Letter: Zoning change will ruin Ridgefield Road

To the Editors:
This is how the Town of Wilton describes its character:
The transformation from a small farming town to a suburban residential community of approximately 18,000 has been carefully controlled by zoning and through the preservation of the town's older colonial landmarks.[emphasis added].
The town has had the foresight to preserve almost 1,000 acres of open space for active and passive recreational use. Although there is limited land remaining for development, Wilton retains much of its open feeling and rural atmosphere. Winding back roads with trees, streams, ponds, woods, and rolling hills are all part of the Wilton's beauty and charm and afford privacy as well as a pastoral setting.
There exists among both new residents and those with established roots a strong commitment and concern that Wilton, whatever its future, shall retain some part of its rural heritage.” (www.wiltonct.org)
Thus, when we decided to purchase our home on Ridgefield Road, we did so with the impression that its scenic road designation implied that the town and residents as well as the State of Connecticut appreciated not only its bucolic beauty, but its historical significance, as well as the charming historic homes which grace this beautiful road.  We believed the town residents as well as its leaders cared deeply to preserve this precious part of Wilton’s heritage.
As Wilton residents for almost 15 years, we are extremely disturbed how the town approved an Age Restricted Overlay District (AROD) to include Ridgefield Road without any public comment or debate. When we purchased our property on Ridgefield Road, we did so on the basis of a 2 acre zoning residential area.  Over the years we have made significant upgrades and invested in our antique home. We have invested our resources into a property we love and respect.  There is absolutely no doubt that we are mere stewards of this beautiful historic property –  true ownership is intangible and rests with the Wilton community and further generations to come.
Now we have come to learn through a little publicized maneuver, which was not debated before the public, that Ridgefield Road in its entirety is open for the development of high density housing on property exceeding 3 acres.   Not only are we dismayed but we feel we have been taken advantage by the process that was pushed through in a covert manner.  You cannot seriously dispute that had this change been fully and clearly publicized there would have been significant objection to such a drastic adjustment in the zoning code and character of Ridgefield Road.
Given the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgefield, and the historical significance of Ridgefield Road, it is imperative that we preserve this beautiful and bucolic historic New England road.  A precious and significant piece of history once lost cannot never be regained. The Town of Wilton itself recognized the importance of maintaining our heritage when it adopted Zoning Regulation 29-5.C.8 in an effort to facilitate the preservation of Historic/Architecturally significant buildings.  Would high density housing be in harmony with the following zoning regulation? Furthermore, would allowing the AROD to remain specifically to Ridgefield Road, developers would be given incentive to destroy more historic homes on Ridgefield Road as well as construct “incompatible new construction”.
The commission hereby recognizes that the loss of historic and/or architecturally  significant residential buildings through demolition, alteration or incompatible new construction is contrary to protecting the unique character of Wilton.  To this end, the Commission has adopted these provisions which allow flexibility and discretion when considering structural modifications to such buildings
Wilton Zoning Regulation 29-5.C.8.a
Furthermore, Wilton’s Conservation Plan specifically states that its goal is to “contribute to Wilton’s character”.  Its “strategies include…”Preserve Wilton’s Scenic Roads and Scenic Views”.
Designated four local scenic Roads: Tito Lane, Seeley Road, Huckleberry Hill Road, and Nod Hill Road (Ridgefield Road is a state-designated scenic road) the local scenic road designation help to ensure that road improvements do not impact character.
A high density development will greatly affect road improvements on lower Ridgefield Road to accommodate all the residents and their visitors.  Furthermore, the geography of the beautiful winding road will demand that traffic be controlled to ensure safety of all those travelling on Ridgefield Road.  This is in direct conflict of the conservation commission’s strategy to preserve Wilton’s Scenic Roads and Scenic Views.
By keeping Ridgefield Road in AROD,  this beautiful road will end up a ruined landscape and its beauty, and history forever altered all for short term gain. This is a time to pause and consider the severe ramifications to a precious piece of Wilton’s history.
We are not against development in Wilton.  Nor do we wish to halt housing for seniors or low income families. However, the Planning and Zoning should take pause and recognize that Ridgefield Road is not an appropriate location for a high density development whether it be for 34 units or 16 units.  It is contrary to all published conservation plans and zoning regulations and how Wilton is describing itself on the official town website.  Allow Ridgefield Road to maintain its 2 acre zoning.  Many of us who live on this road invested with the understanding that zoning would never be altered and this precious beautiful road be forever preserved. With respect to increasing the tax base, surely there are better ways to do this without destroying a beautiful historically significant scenic road which is a reminder of Wilton’s important heritage. Ridgefield Road should be removed from the Age Restricted Overlay District and returned to its original status.
Wilton is at a pivotal moment in its history.  We invite all Wilton residents who agree that Ridgefield Road be removed from AROD to please attend the next Planning and Zoning meeting on Monday, May 8th at 7:15pm in the Bruebeck Room of Wilton Library.  The future of this beautiful scenic road is at stake and if high density development is allowed to alter Ridgefield Road, we will forever lose a precious piece of Wilton’s heritage.
Donna and Andrew Harakas
Ridgefield Road, May 4