Mormon meetinghouse approval in Wilton means growing congregation can 'worship in the town we live'

A rendering for the proposed house of worship for the Church of Latter-day Saints that is being reviewed for a location near Wilton Center.

A rendering for the proposed house of worship for the Church of Latter-day Saints that is being reviewed for a location near Wilton Center.

Contributed Photo

WILTON — With Planning and Zoning approval for a new meetinghouse across from Town Hall, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now looks forward to planting a "stake" in Wilton.

"We are grateful to all members of the Architectural Review Board and Planning and Zoning Commission, including Town Planner Michael Wrinn, for their thoughtful input and support during the approval process," said Todd Herget, president of the church's Fairfield "stake" — or regional group.

His stake includes several smaller groups, of which the burgeoning Wilton congregation — or "ward" — is one.

The congregation, which is part of what is widely known as the Mormon church, sought to build the meetinghouse due to growing numbers. Construction of the building on Danbury Road and Crickett Lane will allow congregates to worship in Wilton, rather than Newtown. 

"I look forward to the day when we can worship in the town we live in and continue to support the Wilton community we love," said Former Selectperson Deborah McFadden, who is active with Wilton's new ward.

Though no timeline has been set for the project, the new two-story meetinghouse is planned to feature over 15,000 square feet of space, including numerous classrooms and a chapel.

'Compromise' leads to approval

The Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved the church's plan at its Jan. 23 meeting, with minimal discussion and Chair Richard Tomasetti recusing himself from the proceedings entirely.

Concerns had been expressed at its Jan. 9 meeting about some of the exterior features, including the windows and the use of two different colors of brick.

While the commission was looking to get these changes addressed in revised plans, Robin Benning of Randolph L. Carter Architects — who said his firm works regularly with the church on designing meetinghouses — relayed the request from the corporate leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah, that a decision be made immediately.

"At this point, our client has asked us to please take this forward as an 'up or down' decision," he said. "They're very anxious to get started."

Though several commissioners said that, without further changes to the plan, they would vote against it, Wrinn prepared a "compromise" that incorporated some of the changes into the condition of approval.

"What I did was take the major points the commission was having issue with and had them make them conditions of approval," he said, noting that the applicants had been "flexible," but had misunderstood the process of approval.

Benning, too, said they had had their "wires crossed" in relation to the requests and direction given by both Planning & Zoning and the Architectural Review Board.

"We've made significant revisions to the site and to the building," he said.

Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini praised Wrinn for crafting a compromise resolution.

"With the additional notes that were made and the additional conditions of approval that were set forth by Mr. Wrinn ... that would then meet all of the requirements for what we were looking for," she said.

Need for new church 

The church's Wilton congregation formed in June 2021 and is " absolutely wonderful," Herget said. Around 230 members are drawn from Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton.

"Previous to creating the Wilton congregation, the members were aligned with the Darien and the Newtown congregations," he said. The former congregates at the meetinghouse in New Canaan, off the Merritt Parkway's exit 38 on Route 123.

Due to increasing numbers, he said, the headquarters for the church approved the plan for a new meetinghouse, which will be built on a three-acre combined lot at 241 Danbury Road and adjacent 23 Cricket Lane.

"The congregation is temporarily meeting in the Newtown building until the completion of the Wilton meetinghouse," Herget said.

McFadden said the church will become a valuable part of the local community.

"As a family-oriented town, Wilton is the perfect setting for our new meetinghouse," she said, describing her church as very focused on families, as well as community involvement.

Her husband, Jack McFadden, serves as the ward representative to the Wilton Inner-Faith Action Committee.

Bishop Brad Gibson, who leads the Wilton ward, expressed his happiness with his group and approval of the new meetinghouse.

"It is my hope that the people of my congregation will bring fellowship, service and goodness to those we associate with," he said.

According to the church's website there are 23 other wards in Connecticut, including ones in Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury.

Wrinn praised the applicants and their representatives.

"I think it's important that we thank them for working with us," he said.

"It's been a long run," he said. "I think they'll be a good partner to have in town. I think it'll be a good use of that property."