Wilton P&Z tells housing developer to offer more amenities, address density concerns

WILTON — A plan to bring over 200 new apartments to Wilton has a chance to move forward, but only if concerns over density, accessibility and lack of amenities are properly addressed, according to the head of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

A local developer presented his proposal to bring two large residential properties to town to the group on Monday, days after receiving a critical response from Wilton’s Architectural Review Board. The commissioners’ rhetoric wasn’t quite as harsh as the ARB’s, but multiple members did voice concerns with various elements of the projects.

The proposals include an 89-unit podium building at 24 Danbury Road, and a 150-unit building at 221 Danbury Road. Both projects would have an affordable housing component.

“I’m concerned that this application — and I’ll have similar comments on (221 Danbury Road) — in terms of how they are thought out, needs significant work,” Tomasetti said. “I’m highly concerned that this 8-30g statute is being used kind of as a weapon to force some super density on the community, and you’re not really regarding the neighboring properties or citizens of Wilton.”

For 24 Danbury Road, the commission cited concerns over density, accessibility and a lack of amenities.

Douglas Cutler, the project’s developer, said there are plans for a “green roof” on the building with solar panels and a landing pad for drones. Before diving into parking and public safety features, Cutler also explained various “regulatory hurdles” that he has foreseen on the property, including a wetlands area behind the proposed development.

The chairman asked for Cutler to come back with some examples of other 8-30g developmental projects and their costs comparatively, as he felt these offerings were “maxed out” examples. Tomasetti also challenged Cutler on market metrics, which he said were not yet submitted with the pre-application.

“I want to understand that what is being proposed here is meeting those market tests,” Tomasetti said.

The building currently proposes a mix of 15 studio apartment units, 47 one-bedroom apartment units and 27 two-bedroom apartment units. Tomasetti questioned how the developer came to use this breakdown of unit types and wanted to be certain that whatever was to be built in Wilton would be “viable in today’s market.” One problem, he cited, is being able to rent all of the units available in a new development.

“Do we know if the town can absorb 500 apartments?” asked Commissioner Doris Knapp, who compiled a rough total of all the units in proposed residential buildings currently being reviewed.

Cutler said he spoken to real estate agents in the area that have given him confidence in the project, and that a diversity in housing types and promoting residents with diversity in income to live in the town is a positive.

On the topic of density, Cutler was adamant that the businesses and establishments surrounding the proposal would benefit.

“We’d have a walkable (town),” Cutler said, adding that the nearby Little Pub would “certainly benefit” from welcoming hundreds of new residents in walking distance, as well as Our Lady of Fatima, who Cutler surmised families living in the developments could have their children walk to the nearby school.

In the way of amenities, the commission was not impressed. Tomasetti asked Cutler about cutting out space for amenities, more than just the rooftop that the developer already had mocked up in a rendering. Talks of hot tubs, outdoor barbeque areas and fitness centers were mentioned by both the commission and Cutler, but none are currently in the site plans.

“People are looking for amenities,” Knapp said, agreeing with the chairman. “This has none.”

Cutler said he would go back and look at his plans to make reasonable changes.

With the second proposal at 221 Danbury Road, an additional problem the commission had with the latter was parking circulation and its egress into the flow of traffic on Danbury Road.

For both projects, Town Planner Michael Wrinn said the fire marshal and police department would like to review them for accessibility and safety.

Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro said that the top priority he looks for in a new proposal is creativity and a clear vision from the developer. The proposals at 24 and 221 Danbury Road are both modern-looking structures.

“My attitude as an architect is (to) bring me something good, and it’s good,” Pagliaro said, adding he believes that Cutler has the ability to bring something better to Wilton.