Commission discusses potential Architectural Review Board

A new Architectural Review Board could help both the town and future applicants.
The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed a potential Architectural Review Board (ARB) and its benefits at its meeting Monday night. Planning and Zoning Chairman Scott Lawrence said the group would be advisory and be involved in reviewing pre-applications. No formal vote was held to implement the board, but the commission saw it as an important conversation to be held.
“We have the ability to do an ad hoc committee blessed by the Board of Selectman to function as our architectural review board,” Lawrence said at the meeting on Feb. 4.
The ARB would be structured similar to neighboring towns’ review boards, he added. The Board of Selectmen would have to bless the ad hoc committee under its powers and then repeat it once a year moving forward. Commission member Chris Pagliaro said the ARB could help applicants be better prepared and help narrow conversations during meetings.
“A lot of times we’re having conversations about architecture more so than planning and zoning,” he added. “I think it could be beneficial to the town.”
The ARB would most likely be comprised of members from the Village District Consultant Committee.
Planning and Zoning Vice Chairman Rick Tomasetti said this could help everyone applicants get on the same page early.
“You understand what the community you’re looking to work in is looking for,” he added.
Getting higher quality and more cohesiveness in structures can occur outside of regular meetings if the ARB is formed, Tomasetti said. He added that it’s important the board is viewed as the starting point for applicants and not a stop-gap for the commission.
Commission member Bas Nabulsi said he was concerned the board would be comprised of individuals with their own particular views. He added this could lead to a more laborious process for applicants.
“There may not be a homogeneous set of input,” Nabulsi said. “Then they’ll come here having weathered that and then confront as many as nine different views.”
Tomasetti said for smaller-scale projects the architectural review board’s input holds a lot of weight. He said he didn’t expect many applicants to have large disagreements with the input from the ARB. If the board was to have a severe issue with an applicant it’s almost always zoning related, he added.
“It’s usually because the design was flawed fundamentally from a safety, bulk or something,” Tomasetti said.
Lawrence said the commission could use a sunset provision to test out the new board. This provision would allow for the board to exist for a certain length of time so the commission could view the results.
Pagliaro said the ARB would be helpful and isn’t a controversial conversation to have.
“There’s not a town around us that doesn’t have some form of non-residential ARB,” he said. “It’s amazing to me Wilton doesn’t, to be honest.”