Wilton Road/Kings Highway Apartment Proposal: It’s Back!

Just over a year ago, the state Appellate Court denied a plan to build a 7-story, 48-unit apartment complex at one of the busiest, most environmentally sensitive spots in town.

The ruling was based on grave concerns about safety, and damage to wetlands adjacent to the 1.16-acre parcel at 122 Wilton Road — right at the Kings Highway North intersection.

Undeterred, the owner has come up with a smaller plan. Garden Homes of Stamford wants to build a 19-unit, 3-story, 20,078-square foot rental complex. With 31 parking spots at grade, that would total 4 stories.

There would be 4 1-bedroom units, 8 2-bedroom units, and 7 with 3 bedrooms.

The site plan for 122 Wilton Road. Wilton Road is at the left; it intersects with Kings Highway North (Willows Medical Complex location) at the top.

The project is being submitted to the Planning & Zoning Commission with 2 affordability plans. The default sets aside 30% of the units as “affordable,” according to state 8-30g regulations. An alternative plan offers 60% as affordable — “if certain conditions are met by the P&Z and other Westport town bodies and staff.”

The goal of the project, Garden Homes says, is “to enable low and moderate income families with children the opportunity to live in Westport and have access to its excellent public schools and amenities.”

The developer submitted a traffic impact study. It included 2 proposed roadway improvements: lengthening the westbound left-turn lane for Kings Highway North by 50 feet, and adjusting the traffic signal at that intersection.

“With these improvements,” the report said, delays there “during the critical weekday peak hours will be shorter than those under the 2015 existing conditions.”

Traffic concerns were only part of the opposition to Garden Homes’ previous proposal.

Another reason was the location: abutting the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

Safety was another major issue. Westport Fire Department officials worried about access to the site.

Former fire chief Andrew Kingsbury reviewed the new proposals. Many concerns remain.

Access is still a major issue: The emergency fire lane is not wide enough, has a tight turning radius, and can only be approached from the south. The access driveway on the east side is also too tight to accommodate Westport’s aerial apparatus.

Kingsbury adds that congestion in the area during rush hour hampers firefighting efforts.

The developer no doubt hopes that a scaled-down version of the previous proposal — and inclusion of 8-30g housing — will carry the day.

“Garden Homes” is a bucolic-sounding name. But I’m betting the reception to this new proposal will not be all peaches and cream.

(Hat tip: Wendy Pieper)

37 responses to “Wilton Road/Kings Highway Apartment Proposal: It’s Back!

  1. Insane proposal on an envirmentally sensitive spot, not to mention the increased congestion on one of the busiest intersections in Westport. The planned destruction of our Community continues from these so called “developers”. Rape and pillage the land and call it Garden Homes….disgusting.

  2. Is affordable housing in a food desert with limited transit and sidewalks compassionate?

  3. Is this the same group that owns Garden Cinema in Norwalk?

  4. The sad thing is this state mandate is flawed. It has now been hijacked by developers. For whatever reason Westport seems to be the sweet spot in this “fleecing of local zoning regulations.” How we have not been given “credit” for all our past affordable housing, is criminal. It’s even more embarrassing that our state continues to snub us in efforts to “modify” not deny. The old Kowalsky owned building that just went up, was another hijacking where we had to make the best deal without going to court….NO WAY THAT BUILDING GOES UP WITHOUT 8-30g

    • Jimmy:

      Have you read the extensive justification for the law, both when it was passed and on it’s ten year anniversary (27 and 17 years ago, respectively)? http://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1161&context=lawreview

      The whole goal of the program was to CONSERVE THE CHARACTER OF CT TOWNS. The authors saw the gentrification of the late 80’s (the original McMansion invasion) and said, “If this keeps going, we’re not going to have our locals being able to afford to live here anymore. And we want to help them.”

      The goal of the law was to help teachers, police, municipal employees and shop keepers keep the towns character intact. They gave plenty of warning and plenty of incentive. And yes, if you read it, plenty of penalty for towns that did not help their citizens.

      It should have been named, “The CT Statute to Enable Our Townspeople to Afford Their Homes.” As locals who grew up here (me a few towns over), you and I know dozens of people who have been displaced and can no longer make a local living and afford a local home. And I believe our towns are the worse for it.

      Certainly, no law is perfect, but after 27 years and repeated losses to the law, and not seeing any developer go away, what does it take for the town leadership to act instead of continue to the futile attempt to hold back the tide – not to mention their dereliction to act preserve the town, as the same goal of the 27 year old law? Most every other town met this challenge successfully, but Westport still has its head in the sand – which plays into developers hands, of course. It’s not a problem with the law, it’s a problem of the town’s leaderships. The law was and is very clear on whose responsibility they focused on. The developers are only the stick.

      (Love ingenuous argument about “access” on King’s Highway and Wilton Road, which conveniently omits that . Obviously the 9am and 5pm 1/4 mile traffic back-ups).

      As you mention, there have been ample, non-disruptive opportunities to fix the problem. It’s not the “Keep our Towns Local” law; it’s the lack of town leadership’s problem. Given the law and the lack of municipal leadership, you’ll see more and more like the current three (I’m sure the calculators are out for Belta’s, for example) Westport failure of leadership has boxed the town in. Claiming a “bad law” doesn’t seem to have done much to solve the problem. – Chris Woods

      • Chris – We should have “credit” for past development . The law is being “abused” by developers period. There has to be a balance in every state law such as 8-30g so their is balance, and local zoning laws are not destroyed. If the goal is to keep civil servants , and small business owners why not simply cut their taxes? The “Low income” numbers these developers are throwing at us is a joke.

        • Jimmy,

          All other towns have dealt with the same rules of not getting credit for prior housing.

          The reason was very clear: the authors calculated that credit for prior housing wasn’t going to do enough to preserve communities. And it certainly hasn’t in Westport, right? They did thoroughly review tax policy as a tool, but recognized that coordinating 170 separate towns was impossible.

          Again, it’s been 27 years of Westport complaining that “it’s unfair” while the obvious was happening: the town lost it’s locals (and civilized parking and local stores) while also losing more and more leverage vs. developers. We are in a situation that was spelled out in the law, was easy to foresee and therefore of our own making.

          As the author states in his very thorough 10 year anniversary review (written s-e-v-e-n-t-e-e-n y-e-a-r-s ago), it was considered to be a very big community problem and the towns would either have to lead or the developers will. Again, it is basic math that all the complaining has kicked the can down the road while the problem get worse and worse.

          If Westport matched the CT policy with sensible retail zoning, I bet we’d be a much stronger community.

          • Sensible retail zoning. Please explain what thatbhas to do with housing being built that does not meet P&Z code?

            Dictating to a community that it has to change the character of the town for a ‘feel good’ policy is maddening.

            • Bart,

              8-30g was specifically designed to prevent many of the ills that this blog highlights on a regular basis – the loss of “community” to finance-first development and the complementary invasion of non-local chain stores who both put narrow financial gain ahead of the soul of the broader community.

              The authors of the 8-30g law were prescient in recognizing many of the problems we bemoan today (again, from entitled uncivic parkers to the inability of local stores to be able to contribute to the specialness of the local community).

              The law was quite specifically and explicitly designed to help towns keep their communities healthy and avoid the fate that Westport has now gotten itself into. Basically it said that, “We recognize that local governments are mismatched against outside forces and are having trouble taking care of their own citizens, so we’ll help them protect their communities.” yes, they attached a big incentive to act, and most towns recognized the seriousness of the consequences and did.

              Likewise, smart commercial (particularly retail) zoning is used to foster community businesses the same way that historic district designations are used to preserve a town’s residential character. Thousands of towns in the US have done both, to great effect. Westport’s Historic District designations are one of the tools.

              Blaming gubment for the 8-30g “problem” is like blaming a dentist who has to pull rotten teeth because the patient didn’t brush for 30 years, even though every check-up clearly showed that their health was deteriorating and they should take precautions, “or else”. Westport’s smile is now going to be full of holes. You can’t say we weren’t warned.

              • What drove mom and pops out of Westport and almost every town is a clear fact-people did not support these stores. Amazon and other internet sites changed buying habits. If people were buying from mom and pops in Westport they would still be here.

                8-30g is another story. Connecting the two is more than a stretch

            • 8-30g was Connecticut’s response to the Mt. Laurel decision. It was a bit of social engineering.

              • Michael,

                Of course every law, statue, regulation and tax that is “a bit of social engineering”.

                Your Mt. Laurel reference seems to similarly “throw shade” in that 8-30g was not a “response”, but a similar recognition of the problems facing communities across the region and a reference of what is being done about it. Here’s the author (page 5 of 51):

                “I will begin this Article by exploring briefly the design of section
                8-30g as initially enacted, and comparing it with the already
                existing legislative and judicial efforts to promote affordable housing
                in Massachusetts and New Jersey. Massachusetts’ so-called
                “anti-snob zoning” act,12 and New Jersey’s program deeply rooted
                in the Mount Laurel cases,B were well known to us, and were part
                of the backdrop against which we developed our own proposal.”

              • A bit of social engineering? I would say a lot given it is destroying the look and feel of Westport and causing great pain for police and fire.

  5. “The goal of the project, Garden Homes says, is to enable low and moderate income families with children the opportunity to live in Westport and have access to its excellent public schools and amenities.” —

    the public schools and amenities are excellent because the residents are aware of importance of education and willing to improve the community by all means, if the goal of the project is so divine, why not make them all affordable?

  6. Traffic in and out of the Old Hill section of Westport is already terrible and this proposal along with those proposed along Post Road West would make it considerably worse, not to mention real environmental and safety access concerns.

  7. Aspetuck Land Trust has been involved in preventing this development. We are concerned about the environmental implications to Taylortown Salt Marsh which we described in a report submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission during the first go-around. We also attended the hearing at Superior Court in Hartford to support a neighbor who had intervened to prevent this development. Additionally, we have reached out to the developer Richard Friedman to purchase the property. He declined to entertain our offer to purchase the land.

  8. CAN THE TOWN OF WESTPORT PLACE A MORATORIUM ON FURTHER BUILDING OF “APARTMENT” HOUSES?

  9. why?

  10. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    I am delighted to read that the Aspetuck Land Trust is involved. My initial reaction in reading the post was: Great! Guilt everyone by saying that this “will enable low and moderate income families to have access to excellent public schools and amenities” but totally ignore the Fire Chief’s legitimate concerns about a lack of adequate access for fire prevention. We don’t care about protecting low to moderate income families and children only educating them. Totally ignore the environmental concerns. Oh yes, one more very valid concern, traffic. just add a turning lane, too narrow for fire trucks and we are good to go. NOT.
    Can you tell I am disgusted with land developers?

  11. The only way to stop this is to vote in November and change the party in control. No matter what you say, it is the only way to stop this type of development which has so many issues for Westport.

    Remember our own State Rep Steinberg said-build more Westport. He has done nothing to help us out, he even tried to make the CT legislation worse for Westport.

    We will have nobody to blame but ourselves.

    • Dick Lowenstein

      OMG. There you go again!

      • Dick. OMG. There you go again.

        There is a transcript of Steinberg saying build more and faster. Facts. There is also a bill Steinberg tried to get thru the House in Ct that would have avoided any argument by a town stating the defense using town character. Fact!!

        The only way to stop this horrible 8-30g state regulation is to change the party in charge. They don’t care for Westport. Just ask the leaders in Hartford.

        • Bart, just curious…What do you think should replace 8-30g? Do you think the state has a legitimate role to play to ensure that all towns offer affordable housing options? Or should the state stay out of it?

          • John. Thank you for asking. There are 3 main changes that must be made (there are more but I will focus on the 3 major issues);

            1) every project MUST conform to the town or cities existing P&Z laws and regulations. At no time should any developer be allowed to build a residential building or buildings that do not meet the existing code. The forced change to a towns character due to a regulation made up in Hartford is wrong. Plain and simple.

            2) every town and city in CT will include in the 10% goal, all housing in existence that was built at any time in the towns history. The beginning date set in the current 8-30g regulation is nonsensical and punishes those towns and cities that have affordable homes built before that date, such as Westport.

            What I would also suggest is to end 8-30g and develop a new regulation that puts the town or city in charge, not Hartford, in developing affordable homes. Local leaders and residents will do a much better job at managing the effort and a ‘one size fits all’ approach by Hartford politicians, which unfortunately includes Rep Steinberg, just does not work. We only have to look at what is happening in Westport to understand why the existing regulation should be re-written.

            John thank you for asking. That was very nice.

            Bart

  12. In my view, the focus here should be on how to deal with this application on its own merits. It does not help to cast blame on who did or did not support the legislation, and in my mind doing so only serves to divert our energies away from the task at hand.

    All applications require careful review but applications under this statutory provision require special care and strict adherence to the very narrow parameters governing the P & Z’s review.

    In the earlier application, the developer’s attorneys tried very hard to paint Westport as a NIMBY town that only pays lip service to the concept of affordable housing. Anything that they could find to support that position, they would use. This includes blogs like 06880 and any other social media.

    They utilized tactics designed to force the pace of what was a very complex application which required a considerable amount of time to fully digest, knowing full well that if the commission could have been shown to have made a decision which was not consistent with all the evidence presented, this would make the developer’s appeal against a refusal that much easier.

    I felt very proud to have been a part of the team of commissioners that managed to remain laser focussed on the issues rather than being baited into emotional statements that could have opened the door to a very different result last time.

    I would urge everyone to be very careful in their use of language on this blog and elsewhere on social media and in person at any of the meetings. Westport is not a NIMBY town and we should all try to avoid inadvertently providing the developer with ammunition which, based on the experience of the last application, may well be used against the town.

    • William Strittmatter

      “Westport is not a NIMBY town”? Seriously?

      Westport epitomizes NIMBYism. Search for the definition of NIMBY and a map of Westport CT pops up. OK, it probably doesn’t because there are so many NIMBY towns but come on. Any discussion of 8-30g reeks of it. Of course, it’s couched in the code words of changing the character of the town (which, of course, affordable housing would tend to do).

      But not just 8-30g. Look at the water tank discussions – god forbid something that might benefit more than Westport be located in Westport. Or the Saugatuck child care facility. Or marijuana dispensaries. Or the Daybeak Nursery senior living development. Or a real bridge to replace the Cribari Bridge. Or letting non-Westporters into Compo Beach. Heck, even a freaking boat per the now thankfully removed earlier post.

      You can pretend all of that is not NIMBYism and is merely righteous defense of Westport’s character but pretending and using code words does not make it so. Not that there is anything wrong with NIMBYism by the way….

      • I don’t know where you live and whether you are a Westport resident but it is not doubt, 200% about the character of Westport. And it better be about the character of Westport.

        • William Strittmatter

          Well, yeah, it is about the character of the town which, at this point, is largely “high end elitist” as upscale housing continues to displace smaller, more affordable housing. Which, of course, itself is a significant change in the character of Westport over the last 30-40 years but I guess that change in character was good.

          At one level, I share your disdain for 8-30g but I also appreciate the flip side where it is unfortunate that many folks that work and teach in Westport can’t really afford to personally take advantage of the services and excellent schools they provide by living there as well. Given real estate prices and economics, the only way that can happen is with increased density (which is not completely out of character in Westport as there are certainly some denser areas). The resistance to density (see Daybreak Nursery), among other things, is what gets you really out of character apartment buildings given the law as it is which doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.

          And all of that is the definition of NIMBYism whether one uses that word or, as Alan seems to suggest, being careful with one’s language so it doesn’t appear to be NIMBYism. In other words, not “changing the character” and NIMBYism tend to be two sides of the same coin which, as noted, goes well beyond just 8-30g.

          For what it is worth, as I’ve noted before, I live in Fairfield. And Wilton Road/Kings Highway is a stupid place to build an apartment building.

      • William, your false-equivalence knows no bounds:

        The water tank issue comes from an inaccurate application (not saying it was changing a local station to regional), made by a company that is under investigation for defrauding local citizens out of $3.6 billion dollars.

        Allowing a heavily-used for-profit, outdoor play ground in a previously quiet location totally changes the character of the neighborhood.

        8-30g, again, was painstakingly designed 30 years ago to PREVENT CHANGES to towns, that of being over-run by development that forces out locals. We are now exactly where the law’s justification foresaw, and clearly explained. The law was designed to protect “community”, which everyone seems to have forgotten in their complaint against developers and gubment.

        • William Strittmatter

          Chris – you must have missed some of the comments on 06980 from people “not being careful with their words”.

  13. The specific issue here is not strictly 8-30g. It is rather the proposed building of a development on an inappropriate site. As Chair of Westport’s RTM Environment Committee, I reviewed numerous studies, laws, and other codes and submitted a report on these, as did David Brant of the Aspetuck Land Trust. The destructive environmental impacts on Taylortown Salt Marsh remain, and other factors (traffic, fire department access,etc.) also make this an impossible site. I can’t fathom the reason for submitting another proposal for this location.

    • Wendy-how can this not be about 8-30g. Unless I am mistaken, 8-30g allows developers to build housing with total disregard for the towns P&Z regulations. Unless the town is willing to fight and even go to court, the developer wins.

      It is too bad you and others refuse to acknowledge the law creates the issue. The developers do not create the issue because they have the law in their side.

      • Bart, I wrote it is “not strictly about 8-30g”. Of course 8-30g is the underlying enabler, (as is greed, for example) but to fight this development, we must address its specific defects. I do not refuse to acknowledge that the law creates the opportunity for some developers to do their worst. in fact, I’m on record objecting to “one-size-fits-all” solutions to issues in our state where cities and towns are so different. Decrying 8-30g law will not solve this issue, though we should be trying to change it, too. It is too bad “you and others” lump individuals into unthinking groups. Particularly those of us who have worked so hard to remedy the problems.

        • Wendy. I respect thenwork you do everyone one of these horrible projects pop up. Whack a mole comes to mind.

          But eventually the answer has to be to change the law. That will take more than words or feel good statements. It will take changing out those who are working in Hartford who continue to support 8-30g.

          Westport absorbs the legal costs to push back on these projects. Good money going after bad money. Money that could be used for our schools or to help seniors.

          You seem to always want to avoid the only solution that will stop this nonsense.

  14. Dan, Can you add “Like” buttons?

    • I assume you mean for individual comments. It can’t be done with this WordPress theme, unfortunately. There are “like” buttons for the entire story only.

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