Plan for new shop­ping cen­ter passes first hurdle

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Pat Tom­lin­son

WIL­TON — The Wil­ton Heights de­vel­op­ment pro­posed for a crit­i­cal junc­ture on Dan­bury Road has cleared its first hurdle.

The Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proved two of the four pend­ing ap­pli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted on be­half of the mixed-use de­vel­op­ment last week.

The first ap­pli­ca­tion per­mit­ted three White­wood Lane prop­er­ties, lo­cated at the rear of the par­cel, to shift from res­i­den­tial zon­ing to the Wil­ton Cen­ter Dis­trict des­ig­na­tion.

The sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion amended the text in the town’s zon­ing reg­u­la­tion to al­low de­vel­op­ers to ex­ceed cur­rent height and set­back re­stric­tions for Wil­ton Cen­ter zon­ing, un­der spe­cial cir­cum­stances.

Pax­ton Ki­nol, the de­vel­oper be­hind Wil­ton Heights, called the de­ci­sion a step in the right di­rec­tion af­ter months of de­lib­er­a­tion.

“It shows that the town is largely in fa­vor of what we are do­ing, and the fact that the de­ci­sion was unan­i­mous is re­ally im­por­tant,” Ki­nol said.

“It sends a sig­nal to the other com­mis­sions in town that this is some­thing that the town wants.”

The Wil­ton Heights de­vel­op­ment will next need to have its site plan and spe­cial per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions ap­proved.

The ap­pli­ca­tions, which have been pend­ing since May, have been tabled un­til the In­land and Wet­lands Com­mis­sion de­cides whether to per­mit the re­de­vel­op­ment of the ex­ist­ing Cross­ways Plaza prop­er­ties within wet­land ter­ri­to­ries.

The ap­pli­ca­tion has un­der­gone months of de­bate be­fore the com­mis­sion, and is still be­ing scru­ti­nized by com­mis­sion­ers.

Com­mis­sioner Eliz­a­beth Craig has ar­gued the pro­posal would in­trude on the ex­ist­ing 100-foot buf­fer that pro­tects the wet­lands and that po­ten­tial blast­ing on site could cause cracks in the vul­ner­a­ble land.

Ki­nol and his team, on the other hand, have ar­gued that any changes made to the Cross­ways Plaza would be an improve­ment, as they would need to re­me­di­ate the prop­erty, which in­cludes re­mov­ing sep­tic fields that drain into the Nor­walk River as well as other en­vi­ron­men­tal im­prove­ments.

Ini­tial plans for the Wil­ton Heights de­vel­op­ment in­clude five to 10 re­tail lo­ca­tions on the ground floor, which would then be topped by ap­prox­i­mately 74 res­i­den­tial units. All of the units would be lo­cated within 1,000 feet of the train sta­tion, which would make walk­ing back and forth eas­ier for po­ten­tial res­i­dents and shop­pers.

The pro­posal fea­tures more than 3 acres of wooded up­land and wet­land ar­eas that would be deed-re­stricted from fu­ture de­vel­op­ment. Th­ese lands would also pro­vide a buf­fer from neigh­bors to the east and south, sim­i­lar to what ex­ists cur­rently.

If ac­cepted as is, the de­vel­oper would also hide more than two-thirds of the res­i­den­tial homes from view, with only 22 units fac­ing Dan­bury Road.

While the timetable for de­ci­sions from In­land Wet­lands and Plan­ning and Zon­ing is still un­clear, Ki­nol said he hopes the de­vel­op­ment could move along as ex­pe­di­ently as pos­si­ble.

“We started this process last Septem­ber and we thought it would be fin­ished by this Septem­ber. But the zone change shows that the town is will­ing to work with us and we’re com­mit­ted to mak­ing this work,” Ki­nol said.

Con­trib­uted photo

A ren­der­ing of the pro­posed Wil­ton Heights de­vel­op­ment, a res­i­den­tial-re­tail de­vel­op­ment, that would be built on 7.56 acres of land at the Cross­ways Plaza, 300 Dan­bury Road, and on ad­ja­cent prop­er­ties on White­wood Lane.

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