Darien neighbors say multifamily housing near Selleck's Woods would 'negatively impact' the community

A rendering of the proposed multifamily housing at 3 Parklands Drive.

A rendering of the proposed multifamily housing at 3 Parklands Drive.

Monroe Partnership / Contributed

DARIEN — Citing a weakened office rental market and the proximity to open space, the owner of a 3 Parklands Drive in Darien is seeking to change the building’s use from commercial to residential.

But a petition objecting to the proposal has gained 200 signatures and several members of the public have sent in comment against the project.

Parklands Darien LLC, the owner of the building, proposes to redevelop it into a three-story residential building with 59 units. The property is shared with the Residence at Selleck’s Woods, an assisted living community.

In order to proceed, the applicant is asking the Planning & Zoning Commission to for some zoning amendements to allow housing to be built. The proposed amendment would establish a “Designed Office MultiFamily Residential Overlay Zone,” which would allow multifamily dwellings as a principal use when complying with the Designed Office Zone regs and taking into account the inclusionary zoning regulations.

The location currently only allows office space, with assisted living use enabled by the use of a special permit.

Darien’s inclusionary zoning regulations require developers creating market rate housing to build a percentage of that house as affordable. In this case, the Parklands project would be including seven affordable units.

The nearly 8 acre property is bordered to the west by Interstate 95 and the northbound rest area, to the south by Dunlap and Selleck’s Woods, and to the east by residential lots on the west side of Fairmead Road.

Selleck’s Woods is a 28-acre nature preserve owned by the town located between I-95 and the Metro-North railroad. The park has three entrances for residents to gain easy access to the extensive trail system, including one at the back of the Parklands parking lot. Dunlap Woods is a 22-acre nature Darien Land Trust preserve that is adjacent to Selleck’s Woods.

“While we, the residents of Darien, are supportive of the town of Darien's initiative to diversify our housing stock, we believe that a multifamily development in this location falls woefully short of a net positive impact on our community,” the petition, created by the Darien Homeowners Against Signature Group.

“The proposed development will negatively impact the makeup of our community, will negatively impact our environment and will ultimately be a disservice to the proposed residents given its isolated, uniquely inaccessible location,” the petion states.

According to the applicant, the proposed residential use is a “more compatible use for the site considering the secluded nature of the site, next to open space, and the potential to coexist in a more complimentary way with the assisted living facility with which it shares the property.”

The secluded location has made it more difficult for the building owner to rent out its office space in an already challenging market, according to the application.

The applicant also says the proposed residential use is more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood than the existing commercial use.

The authors of the petition take issue with the building owner saying the site is a “walkable location” for residents, saying it is too far from local shopping and transportation.

Submitted public comments include neighbor complaints about the impact already on their properties as a result of the construction of the assisted living residence, as well as the traffic in the area.

According to Planning & Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg, the neighbors have hired an attorney who has filed for a continuance for Tuesday night’s public hearing, so there will be a further public hearing at an upcoming meeting.

In a letter from the attorney, Joel Green, of Gross and Green in Bridgeport, he asks the commission to continue the public hearing to give him time to review the case on behalf of his clients, the bulk of whom live on Fairmeade Road. Green represents 12 households.

The Planning & Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing Tuesday night on the amendments. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and the Parklands amendments public hearing is the first item on the agenda.

The public can join via GoToMeeting or via phone at 571-317-3122 (access code: 427-268-005).