Darien neighbors say apartment building proposed to replace offices would be ‘too big for this spot’

DARIEN — A bid by the owner of 3 Parklands Drive to redevelop the site of an office building into a multifamily residence had its first public hearing Tuesday, allowing some nearby residents to voice their concerns about the proposed project.

Proponents affiliated with the project outlined the building’s compliance with the town’s zoning regulations during a virtual Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Tuesday. They are seeking amendments to current zoning rules to establish a “designed office multifamily residential overlay zone” in order to allow multifamily dwellings as a principal use while complying with existing regulations.

The property owner is seeking to raze the office building and replace it with a three-story residence containing a total of 60 apartments, consisting of a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. The project would comply with Darien’s inclusionary zoning regulations, which require developers to designate some units as affordable. In this case, the building would include seven affordable apartments.

The location includes two buildings: One is the 34,800-square-foot office building constructed in the 1980s that sits on 3.9 acres at 3 Parklands Drive, according to attorney William Hennessey, who is representing the project.

“It performed well for many years, but like many of these suburban office parks, it is suffering,” Hennessey said. The project’s developers has cited a weak office rental market as a major impetus behind converting the building to residential use.

The second building on the property is the Residence at Selleck’s Woods, an assisted living community bordered by Interstate 95, Dunlap and Selleck’s Woods and by residential lots. Limited improvements, including parking, are proposed for that part of the site.

Craig Flaherty, a senior engineer with Redniss & Mead, said the apartment project would diversify Darien’s housing portfolio, which is currently only attractive to wealthier families who are looking for single-family residences. But that option does not work for Darien’s young adult and older adult populations, Flaherty said.

“There’s not a lot of housing diversity when it comes to folks who might want a different product,” he said. Seven affordable units would be reserved for those making up to 80 percent of the state’s median income, he said.

The project has received some pushback from neighbors, including several who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I feel very strongly that this development is too big for this spot,” neighbor Cristina Orsi-Lirot said, criticizing developers for the height and size of the project. “I don’t know how we’re getting such a tall building, it’s just not in keeping with our neighborhood. ... I just feel like we’re missing a bunch of pieces here.”

On Tuesday, project developers promised that every precaution had been taken and said the units would comply with all existing regulations. They have also repeatedly sought input from neighbors, Hennessey said.

Engineers affiliated with the project also said the building would benefit the surrounding residential areas: for one, it would include 10,500 square feet of porous surfaces to effectively mitigate stormwaters, Flaherty said.

Butt some were still concerned about the ramifications of site construction. Neighbor Evan Flinn said the recent construction of Selleck’s Woods “really burned” the nearby residents.

“I cannot tell you how much that building has impacted us and how scared we are for the new building to come up,” Flinn said.

A second hearing on the project will be held on Nov. 9.