P&Z favors car lot, has difficulty with building height

The Planning and Zoning Commission looked kindly on an application to expand vehicle parking and storage space at Bruce Bennett Nissan, but sent the applicants back to the drawing board for a zoning change regulation that would affect the height of buildings in the Design Retail Business (DRB) zoning district. The commission held the public hearings Tuesday evening, May 28.
Car dealership
The car dealership has a lot it wants to use for employee parking and temporary vehicle storage. It is needed for 40 employee cars and approximately 20 to 30 other cars that would be primarily leased cars and trade-ins.
Attorney Casey Healy of Gregory and Adams, who is representing the applicant, Motors Group Associates, Ltd. Partnership, with property at 10 North Main Street, said the business would not use this property in this manner on a permanent basis, and will likely come back before the commission with a more cohesive plan and seek a special permit. He expected that might be in about 12 months.
Commissioner Peter Shiue asked about possible fluid leaks from used cars that are traded in. Bruce Bennett, who attended the meeting, explained most cars that are traded in go to a back lot.
“They don’t stay more than 24 hours,” he said. “We are not storing them there.” He mostly needs it, he added, for employee parking. Customer parking would not be allowed.
There being no public comment, the hearing was closed and the commission asked for a resolution of approval that would expire within two years to be voted on at the June 10 meeting.
Building height
The business known as 200 Danbury Road LLC was taking a second swing at amending zoning regulations that would increase the maximum building height, allowable stories, and floor area ratio in the DRB district. It had brought the matter before the commission earlier this year but the application was withdrawn.
While similar to the original proposal, the new application is more general in nature and does not require things like sewer and water access, minimum road frontage, etc.
Healy also represented the developer here, Patrick Downend, and said “we drafted it more broadly, but you could make the amendments more restrictive.”
The new application seeks an allowance for three stories, a height of 41 feet and no more than 48 feet for buildings with sloped roofs. It also seeks a maximum floor area ratio of 0.35, up from the current 0.25, “where an additional .05 may be granted at the discretion of the Commission to further the preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, reconstruction and/or adaptive re-use of historic structures.”
There is a historic home on the property that encompasses 198-200 Danbury Road — the former Sheridan Interiors building, which is a Greek Revival home built in 1810 that is listed on the Wilton Historical Society’s Historic House Survey. Downend has said he is willing to preserve the building.
The commission, however, expressed difficulty with the regulation re-write as submitted. Chairman Scott Lawrence said the commission needs an application to express the concept in a zoning regulation to ensure the site plan follows it. “There’s nothing to guide the site plan,” he said.
When asked about the commission’s concerns, Nerney explained it this way.
“What the commission is looking for is a high degree of assurance that any action they take is not going to have ramifications at a particular site or other similarly zoned site,” he said.
“When projects move along, when enabling legislation is established, it should be legislation that provides a commission with guidance and certain measurable metrics. If you have something that’s nebulous — the classic example is ‘the use shall be harmonious in character’ — you try to take something without stifling creativity and include tangible benchmarks.”
According to Wilton’s zoning regulations, the Design Retail Business District is intended to accommodate retail stores and service establishments primarily serving the regular needs of residents. There are several such districts throughout Wilton, including along Route 7, in Cannondale and in Georgetown.