Proposed Darien redevelopment pushes forward with amended regulations
DARIEN — The Noroton Heights redevelopment may indeed be coming to town, but not in the way it was originally proposed.
Two days before their Aug. 4 deadline to reach a decision, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved amendments to zoning regulations put forth by Noroton Heights LLC and Federal Realty, the two developers who have been working for months with the commission to earn approval on a project that would turn Noroton Heights into a pedestrian-friendly, village-type area.
Chief among the commission’s concerns throughout the application process was the building’s height, as well as apartment sizes and the effect on density, particularly the possibility of young families with school-aged children moving in.
Federal Realty’s request was scaled back to three stories at no more than 45 feet, which is still one story and 15 feet above current town regulations. The commission also specified that none of the apartments be larger than 1,500 square feet — current regulations are at 1,200 square feet — or have more than two bedrooms.
In addition, 30 percent of the units must be either studios or one bedrooms.
This reflects the commission’s desire “that the Noroton Heights business district be secondary to the [central business district] relative to height and density,” according to Planning and Zoning Department Director Jeremy Ginsberg. A similarly large-scale proposal being considered for downtown Darien, where the CBD is located, asks for buildings as high as six stories in some locations.
Also key to the original proposal put forth by Noroton and Federal was an emphasis on public plazas. Under the approved regulations, both developers must set aside either 5 percent of land or 10,000 square feet, whichever is more, for public plazas. At least one public plaza in the development must be 3,500 square feet or larger.
“3,500 (square feet) seemed to be something that could fit generally with the sketches they provided,” said Jeremy Ginsberg, director of the planning and zoning department.
In early renderings, the developers described the plazas as green spaces, fountains and sitting areas, but the commission will have final say as to what constitutes a public plaza.
At the end of deliberation, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson stepped in as an ex officio member of the commission to stress the importance of any future developer’s willingness to address drainage issues in the area.
“Once this body approves these texts amendments, I hope that the town can begin to partner with the development properties to look at the drainage situation in Noroton Heights and see where we might be able to construct public-private partnerships to affect the best enhanced drainage plans,” Stevenson said.
Language in the regulations states it is “imperative” that developers address and enhance drainage in the area.
Noroton Heights and Federal Realty must now submit site plans for approval by the commission.