Mixed bag for Wilton Heights’ third hearing

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 40 people July 23 at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting gave mixed reactions to the proposal to build a two-building, residential-retail development at the Crossways property at the intersection of Routes 7 and 33.

It was the third packed public hearing on the zone change and text amendment requests for the proposal. There was also supposed to be a separate hearing on the actual site plan and special permit for the property, but the developer delayed that to Sept. 10, the next meeting of the commission following its summer break in the month of August.

The applicant, Wilton Heights LLC, is seeking a change of zone for property at 3, 7, and 11 Whitewood Lane from residential (R-1A) to Wilton Center (WC) District. The applicant also asked for text amendments pertaining to area and bulk requirements for the Wilton Center District.

That was the sticking point July 23 for some speakers in the crowd, who believed that the town center as a whole is not ready for the kinds of changes the developer has in mind on things like height restrictions for buildings.

Resident Barbara Geddis was the first to make that suggestion. “I don’t think we are all ready for this thing,” she said. Others followed. “I agree with Barbara that Wilton is not ready for that bulk kind of zoning change,” said resident Florence Johnson, although she said she supports the project in general.

Resident Vicki Mavis also described it as a sweeping zone change.

Another resident stood up for preservation. “Remember the town motto and go by the town motto,” said resident Valerie Oben, who said the motto had to do with preserving for the future.

That was the key point on the mind of resident Jamie Pettit, who drew attention to the wetlands, the wildlife and the Norwalk River.

“These particular wetlands are very special, and support diverse life. The removal of the site would be detrimental to the environment and to species,” she said.

Resident Jeff Kaplan, who presented a petition with 75 signatures in support of the project during the first public hearing and another 98 signatures in support of it the second time, was absent during the third hearing.

Wilton Heights LLC is a partnership of individuals from Fairfield County that filed plans May 9 with the planning and zoning department for 74 residential units and 15 retail units on the 7.4-acre site. With a downtown-type design, two buildings would house apartments above retail within 1,000 feet of the Wilton train station.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments would be built as rental units and are expected to appeal to both millennials and empty nesters.