Cannondale sewer request questioned by Wilton zoning commission

WILTON — Voicing concerns about potentially putting a project horse before the planning cart, the Planning & Zoning Commission expressed some trepidation Monday about giving its blessing to a new sewer line in Cannondale prior to an application for the development itself.

Action on an 8-24 Referral from the Water Pollution Control Authority to the P&Z regarding an extension of sanitary sewer from 19 Cannon Road down to Danbury Road was put off until its next meeting on March 28.

LANDTECH, a Westport-based engineer consultant representing the developer of the property, said the plan is to construct a 70-unit development at the site, but the application is yet to come before the P&Z, forcing commissioners to look at the sewer plan in some degree of isolation.

Though they postponed action until their next meeting, members broadly expressed misgivings, stating that a master plan for the area needed to be completed before such decisions were even considered.

“We haven't figured out what we're doing and how we're going to have an orderly plan of development of what would occur there,” Chair Rick Tomasetti said, noting it was another situation where developers were driving the planning.

The town is currently looking at the Master Plan for Wilton Center and the adjacent section of Danbury Road.

Commissioner Ken Hoffman expressed concerns.

“I’m disturbed by the fact that we're being backed into a decision that really isn't a question,” he said. “What we've got is someone has proposed a sewer line that is not necessary for the current use of the property.”

Hoffman continued, saying that he was “disturbed” about being asked to make a decision on a sewer line project when the current property has no need for it.

Yet, P&Z will be required to weigh in at its next meeting or provide inadvertent approval if no report is given.

“It's basically a planning report that you're issuing to the WPCA,” said Peter Gelderman, an attorney for the town, pointing out that whether the proposal related to an affordable housing project under the 8-30g statute should not be considered in their decision.

“There has to be some approval beyond the WPCA for a sewer to be extended,” he said, indicating the P&Z's denial would force the developer to go in a different direction.

According to the paperwork on file with Town Planner Michael Wrinn, the multi-family development being planned includes 38 one-bedroom units and 32 two-bedroom units.

If granted approval, the site would connect to the existing sewer line on Route 7 through a duplex pump station and about 300 feet of pipe.

Several residents have written letters of concern to the town asking that the sewer extension be denied.

"The timing is especially sensitive as your commission is in the process of master planning," wrote residents Barbara Geddis and Jonathan Wooten. "This is a critical moment."

"This project is not in scale with the neighborhood," wrote resident Stephen Jones.

P&Z member Chris Pagliaro said he couldn't separate the idea of the development from the question about the sewer extension.

“They brought that to the table,” he said. “How do I blank that out of my mind?"

He, too, said the issue was a lack of long-term planning.

“We have been put under the bowling ball here because nothing's been planned properly in Cannondale,” he said.

Pagliaro also said that while he did think a sewer extension in that area might be appropriate, he didn't see the 70-unit development as being so.

Commissioner Eric Fanwick also expressed misgivings.

“Once you have that line there, it almost doesn't matter what our plan is,” he said, cautioning the commission to be “slow and deliberate on this.”

While Commissioner Jill Warren raised questions about unanswered environmental concerns regarding the sewer line and project, Commissioner Florence Johnson likewise put in a plug for planning.

“I think we should do our master planning before we proceed ... I think it's putting the cart before the horse,” she said.

Tomasetti said that at this point the commission should “sleep on it” and discuss the issue more at its next meeting.