‘It doesn’t feel like Wilton’: Concerns surround large housing development proposed for town

WILTON — A proposed 173-unit apartment complex would become the town’s largest residental building, should it be approved. But the Wilton Architectural Review Board is concerned the project is too large for the small town.

Representatives of a residential building project, slated for 141 Danbury Road, made its final pre-application presentation to the board late last week, during which developers and board members disagreed on a number of the project’s key features.

“They went away thinking it was too large, they thought that some of the materials were rigorous,” Town Planner Michael Wrinn said Tuesday. “And they were concerned about the building height.”

While the total number of units and size of the proposed 4.5-story building is all subject to change, as the building is still in a pre-application process, the current largest residential building in town is significantly smaller.

“It is less than 100 (units),” Wrinn said. “This would be much larger than that.”

Wrinn added he isn’t sure if the building would be the tallest in Wilton, though some at the board meeting noted that it could be.

While the building was advertised at 4.5 stories, Architectural Review Board Chairman Robert Sanders found it to be “disingenuous” to refer to it as anything other than a five-story building.

“(If) this gets built, it would feel very different than anything else in Wilton,” Sanders said at the meeting. “I won’t accept that it is not a five-story building.”

There is no building currently at 141 Danbury Road, however the property is adjacent to the Norwalk River from the west, as well as a pond just beyond the river.

The plans also feature a park and walkway area behind the building to the west. While that aspect was well-received by most of the board members, the general consensus was that some amendments were needed.

“This would be a (from) scratch build,” Sanders said, before adding that the look and feel of the project is a “very urban building” in a “suburban setting.”

“There is nothing like this in the area,” Sanders told Samuel Fuller, president of Fuller Development who will be overseeing the project.

ARB Secretary Laura Perese said the building looked “very corporate” to her.

The chairman, along with ARB members John Doyle and Kevin Quinlan, mentioned that the building was “nicely designed,” but it’s character didn’t match the town.

“It doesn’t feel like Wilton to me,” Doyle said.

Sanders alluded that the project’s next presentation, as it moves to the Planning and Zoning Commission next week, will have to tackle social conversations such as affordability.

As it stands now, Fuller said the building will feature a 10 percent affordability split, meaning one-tenth of the available units will be designated as affordable.

He cited the current local market average for rent is $3,000 a month, while the average affordable rent is $1,200.

“When required to build affordable apartments, that (incurs) a massive tax. That tax is costly,” Fuller said. “When new apartment developments have an affordable component, the non-affordable component is generally striving for ‘top of market.’”