Developer asked to address concerns over 173-unit Wilton housing proposal

WILTON — The largest multifamily housing proposal in town that is still on the table will not move past the Planning and Zoning Commission — yet.

A 173-unit housing project proposed at 141 Danbury Road came before the zoning commission in a public hearing on Wednesday night after moving past the pre-application phase. The applicants addressed some of the concerns that the commissioners raised in their prior interaction, but the development team still left with some critiques and questions by the zoning commission members. On top of that, one member of the public, who said she is an architect by trade, called the proposal on Danbury Road “aggressive” and “unsuitable.”

The Danbury Road proposal will first need to gain approval from the Inland Wetlands Commission as the property abuts the Norwalk River. Then, the Planning and Zoning Commission may make a motion to close the public hearing phase and grant permission to move forward on construction.

“We would need to continue the public hearing” until the Inland Wetland Commission gives a report back on the drainage, Town Planner Michael Wrinn told the zoning commission Wednesday.

According to Lisa Feinberg, an attorney representing the developer, she and the rest of the applicants will not be meeting with the Inland Wetlands Commission on Sept. 23 as first expected.

Instead, the applicants will meet with the commission on Oct. 14, where Feinberg said she “hopes” that the board will close the application and move it back to Planning and Zoning for a decision.

As for the zoning commission’s review of the updated presentation by the applicants on Wednesday, commissioners asked for more specifics.

Chairman Rick Tomasetti asked the architectural team for more renderings of various aspects of the property, including the facade the of the building, the rear face of the building and the proposed courtyard.

As the proposed apartment building is set to sit on a sloping grade as it moves closer to the rear of the property toward the Norwalk River, Tomasetti also asked for the architects to consider the building facade to come down and “make the building feel grounded in the back.” Currently, he said, the design calls for support columns to be showing.

Vice chairman of the commission, Melissa-Jean Rotini, asked for clarifications on proposed text amendments as well as fire safety concerns. Wrinn confirmed with Rotini that the Wilton fire chief and fire marshal both had looked at the property and building plans.

Traffic study professional Craig Yannes presented the commission with an overview of what he found after looking at possible impacts the proposal would have on Danbury Road. Yannes said that, in his estimation, he did not expect additional traffic derived from cars arriving and departing the apartment complex to cause a “significant impact.” He added that the Wilton Police Department signed off on the study.

Zoning commission member Jill Warren was not convinced.

She said she found it a “little weird” that in a 173-unit proposal, that only 46 cars would be added to local traffic flow, per the applicants’ report.

While Feinberg addressed some of Warren’s and Tomasetti’s concerns, she also spent a portion of the meeting describing what the applicants had changed since the initial pre-application meeting.

According to Feinberg, the applicants spent time modifing the entrance to the property; cleaning up the design and adding different materials, including red brick for a more classic approach; changing the roofline; and setting back the top-floor lofts from the rest of the facade.

Following suit with Tomasetti in asking for more detailed renderings, Wrinn explained that it would be beneficial to both parties if the applicants returned with more a full view and floor plans of what the lofts are to look like upon completion. The lofts were a talking point at the initial pre-application meeting.

Despite the updates and changes that coincided with the commission’s initial concerns, one member of the public was still unsatisfied with the proposal.

Barbara L. Geddis, who said she is an architect, found the application aggressive and unsuitable for the location it is proposed on.

She asked the commission and applicants why the “tallest building in Wilton” would be at 141 Danbury Road “of all places.”

The applicants must now wait a full month to return to the Planning and Zoning Commission after having to reschedule with the Inland Wetlands. Pending approval from the latter, the applicants will return on Oct. 25 for another public hearing with the zoning commission, where they hope a decision will be made.