Wilton planners look favorably on dental, Wilton Heights requests
The eleventh-hour cancellation of an affordable senior housing proposal shortened considerably the Dec. 9 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
At the meeting’s outset, commissioners selected officers for the upcoming year. They and their respective roles are:
Rick Tomasetti, chairman. Tomasetti served as vice chairman for the prior year.
Melissa Rotini, vice-chairman. Rotini had last served as a P&Z commissioner.
Doris Knapp, reelected as secretary.
The commission bid farewell to Bob Nerney, the town’s director of Planning and Land Use Management. He is leaving the post where he has served for more than 18 years, effective Feb. 7. It also welcomed its newest commissioners: Democrat Florence Johnson and Republican Jill Warren, elected in November.
A zoning-change request by Dominick and Marie Agostin of 15 Old Ridgefield Road took up the biggest share of the meeting time. Agostin has been a dentist in Wilton for more than 40 years and operates his practice at his residence, which is adjacent to Wilton Center. The zoning along that street allows for home-based professional offices — provided they are operated by the person who lives in the same residence.
Dr. and Mrs. Agostin want to retire and move, and another dentist has indicated a desire to take over Agostin’s practice. However, that dentist does not want to live make his home at 15 Old Ridgefield Road. Accordingly, Dr. Agostin’s application sought to amend Section 29-5.C.6 of the Town of Wilton zoning regulations to allow professional offices for non-resident occupants on Old Ridgefield Road.
No drastic change
Craig Flaherty, president of the Stamford engineering firm Redniss and Mead, pointed out that the rule change would copy what is already permitted on nearby streets. “We are expanding an allowance that already exists,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty also noted that the change is consistent with the mixed-use development that is encouraged in the town’s current Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). “This property and all of Old Ridgefield Road are included in the area known as Greater Wilton Center,” he said. “It acts as a step down [in density] from the actual town center and the largely rural character of the surrounding residential areas.”
The move also preserves a piece of Wilton history, as Dr. Agostin’s house was built in 1825. “Over the long term this will take a little bit of the development pressure off this property, by letting it continue as it has for the past 40-plus years,” said Flaherty.
“Did you consider the adaptive re-use regulation?” Tomasetti asked. Flaherty indicated that he, the Agostins, and their attorney — Casey Healy — had not considered this approach.
Nerney interjected that the adaptive reuse regulation permits up to half of the property at a particular site to be used in a new manner — in this case, professional offices. “This is a softer approach … and probably more appropriate given the [hilly] topography of the Old Ridgefield Road site,” said Nerney.
“The house would not have to be a dental office forever, but could be occupied by some sort of similar professional practice [in the future],” Healy said.
The consensus at the commission was in favor of the proposal, and Tomasetti asked Nerney and his staff to prepare a draft resolution of approval for further discussion and a possible vote at the commission’s next regular meeting. That is scheduled for Jan. 13.
No parking on grass
Among other business, the commission responded to a request from the Grumman Hill Montessori Association, which operates a school at 34 Whipple Road. The school recently added grades seven and eight; the town’s approval of that additional enrollment level was conditional on the school’s acceptance of town regulations prohibiting parking on the school’s lawn.
In a letter from the school’s attorney — Joseph Williams of the firm Shipman and Goodwin — the school sought to have the commission waive this requirement. This request was returned to the Association with a suggested alternative process.
“If the school would like to have that provision amended, they should bring it via a special appeal [via the town’s zoning staff],” said Tomasetti.
Entry and exit planning
The commission moved more favorably on a request from the developers of Wilton Heights, a mixed residential and retail development planned at 300 Danbury Road. The developers sought to somewhat modify the building plan to facilitate a drive-through window, a loading area and driveways.
The modifications were sought after the Connecticut Department of Transportation raised concerns about the lack of such provisions in the current plan. The change does not alter the building’s overall footprint, other than a small subtraction in the amount of available retail floor space.
A drugstore with a drive-up window will take up about 50 percent of the lower level’s available retail space. Tomasetti described the change as “shifting things around.”
“This is something that staff can deal with,” he noted.
In its concluding discussions, the commission indicated several items that will be on its agenda in the coming year. Topping the list are renovation plans for Schneck’s Island and Merwin Meadows in Wilton Center. Among the proposals to be considered are a bandstand and improved trails at Schneck’s Island and a pickleball court at Merwin Meadows.