BOARD MEMBERS: Chairperson Neil Faiman; members Joanna Eckstrom and Carol Roberts; alternate members Andy Hoar and John Jowders.
Faiman called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. and announced all the cases for the evening. He said that since the agenda was so long, there was a good chance that the board would not hear all of the cases by 10:30 p.m., which is the time that the board ends the meeting. Board members agreed to hold a continuation meeting on Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. Faiman then introduced the voting board members: Eckstrom, Roberts, Hoar, Jowders and Faiman.
Eckstrom read two paragraphs into the record that she wanted added to page 3.
|Jowders/Hoar to approve the 8/14//07 minutes with the addition. All were in favor.
Hillside of Wilton, LLC, has applied for a variance to section 6.3.5(a) of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance to permit six lots to be accessed by a single private way in connection with a proposed subdivision of Lot D-84, Pead Hill Road, and also for a special exception under section 11.4 of the Ordinance, to permit the private way and driveways to cross wetland areas on the property.
Faiman said that he and Roberts attended the site visit on August 4th. Another board member, Bob Spear, also attended and took digital photographs that he put on CD Rom. Faiman said that anyone wanting to see the photos on his computer would be welcome to. He also said that the CD would be part of the permanent record of the case.
Stefan Toth, representing the applicant, presented sheet 1 of 1, dated August 12, 2007, showing two detention basins in addition to the 1,200 SF wetland impact. He also presented an impact study by Fremeau Appraisal, Inc., dated September 4, 2007. He said he submitted a preliminary drainage study and revised the plans accordingly. The plans now show one culvert at the wetland crossing and two detention basins up from or east of the crossing.
A letter was received from Dennis LaBombard, LaBombard Engineering, LLC, who reviewed the plans for the zoning board. Mr. Toth referred to the last paragraph of page 1 where Mr. LaBombard questions whether the wetlands could be avoided altogether if the road were moved further south. Mr. Toth asked the road agent, Steve Elliot, to write a letter explaining that he actually chose the location for the road based on many factors and that he would like the drive to remain where it is. Mr. Elliot also added that he thinks a single drive would be best.
Mr. Toth next read the applicant’s criteria for justifying a use variance and read the criteria for a special exception. See file. He emphasized that in addition to preserving the most amount of wetlands and buffers, both the fire chief and the road agent prefer one driveway. The road agent prefers only one curb cut on Pead Hill Road. The fire chief prefers one road because there is less confusion when trying to find an address when there is only one road to navigate.
Roberts asked if the applicant had considered having more than one lot accessed from Hillside Road. Mr. Toth said that they did and that the fire chief and road agent said that massive amounts of upgrades would need to be done to Hillside Road to make it acceptable for fire and safety regulations in order to have three lots accessing that road. He also pointed out that much more significant wetlands would have to be crossed in order to accomplish that. He said the fire chief preferred the one road off of Pead Hill Road with a fire pond at the end of the road.
Linda Goinzalvos, 42 Pead Hill Road, wanted to know what the applicant was going to do to be sure that the runoff will not come down on their property next spring. She submitted 6 photographs from last spring’s runoff. Faiman explained that the board was not in a position to look at past runoff issues. Perhaps these could be raised at the planning board meetings.
Hoar asked Mr. Toth to explain the calculations he used to come up with the designs for the detention basins. Mr. Toth explained the calculations in great detail.
Faiman read a note into the record from Betsy Dunn. He made note of the letters from Nancy and Joe Drohan and Matthew Dunn – copies were available for anyone who wanted to read these.
Linda Goinzalvos wanted to hear more detail about how the water is going to get to the proposed detention basins, what will happen to it after it gets there, and what will happen if there is more water than they can hold. Mr. Toth explained that he looked at the property before it was developed and where the water was going before any logging and before the road was put in. He said the water naturally came off the hill onto Pead Hill Road and into the culverts on Pead Hill Road. Post development, he tried to figure out how much water was being diverted in another direction from pre-development. The basins are there to slow down the runoff toward Pead Hill Road in an effort to recapture the way water moved on the hill pre-development. He said he used calculations for a 50 year storm.
Joe Drohan, 107 Dale St., questioned whether two detention ponds would be enough to protect the neighbors from the kind of flooding that they experienced last spring. He said that he owns the acreage behind all the abutters on Pead Hill. He said the Goinzalvos’ yard landed in his pond. He said that the applicant cut under Pead Hill Road before they started logging operations and that contributed to the problem. He said he was not against the subdivision but he is concerned about the amount of lumber that was taken off the hill and the runoff that will be created because of that. If the developer can control that runoff, he is thrilled.
Mark Goinzalvos said that after the storm the highway dept. came to his house and some others on Pead Hill Road and put in drainage systems that drain directly onto the Drohan property. He was concerned that the Drohans would receive the majority of everyone’s water like this year. He also said that he spent $25,000 restoring his property from the damage caused by the April storm.
Spencer Brookes, Wilton Con Com, said that the applicant did not send them the new plan, so their board could not discuss it at their meeting. However, they did discuss the history of the land. He said that in 1938 the land was all wooded, then the hurricane came through, it was totally stripped and then it was logged. Because of that, wetlands grew. As the forest reemerged and grew over the last 70 years, the wetlands lost their value, they did not need to be as large. He said that now that the forest has been cut again, there is a far higher flow of water than the wetlands on the property can absorb. He said that the con com felt that the best course of action would be to deny or delay a wetlands crossing at this time and instead to allow the open soil to heal by allowing new growth to take place without disruption. He presented a letter to the board.
Eckstrom asked Mr. Toth to point out the wetlands that they are asking to cross and where the logging operation has occurred. Mr. Toth pointed out the wetland crossing but didn’t have any information about the logging operation. One of the owners of Hillside of Wilton, LLC, Cappy Demontigny, said they cut about 2 acres per house site plus the logging road. He pointed out on the plan the areas of apple orchard and the areas of woods that remain on the site.
Mark Goinzalvos asked why the applicant couldn’t have some of the homes served by a drive from Hillside Road so that Pead Hill doesn’t have to absorb the brunt of the traffic. Faiman said that Mr. Toth said that the configuration of Hillside Road is even worse than Pead Hill Road.
Faiman summarized the request: the applicant wants permission from the zoning board to do two things; first they want permission to cross a wetland with their proposed driveway that they will be using to access a subdivision on this property; secondly they want a variance to permit them to use a single driveway that they will use to access six lots, rather than two driveways each accessing no more than four lots. They have argued why they believe that each of those things is appropriate. A number of neighbors have indicated a concern primarily about runoff from the property and its affect on their lots and their yards and a concern that the proposed development of the lot will make matters worse in that regard. The board heard a similar concern from the con com, a number of details were raised, and the board has those in writing in various letters. The board has a review from the town’s reviewing engineer who says that in terms of minimizing the wetlands impact, the applicant has done that about as well as they can unless they were to move the road even further down the hill and the applicant has explained why they don’t want to do that. And the opinion of the town engineer is that, in terms of minimizing wetland impact, the one driveway is better than two, which is also the opinion of the town road agent and the fire dept.
Eckstrom/Jowders To close the public hearing for deliberations. All were in favor.
Board members reviewed the photographs from the site visit.
The question of using Hillside Road to access three of the lots was raised again. Board members felt they needed more information in order to be clear.
|Eckstrom/Roberts To reopen the hearing specifically to ask the question “what opinions might town officials have rendered with regard to the question of using Hillside Road for access.” All were in favor.
Mr. Toth said that both the road agent and the fire chief said that because Hillside Road is so narrow and steep, the road itself would have to be made wider in order to meet the standards for servicing three homes. He said that would involve securing easements from abutting properties. He said both the road agent and the fire chief preferred having as few homes as possible accessed from Hillside Road.
|Eckstrom/Jowders To re-close hearing. All were in favor.
Hoar observed that the drainage mitigation on the plan should greatly help the runoff problems from earlier this year.
Faiman said that the wetland crossing is pretty typical – 1,200 SF is a fairly nominal size. With regards to the special exception, putting seven houses on an 80 acre lot is not unreasonable. And setting aside the question of whether you could access some of them from Hillside Drive, you’re still going to have to get to most of them off of Pead Hill Road. He said the proposal seems the best way to accomplish that. With regards to the variance… the variance seems to male perfect sense, just looking at the development and the surrounding roads it seems like the obvious thing to do. But he asked what is the spirit of the ordinance, why is there that restriction to four houses on a private way?
He said there are lots of good reasons for allowing six lots on this road. But are those reasons an answer to why the ordinance says only four or are they irrelevant to why the ordinance says four?
Eckstrom said they may be irrelevant but because there are safety, access and wetland impact issues that the board needs to consider, accessing six lots by one drive makes more sense than accessing six lots by two drives.
|Hoar/Eckstrom To grant a use variance to allow six lots to be accessed by a single private way and to grant a special exception for a wetland crossing as shown on the plan dated 8/12/07. The board emphasizes that its decision is limited to the specific questions of the requested variance and special exception and does not constitute an opinion on the merits of the development as a whole. All were in favor.
Kevin J. Degroot has applied for variances to section 5.2.1 of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, to permit the conversion of the existing building on Lot J-16, 9 Dale Street (“The Odd Fellows Hall”) for three-family residential use, where the ordinance would only allow a single family home, and to section 5.2.3 of the Ordinance, to permit parking in the lot setback area (or alternately for a determination from the Zoning Board that parking is permitted in the setback area). (This is a new application requesting different relief from the Zoning Ordinance, to allow essentially the same use originally proposed in the application for Case 7/10/07 – 3).
Attorney Gregory Michael, representing the applicant, said rather than withdrawing the previous application (Case 7/10/07-3), he would like to keep it in play in case he chooses to go back to it at some point. Board members were comfortable with that arrangement.
Attorney Michael began by saying the issue really boils down to this question: Is three units a reasonable use for a large existing building that would be renovated for that purpose in the Residential District? He said he believed this was an area variance test because if the property was
1_ acres instead of 0.27 acres the applicant could have three units without need of a variance. He then read through the criteria for an area variance. He talked about the conceptual parking plans that were introduced in July and produced them for board members to see.
Faiman said he would like to see evidence regarding the issue of the financial viability of smaller proposals, in particular 3 units vs. 2 units. Mr. DeGroot was able to provide a verbal estimate for what it will cost to rehab the building and what his potential rental income will be. Both board members and Attorney Michael felt it would be appropriate to have documented numbers from banks, contractors etc. before making a decision.
Dwight Sowerby, 2nd Congregational Church member, asked when the Odd Fellows originally sold the building. Mr. DeGroot said it was 2 years ago.
Sam Proctor asked what the SF of the building. Mr. DeGroot said that it is 4000 SF.
William Condra, 2nd Congregational Church member, speaking on behalf of the Church Committee, said that the Church Committee is unanimously opposed to a 3-unit dwelling structure as a neighbor. They are fearful of the overflow from the residency. He also agreed that there are a number of multi-family dwellings in the neighborhood, across the street and to the north, all on non-conforming lots. He said he didn’t see how it helped the neighborhood to pack yet one more overpopulated non-conforming lot into that neighborhood.
Dwight Sowerby asked that if the financial data is ready in advance of the next meeting, could it be made available for the abutters. He also brought up the possibility that since the owner sold the property two years ago, the grandfathered status of the parking might be lost.
Mr. DeGroot said that he hasn’t used the parking spaces that often but he has continued to let the church use them for their events without incident.
Board members discussed what was needed from the applicant for the next meeting. Faiman said he thought all that was needed was documentation asserting that a three dwelling unit conversion would be financially viable where a two dwelling unit conversion would not be.
Both cases will be continued to the October 9, 2007 meeting to allow the applicant to prepare documentation on the issue of financial return and financial viability.
Faiman handed out applications for the 2007 Municipal Law Lecture Series and said that the fees will be reimbursed.
|Eckstrom/Roberts To adjourn the meeting. All were in favor.
Meeting adjourned at 10:20 p.m.
Submitted by Diane Nilsson
Posted September 18, 2007