Norwalk developers appeal Wilton's denial of sewer extension that's needed for 70-unit development

A car crosses the train tracks on Cannon Road in Wilton, Conn. next to the Cannondale station on Tuesday, February 4. 2014.
A car crosses the train tracks on Cannon Road in Wilton, Conn. next to the Cannondale station on Tuesday, February 4. 2014.Brian A. Pounds

WILTON — A Rowayton-based company seeking to construct a 70-unit, multi-family development in the Cannondale neighborhood has appealed the denial of its application for a sewer extension.

Baywing, LLC filed the appeal against the Wilton Water Pollution Control Authority, which in January unanimously rejected the developers request to create a 300-foot sewer extension to a property at 19 Cannon Road. 

Timothy Hollister, attorney for Baywing, wrote in the appeal that the WPCA denied the application based on the plans for the property, not on any violation of the town’s sewer regulations or real concerns about the project. Nor, he said, did the WPCA say what conditions and ownership agreement they’d find acceptable to approve the extension.

“The ‘Findings’ portion of the denial resolution is inaccurate, incorrect, and contrary to the substantial evidence in the record in at least these respects,” Hollister wrote in the appeal. “The WPCA denial constitutes an illegal and ultra vires use of the Town's sewer system to control, delay, or deny an unwanted land use, such as multi-family housing with an affordable component…An applicant  is entitled to a presumption that it will correctly and safely implement its proposal, and Murphy's Law is not a valid denial reason.”

Hollister declined to comment further on the appeal. The attorney for the Wilton WPCA could not be reached for comment.

The WPCA listed five reasons for rejecting the plan, including concerns over separate ownership of the pump station and force main, according to the meeting minutes. In its reasons for denial, the WPCA stated that an extension of the sewer should only be permitted if the pump station serves more than one property and is under control of the town. 

"The current project precludes any other development that would require access to the existing Route 7 main line as capacity will have been reached," the WPCA wrote in its reasons for denial. "It would be inequitable and unfair to other property owners who may seek approvals to connect
to the sewer (where no sewer extension is required) who have or may have a reasonable expectation of access to the sewer."

Months of review 

Baywing, then an an option-holder to purchase 19 Cannon Road, approached the town in November 2021 about its intention to build a 70-unit multi-family development, a portion of which would be “moderate-income” units, according to the appeal filed in Stamford Superior Court last month.

Town officials and staff advised the developers to first pursue an approval to connect the property to the Route 7 sewer, a public sewer line which runs along the roadway, according to the complaint. The appeal states that the property, located in Cannondale, is part of a “sewer growth area” per the town’s 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development, meaning the Route 7 sewer should be extended to it.

In February 2022, Baywing requested to extend the sewer 300 feet to connect to the town system, with plans to run about 15,300 gallons a day through the extension. The appeal says this was a “conservative” figure because it was based on the assumption the building would be filled to maximum occupancy.

The WPCA reviewed the request at the time and referred the application to the Wilton Planning and Zoning Commission, which discussed the referral at its March 14, 2022 meeting. 

According to the appeal, the Planning and Zoning Commission was supposed to advise on whether the proposal was consistent with the POCD (which, Baywing argues, it was since the property is in a “sewer growth area”). Instead, Baywing said that the Planning and Zoning Commission “expressed objection to a sewer extension that would facilitate higher residential density and affordable housing in Cannondale and made clear their intent to issue a 'negative' report." Baywing withdrew the application.

That same month, the city of Norwalk, where Wilton’s sewage gets discharged, said it did not see any issue with the application. At the direction of town officials, Baywing conducted a review of the Route 7 sewer to confirm it could hold such an extension and resubmitted the same sewer application to the WPCA in September 2022.

The WPCA and Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the plan, with the latter commission issuing a report saying “a sewer extension should not be granted to facilitate higher-density residential development along Cannon Road,” according to the appeal. 

In response to other concerns from the WPCA's, the company worked with the WPCA staff and their consultants, Wright-Pierce, to propose a new engineering plan that would allow future sewer line extensions to other properties east of the railroad, according to the complaint. 

But during a Jan. 12 hearing, staff raised new concerns about the ownership and maintenance of the proposed pump station and line, how emergencies would be handled, and that the potential extension would cause the sewer to flow at “90 percent” capacity which is “an unacceptable level of flow,” the appeal states 

Baywing argued the company would be able to handle all the concerns and accept whatever ownership structure the WPCA found acceptable, according to the appeal. The company also pointed out that Norwalk and Wright-Pierce said the system would not operate at 90 percent capacity and would be able to handle the extension.

The WPCA continued the public hearing until Jan. 19 and said it would allow Baywing to comment on a draft of a resolution allowing the extension. By Jan. 18, Baywing said they had not gotten the draft, but filed final comments addressing previous concerns, according to the appeal. But when the hearing resumed, the WPCA denied the application.

The appeal calls for the court to sustain Baywing’s appeal, order the company’s revised application to be approved, and offer relief “as the Court deems appropriate.”