The Planning and Zoning Commission’s site walk for the proposed subdivision on Cannon Road was the equivalent of a record breaker, drawing about 20 citizens on a cold afternoon.

“Traditionally, this is one of the larger gatherings of the public, which is good, because you want public involvement in local government,” said Bob Nerney, the town’s planning director, the day after the 90-minute walk along some of the 55 acres of the proposed development site.

The proposal is for a conservation subdivision of eight house lots on a cul de sac. Then, there is a conventional plan for two-acre tracts that shows 11 lots to demonstrate the applicants could have an alternative plan for a traditional subdivision, one of the requirements of the zoning regulations, including the crossing of a wetland. The applicants must make a case they  have more open space with a smaller development. This is not an actual application, it is only to demonstrate that it could be developed. The commissioners examined the site from both points of view.

Questions from the commissioners were limited to location issues only, because the proposal is currently active before the P&Z in public hearing format.

“We only showed where the road is, where the houses are located,” Nerney said. “There was no conversation or discussion with respect to the project.”
Any questions about specifics were left to be answered April 9, during the continued public hearing on the proposal.

From the point of view of a member of the public who attended, the site walk clearly demonstrated the plan is not feasible, said Sara Curtis, who frequently attends P&Z meetings.

“I think all were struck by the extremely rugged landscape and the vast wetlands,” Curtis said.

She issued a statement:

“It is important to understand that the strong opposition to what is being called a ‘Conservation Subdivision’ is based on the applicant's inability to show that the application meets the Town's subdivision and zoning regulations which notes that ‘open space shall include land that could otherwise have been developed in a traditional subdivision.’ The open space includes and is surrounded by a complex system of wetlands with vernal pools, ponds, grassy marsh, and Mayapple Brook (a Class A water source) that are bordered by steep slopes. In other words, this land is already preserved as it is not suitable for development. The proposed conservation subdivision of 8 houses on the remaining ten upland-acres does not limit the disturbance of the buildable area, it intensifies it. In reviewing this application Wilton's Conservation Commission voiced their concern that the ‘...cluster option is not as conservation friendly because what is conserved is not usable … the development will degrade the conservation easement with the change in terrain, filling in the flood zone and the impact on the rest of the site.’ (See Conservation Commission Meeting Minutes April 5, 2017).”

Other residents who attended included Vicki Mavis, who deferred comment to Curtis, and Harry Clark, who shared his thoughts in an email.

“It’s my understanding that conservation developments are usually granted as an alternative to a conventional plan that would otherwise use more of the property. This hinges on the presumption that the conventional plan is sound and would otherwise be approved,” Clark said. “Having walked the site with the town planners and conservation committee members, I would question if this a realistic presumption.”

Clark continued, “It seems to me there is no access beyond the upland area near Cannon Road; there is a swamp area that is flanked by a pond and a wetland area. The only access to the back 40+ acres is straight over the swamp, using, I presume, some sort of bridge as approved by inland wetlands/conservation commission. In my experience they do not even like disturbing areas adjacent to wetlands, let alone wetlands themselves.”

He showed a photo of the wetland.

“I’m happy to let the photo speak for itself,” Clark said. “It’s pretty obvious that no modern planning or conservation board would allow a road through a classic looking wetland like that … and even a bridge seems like a long shot.”