Wilton's special-permit application process is under review

The Planning and Zoning Commission, which normally meets in the town hall annex, is working to improve the special-permit application process.

The Planning and Zoning Commission, which normally meets in the town hall annex, is working to improve the special-permit application process.

Jeannette Ross / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — The Planning & Zoning Commission—led by staff—is taking a closer look at the zoning and permit application process with an eye toward increasing efficiency.

Michael Wrinn, director of planning and land use management/town planner, brought the request to the full commission Nov. 23, following discussion at a subcommittee meeting the week before.

“It’s very vague now,” Wrinn told the subcommittee on Nov. 18, specifically with regard to special-permit applications.

“It’s void of any direction for someone coming in of what they need to give you,” he said.

Instead, Wrinn will be presenting something akin to a checklist for applicants, so they might be more clear on what relevant information is needed by the department and commission.

“It’s not asking for anything more than what the commission already requires for them in the application process, but it just lays it out for them early on,” he said, potentially helping avoid delays through the process.

Chair Richard Tomasetti, who had conferred with Wrinn about the change, noted that not all applications require everything that’s indicated on the current form.

“We might need to review this separately … or revise our regulations so that it’s clear,” he said, speculating on what the appropriate cutoffs might be in terms of size and scale regarding application requirements.

“You’re not going to have traffic reports on, say, a smaller special permit use,” Wrinn concurred.

“A lot of this goes by the wayside, so we don’t want to have a check box that just stops them in their tracks,” he said.

“They’re not going to apply to everything and that’s fine,” he said. “That’s a given. There’s gonna be a disclaimer in here somewhere.”

Tomasetti told the full commission last week that, as things stand, there are some special-permit applications that come in to the department that potentially might not logically warrant the permit at all, but are still required to have them because it’s been traditional.

“There are some things that we require a special permit now that for whatever reason have just been an historic norm,” he said.

“Part of this process, Mike will tell you, as we go through the next year or two, some of the things that we once thought so special in terms of a permit might not be as special today,” he said, including some situations that might not require permission through the commission.

Though the draft wasn’t shared publicly, Wrinn provided commission members with his suggested changes, noting it would still require public approval.

“We do have to go to a public hearing with it, strange as that is, because it is part of your regulations,” he said, noting it wouldn’t be likely before January.

Tomasetti advised the commission to share their comments with Wrinn via email.

Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini, speaking at the subcommittee meeting on Nov. 18, expressed a hope that as this process is revamped some focus could be given to the standing request for environmental assessments as they relate to the special-permit application.

She said that while applicants are required to conduct an assessment, often times they satisfy the requirement by merely having a sign-off from their legal counsel.

“What we get is a cover letter from an attorney saying everything’s fine … That is completely and wholly insufficient in my mind,” she said.

Wrinn and Tomasetti indicated it would be something requiring closer examination, but possibly as part of the work on master planning and zoning regulatory reform that they are hoping to get underway in the coming months.

“This looks pretty comprehensive,” Tomasetti said of Wrinn’s draft, noting he only hoped to see it in a more user-friendly looking form.

“But I think the content in here looks really good to me,” he said.