P&Z poised to deny ‘Riverwalk District’ for Save the Children site
A developer’s proposed text amendment to enable plans for a riverside commercial/residential complex, where the former Save the Children headquarters sits, is expected to be formally denied after the Planning and Zoning Commission, in a 5-2 straw poll, directed its staff Thursday to prepare a denial resolution for a vote this week.
The possibility of a three-story building standing 47 feet high at the 54 Wilton Road property — as envisioned by the developers — was described by P&Z member Jack Whittle as "the toughest one to swallow"
“All things considered,” Whittle added, “I don’t see the trade-offs that were being asked to make here by virtue of this text amendment as being justified by what we would be getting here."
P&Z member Carolanne Curry went as far as to say that she believes the project would have "very little public benefit … this project has no affordable housing on it, this is unacceptable."
The precedent the Riverwalk District amendment, proposed by developer David Waldman and partners, would set was the biggest hurdle for P&Z Chairman Chip Stephens. His main concern was that text amendments cannot apply only to a specific project or site. "Down the road it’s going to end up affecting much more than the project that we’ve been presented and for anyone to say that they wouldn’t tear down a building to take advantage of these things is ludicrous …,” he said.
All along the river could be one continuous 47-foot building, I believe that could happen, that’s the danger I see with this,” he added.
The dissenting votes were cast by Catherine Walsh and Paul Lebowitz. Lebowitz said he was inclined to say yes to the text amendment to see what specific site plans the applicants would file under the newly approved zone designation.
"While I love the needlepoint house (which would be moved from 1 Wilton Road to the site), I hate that intersection and I will do anything to not wait in line twice a day at that intersection and if there truly is that public benefit, I’d love to see it happen,” he said, referring to the traffic-choked Wilton-Post roads’ intersection.
“…This is not an 8-30g developer who wants to slam a six-story building into a one acre spot, this is somebody who will probably drive past that very same intersection twice a day himself," he added, a reference to an apartment development proposed farther north on Wilton Road.
Westport native Stephens, however, was adamant against opening the door to a structure as tall as 47 feet. "I remember coming home from college, seeing the Wright Street (office) building and saying, ‘WTF?’ and it wasn’t Wakeman Town Farm."