Residents, attorneys speak out against proposed Wilton developments

WILTON — Wilton residents turned out in force Feb. 24 to voice opposition to two significant developments planned for the town - one a business/residential complex along Route 7 and the other a single-family development along Cannon Road.

This was the bimonthly meeting of the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission and marked the start of the public hearing process for the site at 198-200 Danbury Road, which has been dubbed Sharp Hill Square. The site includes the historic Raymond-Morehouse House, the former Sheridan Interiors, and two other buildings that would consist of 30 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space.

The proposed Cannonwoods subdivision is just the latest attempt to develop a 55-acre site along Cannon Road. The most recent failed proposal was in 2018, which called for an eight-home subdivision.

The current proposal calls for the construction of five private homes, four of which will front a private driveway with the fifth facing Cannon Road. Its developer is Cannonwoods, LLC, whose owner is Wilton resident Dominick Polito.

Undeveloped lot sparks scrutiny

The two attorneys who spoke against the proposed Cannonwoods subdivision made much of the fact that the subdivision plan would include an undeveloped, 39-acre “back lot” inaccessible from Cannon Road. This adds a sixth lot to the subdivision, they maintained, which would open the door to the potential addition of as many as 10 home sites in the future.

Attorney Patricia Frisch, of 66 Ridgefield Road, said the proposal calls for the commission, others in town government and the public at large to “pretend” that the development consists of five building lots — when in fact the big as-yet-undeveloped lot constitutes lot number six. At the hearing Frisch represented Donna, Alexander and Fred Benenson, who own neighboring homes along Cannon Road.

“We submit that it does not comply with Connecticut statutes, zoning regulations and subdivision regulations,” Frisch said. “If the commission accepts and approves the application it will in my opinion be approving an illegal six-lot subdivision.”

In addition, aspects of the lending agreement that facilitated the sale raise the specter of additional lot sales, she noted. “My clients are not against development — they are in favor of rational, lawful development,” Frisch said. She noted that should the application be nixed, Cannonwoods LLC could resubmit it as a five-unit subdivision but could instead attach the large sixth parcel to one of those five lots.

“Any future development [of the biggest lot] would require re-subdivision… which is what they are supposed to do,” she said.

In opening remarks the developer’s attorney, Elizabeth Suchy of the Stamford law firm Carmody, Torrance, Sandak and Hennessey, noted that the developer had addressed a variety of concerns raised by the commission at the Feb. 10 hearing. These included incorporating fire sprinklers in all five homes, eliminating the need for a fire cistern, regrading the private driveway to improve driving-sight lines and the addition of trees lining the roadway. The latter plans include a tree at the center of the cul-de-sac at its end.

Oversized ambitions?

While the opponents of Cannonwoods mainly represented the legal community, the Sharp Hill Square proposal attracted the most opposition from homeowners. Most, in fact, of those who spoke at the hearing live along Sharp Hill Road — the corner street that abuts the Sharp Hill Square site. They raised concerns about noise, traffic, and nighttime lighting, as well as the sheer size of the buildings.

“From where we are it [one of the buildings] will look more like a four-story structure,” said Maureen Deacy, who lives at 15 Sharp Hill Road, which immediately abuts the development parcel. “I also don’t know how all of the digging will affect our well.” Deacy said her water will need to be continuously tested during and after the development process.

“It is simply massive relative to anything that has ever been contemplated [for the site],” said Suzanne Schaefer, of 43 Sharp Hill Road. She, too, raised concerns about water quality among residents along the street, most of whom use private wells.

Jeff Englander, who lives at 13 Orems Lane, also expressed misgivings about the project’s size. He also questioned the feasibility of adding so much retail space. “Given the amount of retail space that has disappeared, it might not even get filled,” Englander said.

Longtime Sharp Hill Road resident Michael Shays said that most mornings require him to wait through three traffic lights to turn onto Danbury Road. “I’m not a NIMBY and from the front the building is pretty,” said Shays. “But it’s four stories tall!” Shays called on the owners of the property to practice the same consideration that residents do when constructing a tall fence, for example.

“Just because you’re a corporation doesn’t mean you stop being a good neighbor,” he said.

More fundamentally, Commission Chair Rick Tomasetti expressed concern that the project had yet to earn a green light from the Inland Wetlands Commission and Architectural Review Board, as well as the fire and police departments.

“It seems like this is very much a work in progress,” Tomasetti said, pointing to repeated changes developer Patrick Downend has made to the site’s parking.

Both the Cannonwoods and Sharp Hill Square projects will again be on the agenda when the commission reconvenes on March 9.