The development of 183 Ridgefield Road, slated to include the postponed demolition of historic structures, has prompted a number of residents to band together in an effort to preserve what they see as a last bastion of Wilton’s fading historic character.
But now that the land there is being stripped, petitioners have a new sense of urgency.
In late August, Dave Schlichting sold the property his family had lived in for 118 years to a developer who he was under the impression would be restoring it, not tearing it down.
Though legally speaking there was no false pretense involved with the sale, Schlichting indicated he was made to feel some sense of hope for the survival of his childhood home.
When a legal notice printed in The Bulletin on Sept. 24 published the developer’s intent to demolish the house and outbuildings, the Wilton Historic District Commission convened a special meeting and public forum and voted unanimously on Oct. 7 to delay the demolition for 90 days, with Chairman Kevin Quinlan citing, “It’s a historically notable and architecturally notable property which has been a landmark in Wilton for centuries.”
Not only is the Schlichting house more than 160 years old, it is one of only three houses built in the Victorian Italianate villa style remaining in Wilton.
The commissioners recognized that significance and stayed demolition, exercising their ultimate power.
The three-month delay, however, applies only to the structures at 183 Ridgefield Road. There is no prohibition on developing the land there, and the developer seems to be moving full steam ahead with that, tearing down large, ancient trees that once veiled the front of the house.
Furthermore, the developer, 183 Ridgefield Road LLC, who has since been revealed to be James A. Fieber, CEO of Fiber Group LLC in New Canaan, submitted an application to the Planning and Zoning Commission that, if approved, will subdivide the property into four lots. The public hearing for the application is scheduled for the commission’s Dec. 14 meeting.
Wilton resident Victoria Mavis, who lives on Ridgefield Road, started an online petition to save the homestead that at the present time is supported by 474 signatures.
Their plan of action is being executed in several different ways, Mavis said, though she would not disclose any specifics.
According to Mavis, “there is promising momentum in multiple areas, but of too sensitive a nature right now to share.”
That said, Mavis feels “optimistic” and is happy to be closing in on 500 signatures.
She also said that “no matter what winds up happening with the Schlichting house, our core citizen action group that formed in the aftermath of the October Historic District Commission meeting has been busy gathering information from many diverse sources in order to address more proactive ways in which Wilton can protect and monitor all of its historic properties going forward.”
Mavis’s petition may be viewed and/or signed by navigating to Change.org and keying “Schlichting” into the search field at the top of the browser screen.
Previously published Bulletin articles concerning this story may be found at the following web addresses.
Information: Historic home sells to a developer, Developer wants to demolish historic home, Demolition delayed for historic home.
The Historic District Commission’s demolition delay expires on Jan. 7, 2016.