Revised mixed-use project gets better reception by Wilton P&Z

WILTON — Nearly one year after its initial pre-application meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commission, a proposal to redevelop a commercial property in south Wilton Center is starting to curry favor.

The plan proposes redeveloping two commercial buildings near Schenck's Island and adjacent to Stop and Shop to add 153 apartments, including affordable housing. One building will become mixed-use, with both retail and residential elements, and one would be only residential

The buildings are owned by KIMCO Realty, based out of New Hyde Park, N.Y. 

The team representing the project at 5-21 River Road last came before the commission in June to a lukewarm reception, mostly due to concerns with the buildings' design and a need for a more fleshed out parking plan. The team has since earned a bit more positive feedback due to adjusting building heights, more parking details and adding architectural features that better fit with Wilton Center.

The plan proposes 534 total spaces. Craig Flaherty, an engineer with Redniss & Mead who is working with the proposal team, said the plan includes 186 residential parking spots — one for each of the 75 studio and one-bedroom units and two for each of the 93 two- or three-bedroom units. KIMCO would also provide parking spots for the offices and retail on-site, and public parking spaces.

"This is a major leap forward," Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro said at the recent meeting. "I think you are starting to get where we are coming from."

Other commissioners took a similar stance to Pagliaro and lauded the efforts of the proposal team. But despite the favorable reviews, there are still a few hurdles that need to be cleared, including the necessary zoning text amendments that the commission would need to accept as part of the application when it is officially filed. 

Flaherty said there are some text amendments that would need to be adopted to make the current site plan eligible for approval.

First, Flaherty pointed to town regulations cap residences over street-level stores or offices at a maximum density of five dwelling units per acre, or a maximum density of 10 dwelling units per acre if located within 1,000 feet of Wilton Train Station.

He proposed an amendment that changes the cap to 15 dwelling units per acre if at least 10 percent of the units are designated affordable, or if at least 50 percent of the building's gross floor area is being used for active commercial uses and at least 60 percent of the street or primary face of the building is occupied for commercial or residential uses.

The face of the building with frontage on River Road is proposed to have numerous retail elements on the street level with multifamily housing units above it. The building in the rear of the property will not be affected, as it does not propose any retail element.

Flaherty also suggested a leniency on the current town regulation that states no building front yard is allowed to be setback further than 20 feet from the street except for on Danbury Road. He asked for a change to 250 feet.

Rotini talked about the impact of timing of these zoning text amendments as the town seeks to adopt a Wilton Center master plan.

"I'm very worried about making changes now, then going back in a month and changing it all over again," Rotini said. She said she would prefer to make certain that all language in the proposal's official application is exactly how it needs to be presented, since the commission can only accept or reject it, not change it, at that point.

While commissioners did still raise some questions on more concentrated architectural decisions and building height, they mostly gave credit to the proposal team.

"You really listened to our comments," Pagliaro said. "I really appreciate that."

The team will come back to the commission with an updated plan in the coming weeks. It noted that it was not concerned over waiting for the town to finish its Wilton Center master plan to provide more clarity, but that it did not want to wait upwards of six months as it wants to move the process forward,