'Handsome' Wilton Center housing proposal raises zoning concerns

WILTON — A 32-unit downtown housing proposal was presented to a Planning and Zoning Commission Monday that drew praise for its design, but also concern about amending zoning regulations.

The plan is to demolish an existing three-story office building at 12 Godfrey Place, adjacent to the Wilton Library in the town's center, and construct a new four-story transit-oriented building that features one-, two- and three-bedroom units with an affordable component. 

The units would range from 829 square feet to 2,300 square feet and will include multiple three-bedroom duplexes, which architect Rich Granoff argued are usually the first units to rent in other buildings his company has worked on. There would be 34 parking spots in the garage beneath the units with an additional eight across the street.

Multiple commissioners spoke of how they liked the plan and the idea of bringing more residents into Wilton Center, going so far as to call the proposal "handsome."

"Since the pre-application, I thought this was a very well thought-out application and would be an asset to the community," said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro, who is an architect by trade.

In order to approve the project, though, the commission would need to adjust the town's zoning regulations for multiple aspects of the project including height, density, parking and building setback.

Some commissioners, including Chairman Rick Tomasetti, voiced concerns it may be an inopportune time to do so.

"We are on the precipice of completing our master plan, which will change our regulations and you are currently asking us to change our regulations in advance of that," Tomasetti said. "It is not clear to me that the regulatory changes that you're asking for will be in compliance with what we're looking to do with our master plan."

Attorney Liz Suchy noted that any changes made to the zoning regulations for this project can always be adjusted after the Wilton Center master plan is officially adopted.

"You're not in any way limited to keeping the regulations that we suggest if you decide to approve them, and improving upon them as part of your master planning process," she said.

In addition, Suchy said the project is in line with Wilton's goals of activating the town center by allowing people to "live where they play, work and socialize."

"We believe the proposal addresses the goals of the Plan of Conservation and Development," Suchy said Monday on behalf of Greenwich Realty Development LLC, the owner of the building. "It seeks to create new and diversified housing options and creating a multifamily aspect in Wilton Center. Specifically, we believe this project addresses the community's interest in increasing housing variety and variety of price points."

Suchy added that Wilton Center is usually quiet after 9 p.m., and bringing in more residents would only benefit local commerce.

The plan also proposes solar panels lining the roof to support the use of clean energy, as well as the inclusion of six electric vehicle chargers in the building's parking garage.

Vice Chairwoman Melissa-Jean Rotini shared some of Tomasetti's concerns, while commissioner Florence Johnson said she'd like to see native plantings used on the site instead of what had been suggested.

The applicants will return on Dec. 12 with more specifics on what allowances the project would need from the existing town zoning regulations and how they might impact the downtown upon the acceptance of a new master plan.

"I would hate to see that this handsome building with this kind of idea that is being proposed — which, what you even indicated, is thoughtful — not come to pass and not be a standard bearer that you could use to modify regulations in the future or adopt regulations that emerge from your master plan," Suchy said.