The Planning & Zoning Commission convened a special meeting this past Monday, June 5 as the very first step to begin the long process of updating the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). The POCD is a guiding document used by the town to establish a consensus for policies and efforts residents want the town to pursue in areas of land conservation and development. The State of CT mandates that municipalities revise and update a POCD every 10 years.

The Board of Selectmen have proposed that P&Z begin a year earlier than expected, and have budgeted additional funds to begin working with consultants to prepare for the process. Monday, the commission met with three different land use planning firms to interview their representatives as possible consultants to Wilton’s POCD update process.

The three firms were BFJ, Inc., Milone and MacBroom, Inc., and Planimetrics, Inc..

The meeting started at noon; from Planning & Zoning there were three commissioners–Doris Knapp, Sally Poundstone and Rick Tomasetti. One member of the Conservation Commission–Jackie Algon–was present. First selectman Lynne Vanderslice was there, as did town planner Robert Nerney.

One of the challenges of the process officials will face when putting together the POCD is trying to get as much involvement from as many members of the community as possible. Vanderslice expressed the need for consensus building; Poundstone spoke of the need to recognize community stakeholders, include the needs of Wilton’s aging population and pursue recommendations aimed at attracting younger families.

Some of the avenues that the different firms discussed engaging the community through and encouraging participation were as varied as using brochures, Facebook, PTAs, summer/fall farmer’s market and festivals as well as Survey Monkey and online and telephone surveys. The participants talked about how best to engage the corporate and business community as well as the residents, perhaps through the Chamber of Commerce as well as the Economic Development Commission.

There were several major themes that the town officials talked about with the interviewees as well:  how to enhance pedestrian connectivity; capitalizing on existing natural features; strengthening community identity; expanding village districts; improving transportation, particularly along Rte. 7. They questioned suggestions about promoting “new urbanism concepts” within a traditional suburban community. They also discussed affordable housing and how to expanding it in “appropriately suited locations.” There was also focus on encouraging economic development.

BFJ, Inc.

The three principals of the firm presented; Susan Favate would act as principal in charge, while Ari Branchini would be project planner and Georges Jacquemart would function as transportation specialist. The firm has worked with Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk and Monroe.

Favate told the commission that BFJ’s assessment of Wilton sees the town as not likely to experience or undergo significant change and the key areas of the community to prioritize would be Wilton Center, Cannondale and Georgetown.

Milone and MacBroom, Inc.

The planning firm was represented by Rebecca Augur, who would serve as project manager, and Michael Zuba as planner (who would be assisted by five other planners if they won the project). The firm has worked in other communities, including Guilford, Ridgefield and Wallingford, and has familiarity with Wilton after consulting on the Board of Education‘s enrollment study.

The Milone and MacBroom team talked about the “need to understand both he area and broader regional climate in relation to its impact on Wilton’s local economy.” Ultimately that can “serve to identify local policy deficiencies,” they said.

Planimetrics, Inc.

The firm is smaller than the other two candidates, with Glen Chalder as the company principal and operator. Commissioners questioned him on the ability of one person to manage several projects.

The commission asked Nerney to contact each company and request an itemized scope of costs, with details on hours, tasks, staff rates, outsourcing costs and any other fee-based costs, including travel, incidentals, accommodations and other reimbursable incidental costs.

The commission reconvenes today, Thursday, June 8 for another special meeting to review and discuss the candidates. The meeting will take place in the Town Hall Annex Building meeting room A, and members of the public are welcome.