Cannon Road development revisited

Will there be a new subdivision along Cannon Road? That was the thorniest topic on the agenda at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s March 26 meeting.

The eight-lot subdivision would occupy a small portion of a 54.8-acre parcel, but several opponents spoke determinedly against the proposal. Commissioners will conduct a walk-through of the parcel on Thursday afternoon, April 5, and the public hearing will be continued Monday, April 9. In compliance with regulations, the matter must be settled at the April 23 meeting.

The discussion followed months of building opposition to the plan, which was proposed by LTWJ LLC as a conservation subdivision. In such developments, a large portion of the land is conserved as open space.

Because the April 9 meeting will take place in the middle of the school spring break, several commissioners — including Chairman Scott Lawrence — indicated they will likely not attend. Cannon Road resident Sara Curtis expressed concern that the proposal would not receive a thorough review and hearing.

“This is a significant application that could have a devastating impact on the environment of the neighborhood,” said Curtis. “We’re not talking about two houses on four-acre lots here. … I’m uncomfortable with how this is being heard.”

Lawrence pointed out that while he and several other commissioners will not be at the April 9 meeting, a quorum will indeed be present. He also described the commission’s efforts as open and transparent. “We have to go by the application process,” he said, which calls for the matter to be aired at the April 9 meeting.

“I have not said you are trying to truncate the process in any way. … I’m saying I’m concerned because we may not have the best opportunity as a town to carefully review the proposal and do justice by it,” Curtis countered.

Preserve Wilton Founder Vicki Mavis noted that usually a conservation subdivision involves the setting aside of lands that would otherwise be developed. “In this case, none of the donated property would ever be available for development because it consists entirely of wetlands,” she said.

Commission Secretary Doris Knapp noted that the commission has already heard plenty from Wilton residents. “We have received voluminous correspondence [on this topic],” she said, “and two meetings ago, many people came and shared their feelings with us.

“If we get to the end and we still have concerns, the commission will have to make a decision with the facts on record,” said Lawrence.

First-ever drive-thru Rx?

Next up for discussion was a proposal to allow drugstores to have drive-through windows. It was submitted by Realtor Kevin O’Brien of O’Brien Premier Properties, although there is no application for such a pharmacy to be constructed.

There are three pharmacies in Wilton, all in the town center, and none have drive-through windows. Only banks in Wilton have drive-through service.

Lawrence said that in airing the proposal at the March 26 meeting, the commission wanted to specify the conditions under which such a drive-through pharmacy window might be permitted. Key among those, just one drive-through would be allowed per store and the window would need to be part of the actual pharmacy building — no stand-alone kiosks would be allowed.

Although drive-through pharmacies are not usually associated with the long lines of cars found at fast-food establishments, commissioners also saw a need to add a provision for clear separation of traffic lanes from pedestrian walkways. The commissioners also would limit the number of drive-throughs to one per shopping center.

Commissioner Chris Pagliaro was most concerned about the noise from drive-through loudspeakers disturbing any residents in nearby homes. “Unlike ordinary ambient noise, the penetrating sound of a person’s voice on a loudspeaker can be quite annoying,” said Pagliaro.

O’Brien responded, “There are huge setback requirements adjacent to residential zones, so hopefully that would not be an issue.”

Pagliaro added that other towns that have permitted drive-through pharmacies have required the construction of a sound-deadening wall at the boundary of the store’s property. This was added to the commission’s drive-through pharmacy requirements.

Ridgefield Road resident Florence Johnson said lighting at such retailers can be an issue. The lights have to be bright enough to delineate walkways and drive-in areas. “But that would have an impact on a neighborhood if there is ever a 24/7 operation,” said Johnson.

Several commissioners noted that there is just one 24/7 pharmacy in Norwalk — which has a drive-through. “I don’t think we have an ordinance that you can’t [build such an establishment in Wilton],” said Pagliaro, but he added that prospect would be unlikely, because Wilton is too small to generate the business volume such a round-the-clock store might require.

Pointing the way

Commissioners also discussed zoning regulations pertinent to possible amendments to the regulations governing accessory dwelling unit regulations. These will be the topic of upcoming meetings and hearings.

The last major matter of the night was brought forth by John Massari, president of Accent Signs and Awnings LLC of Stamford. Massari’s company has been commissioned by the owners of 372 Danbury Road to design and construct a larger — and more readable — monument sign at the entrance to this office building.

While the building’s main tenant is Stamford Hospital, three other tenants occupy significant portions of the building. Each would have a spot on the new monument sign proposed by Massari. The new sign would be seven feet wide by seven feet tall and tenant spaces would be in large white text on a dark-gray background.

That better legibility, especially by older patrons, was applauded by commissioners. “This is a great improvement over the monument sign that’s there now,” said Commissioner Sally Poundstone.

The matter next goes before the Conservation Commission at its April 4 meeting and will be aired again by Planning and Zoning on April 9. Lawrence asked Massari to bring a signage-lighting plan to that meeting.