More support shown for Wilton Heights

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 40 people July 9 at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting again showed mostly passionate support for a proposal to build a two-building, residential-retail development at the Crossways property at the intersection of Routes 7 and 33.

It was the second packed public hearing on the zone change and text amendment requests for the proposal, for which a separate hearing on the actual site plan and special permit will open on July 23.

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.

Like the first public hearing June 25, the supporters in the crowd  outnumbered the opponents, who appeared often to be immediate neighbors of the property.

‘If we don’t grow as a town, we are going to go backwards,” said resident David Gortz, who said the properties on the site now, which would be removed, are an eyesore.

Resident Jeff Kaplan, who presented a petition with 75 signatures in support of the project during the first public hearing, brought in another 98 signatures in support of it. “We’re comfortable with this developer, he does good work,” Kaplan said.

“I fully support this application,” said resident John Musilli, who said it is a viable project for Route 7 at a time when big box retail is threatened by Amazon and commercial development is upside down.

“To turn this down for questionable reasons would tell developers Wilton isn’t moving forward as a town,” said resident Matt Bostwick, also in favor.

“This project offers a variety of housing we don’t have a large supply of,” said resident Florence Johnson, also in favor.

Some spoke against it. “Think of the potential effect on property values, for people buying homes. People bought into a single-family neighborhood,” said resident Mangtao Du.

There needs to be more input about historic properties in the discussion, said Allison Sanders, chair of the Wilton Historic District Commission (HDC). Her comments went past the two-minute limit so she submitted a letter.

“In order to improve the process by which the town grows, there are two changes that can be made immediately. First, the HDC strongly suggests that they be included in the review of all current P&Z applications which include structures over 50 years of age and over 500 square feet. Second, insert language in the current regulations which empowers both P&Z and the HDC to consider historic assets in their deliberations,” Sanders said in the letter she submitted to the commission.

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.