Promoting the best interests of the entire community
The Age Restricted Overlay District (AROD) regulation is not spot zoning and it is not high-density development. It is a well thought-out regulation that Town Planner Bob Nerney and the Planning and Zoning Commission, pursuant to the planning function of the commission and exercising of their fiduciary duty, properly noticed, researched, vetted, discussed and implemented in the best interest of the entire Wilton community. Additionally, this overlay regulation does not grant automatic approval to any development. It requires a site plan and a special permit; a stringent process with public hearings and public input; and a wide degree of control over the whole process by the commission. This regulation complies with Wilton’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), and the state’s directive to the town regarding diversity of housing.
Having served on the National Association of Homebuilders Economic Council, I recognize that sustainable and healthy suburban communities must understand changing demographics and offer a diversity of housing alternatives. Alternative housing for Wilton’s affluent 55-and-older population is not abundantly available in Wilton. Losing this market segment to neighboring towns is a certain way to see Wilton’s mill rate creep upwards and the real estate values decrease relative to our neighboring towns. This is already happening. The first selectman ran on a platform to correct this adverse trend and has been an outspoken proponent for the 55-and-older housing, not just for the fiscal benefits it may bring to Wilton, but to retain core residents and preserve the culture of this town. State Sen. Toni Boucher, recognizing the decrease in state funding, spoke in favor of this very regulation at the public hearing when the three arterial roads were clearly designated.
Wilton needs the creation of new households for its economic viability and sustainability. Wilton needs to make progress and progress requires change. Opposing responsible change puts Wilton at a disadvantage when compared to neighboring towns: Wilton’s mill rate is 27%, Greenwich: 11%, Darien: 15%, New Canaan: 16%, Norwalk: 25%, Stamford: 25%, Ridgefield: 26%.
Much has been said lately regarding Ridgefield Road as a state scenic highway. The designation of a state scenic highway is not meant to affect the development rights of a landowner serviced by the roadway or limit the types of development along said roadway. ConnDOT was contacted to confirm the intent of the Scenic Road General Statute. Colleen A. Kissane, transportation assistant planning director at the Bureau of Policy and Planning at ConnDOT and Head of the Scenic Roads Advisory Committee, specifically stated the department does not have jurisdiction on what happens outside of a state highway’s right-of-way. The scenic road designation was not intended to infringe on individual property and zoning rights, and as stated by Kissane, the state has no legal bearing on the development of private property outside of State Route 33 (Ridgefield Road’s) right-of-way. Scenic highway designation has never been revoked, and we were absolutely assured that our homes would have no effect on existing designation.
The Connecticut General Statute explicitly states under the qualification section for a scenic road that “the proposed scenic road shall have development which is compatible with its surroundings and must not detract from the scenic, natural character and visual quality of the highway area.” As stated in the general statute, this is a precursor to designation, and is specifically related to the highway area or the state right-of-way, not development outside the roadway.
A revised rendering of 16 units instead of 35 units for 183 Ridgefield Road was recently made public. It shows no sewer requirement, a 300-foot setback and a sizable, sustainable meadow to be retained in perpetuity. The meadow will maintain the current streetscape and obscure the 16 freestanding homes. The stone wall will be restored, there will be a single curb cut, the flow and scenic vista of Ridgefield Road will remain.
Why this change? I have been a Wilton resident for over 30 years. My kids grew up and went to school in Wilton and my wife still teaches in Wilton. I believe in responsible development and a collaborative approach. Detractors have accused and vilified the Planning and Zoning Commission, town planner, first selectman and me in many forms, without facts or opportunity for discussion. I have reduced the units for 183 Ridgefield Road on my own accord for the betterment of the town of Wilton. The AROD regulation is good for Wilton. It offers the opportunity for diversity of housing, it recognizes the housing needs of an underserved demographic, and it maintains the historical heritage of Wilton and Ridgefield Road.
James A. Fieber, Principal
183 Ridgefield Road LLC