children all attended Wilton public schools. His office is in New Canaan and he answered some questions.
Q. Do you own and operate similar projects? Tell us about it.
A. We have built many similar projects. The most notable is River Oaks in Stamford, which is an award-winning community substantially larger with greater density. That community is particularly interesting because former Wilton couples moved to River Oaks because they could not find suitable housing in Wilton. In addition, we built Lambert Commons in Wilton, which experienced similar opposition. Lambert is a pioneering community which was the first in the region that provided affordable housing for town employees among market-based units. It has been an enormous benefit to Wilton fiscally and conceptually. There is no affordable component proposed for this concept.
Q. The crowd was opposed to the 35 units. What do you say to that?
A. The Wilton Planning and Zoning Commission promulgated regulations that permit that density. For housing serving this particular demographic, the density is appropriate and less dense than densities permitted in other towns. While we appreciate the concern of the neighbors, the referral requested by the WPCA is not the appropriate forum to discuss the merits of the conceptual development plan.
Q. Some crowd members said First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice brought the project to town. Has she been in contact with you to do this?
A. The first selectman has been very explicit in her comments in the press. Because of the economic realities of state funding being severely curtailed for wealthier towns such as Wilton, the first selectman has been looking for responsible ways to increase revenues for the municipality. Also, it is apparent from the changing demographics of the town that Wilton has very little housing stock to serve this valuable source of human capital.
Q. The crowd fears traffic and density. What do you say to that?
A. We understand their concerns. Again, this is not the forum to express those concerns. If an application is made, we as applicant will address those concerns. That being said, it is a land use that produces very little traffic. The density is appropriate. People 55 and older appreciate having a nucleus of similar others around them. It forms a sense of community.
Q. What is your vision for the project?
A. Our vision for the community is to create an exceptional living environment for those 55 and older who have been forced to find housing in neighboring towns. In addition, we want to create a community that is contextual in architectural style. The community will be in keeping with the scenic road in that the housing will be substantially screened from the road. Most importantly, the community will produce inordinately high tax revenues for the town, benefiting all of Wilton.