Wilton church drops plan for emergency generator, citing resident opposition

Wilton Congregational Church has rescinded its request for an emergency generator and a diesel fuel tank after nearby residents opposed the plan.

Wilton Congregational Church has rescinded its request for an emergency generator and a diesel fuel tank after nearby residents opposed the plan.

Bryan Haeffele / / bryanhaeffele.com / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — The Wilton Congregational Church has rescinded its request for a permit to install an emergency generator on its premises after opposition from residents, according to Town Planner Michael Wrinn.

Initially, the church desired to add a 203-gallon diesel fuel tank in its parking lot to fuel the generator. The church and its chairperson of the building and grounds commission, Gifford Broderick, went to the town with requests for the diesel tank and generator so that the Ridgefield Road house of worship could double as a community emergency center for heating, cooling, food and power during outages, natural disasters and other incidents.

The plan revolved around Wilton’s susceptibility to extended power outages, according to Broderick.

“Since 2017, we have had three extended power failures,” Broderick said on June 22, adding that all of the town’s outages typically last in excess of two days. “It is not uncommon for that to happen in Wilton. Prior to that, even, we had multiple extended outages as well. It puts a real hardship on residents in town.”

The idea, Broderick said, was for the church to have a generator powerful enough to support the heating and cooling center, along with using the church as a recharge station for electronics and even to serve meals and offer showers for households in town that do not have the capabilities during an outage.

Wrinn read a letter from Broderick at the most recent Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on June 21. The town planner said Broderick had resubmitted the latest letter at 7:53 p.m., just minutes before the town board was to review the scheduled agenda item, wishing to rescind the request.

“We do not want to proceed as currently planned,” Broderick wrote in the letter read aloud by Wrinn. “The church leadership thought that the project would benefit the entire Wilton community and be positively viewed.”

Broderick’s sentiments did not change by Tuesday.

“We thought we were doing something positive for the community,” he said.

At the tail end of his letter, Broderick hinted that the church received numerous letters of opposition from residents and neighbors. On Tuesday, he said the church received 10 letters of opposition to the request, as well as two that supported it.

A major factor in resident opposition was related to the size, Broderick said. He detailed the state and town’s regulations for noise requirements, forcing the church to plan for a large enclosure to be placed around the generator. Neighbors did not support this idea, Broderick said, then explaining that if the generator were to be there, the enclosure was non-negotiable.

The request to rescind the project came just as the board was ready to review a request to increase the scope of the emergency generator, with the agenda’s language including an appeal “to permit an increase in maximum building coverage to 18.3 percent from the existing 17.8 percent, where a maximum of 7 percent is permitted.”

When asked if there is another venue in town that offers these services during emergencies, Broderick said he wasn’t aware if there had been one.

Shortly after Wrinn read the letter, the item was withdrawn from the agenda, seemingly indefinitely. Zoning Board of Appeals member Jerry Holdridge started to voice his opinion that the town might not need this offering from the church.

But Broderick says this project won’t be shelved permanently.

“We are going to regroup and see what we can do (about) what some of the neighbors’ objections were,” Broderick said. “We will revisit the size needs of the unit, but changing the size of the generator does not change the enclosure size much.”