Parking relief sought for Wilton kennels

The difference between veterinary hospitals and commercial kennels is that the former treat the animals, whereas the latter give them shelter.

But because Wilton’s zoning regulations treat the two as one and the same in terms of parking requirements, the extra space kennels need for boarding means they must provide more parking than is asked of veterinarians, even though kennels and vets are typically staffed by a comparable number of employees.

That kennels are “over-parked” is the opinion of attorney Casey Healy with Gregory and Adams, who on Jan. 11 went before the Planning and Zoning Commission and applied to modify Section 29-8.B.5.b (9) of the zoning regulations, which stipulates one parking space per employee plus one per 400 square feet of ground-floor area, for both kennels and veterinary hospitals.

He wants the section changed to instead require of kennels one space per employee plus one per 1,000 square feet of ground floor area, up from 400. What is required of animal hospitals per Healy’s proposed modification would remain the same.

Healy is actively engaged with Best Friends Pet Care and is “working on plans to renovate and expand” 215 Danbury Road, currently occupied by Wilton Hospital for Animals, as one of his client’s locations.

Beside Healy during the public hearing was engineer Craig Yannes of consultant Tighe & Bond. He explained that his firm used a traffic study to come up with the 1,000-square-foot figure.

It was conducted by placing traffic count cameras in view of the driveways of kennel Best Friends Pet Care at 528 Main Avenue, Norwalk, and hospital South Wilton Veterinary Group at 51 Danbury Road.

By keeping a running tally of all vehicles entering and leaving during business hours, Yannes’ firm was able to calculate the maximum parking demand for each site, which “supports the proposed amendment,” he said.

Commissioner Franklin Wong was hesitant to modify the regulation’s overall language when it is the right of the commission to interpret zoning rules however it sees fit. “Don’t we have the ability to waive certain requirements?” he asked Town Planner Bob Nerney.

“Waivers [in cases like these that have to do with parking requirements] are usually [administered] when you have multi-tenant uses that are kind of cyclical to each other in terms of traffic generation,” he said.

Chairman Sally Poundstone asked that “some further information” on similar facilities in Wilton be brought to the next commission meeting, and Joe Fiteni had some concerns with the wording of the proposed amendment.

Healy agreed to supply the desired information and said, “I’ll discuss with Bob what changes to the language you all think would be most fair.”

The hearing was kept open and was continued to Jan. 25.