Humane Society proposal in Wilton gains support from commission, pushback from neighbors

WILTON — A proposal for a new Connecticut Humane Society regional headquarters along Route 7 was generally supported by the Planning and Zoning Commission, yet panned by nearby residents earlier this week.

The building will be more than 14,200 square feet and feature spaces for animals to stay, an animal care clinic and an enclosed outdoor space for the dogs kept at the facility to roam.

Following an initial presentation with the Wilton Inland Wetlands Commission, representatives of the CT Humane Society proposal sat before members of the zoning commission and detailed the land’s topography, nearby traffic flow, material selection and other site specifics.

Chairman Rick Tomasetti said that the initial pre-application process with the commission went about “as well as we could have expected.”

The zoning commission will need to allow for a text amendment to be made to their current regulations in order for the nonprofit to move forward with its plan. Tomasetti seemed open to the text amendment, adding that it is in line with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development of being a “little bit more forward-thinking.”

Other commission members agreed.

Commission member Christopher Pagliaro deemed the proposal a “model application.” Commissioner Eric Fanwick also believed the proposal to be satisfactory.

Some, like Pagliaro, Florence Johnson and Jill Warren raised the question of inabilities to turn left out of the property with the lack of a traffic light at the intersection. Despite raising the concern, their tones were still generally supportive.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said Thursday that, while unfamiliar with the specifics of the proposal, she is keenly aware that leaving New Street and turning on to Route 7 “is difficult.” She added that residents might be better suited exiting the other way to Route 107.

Tomasetti said during his review that Route 7 needs improvements, but the commission in general shouldn’t stop applications because the state-owned road has aspects that need to be addressed. Vanderslice said Thursday that some of the town’s most prevalent headaches with Danbury Road happen at the intersection of Pimpewaug Road, as well as near the high school.

Many of the commission’s questions were echoed by nearby town residents.

Several residents of New Street, located across from the lot in question and comprising one-half of the nearest intersection, said the society’s traffic projections were unrealistic. “There is something very wrong about that,” one resident claimed.

Another New Street resident, Eileen Fitzgerald, echoed the left turn concerns. She stated that making a left turn from the New Street and Route 7 intersection, looking to move southbound, typically takes her five to ten minutes with the absence of a traffic light. She claimed that it could be a “major accident waiting to happen.”

Further public concerns included the building’s modern architecture breaking up the historic feel of the homes and buildings around it, as well as possible noise from the dogs when they’re outside.

Attorney Jim Murphy, who is representing the nonprofit, said that they would not respond at the meeting, but would be addressing the questions of the residents at a future meeting. Because of this, the public hearing portion remains open.