P&Z Chair Says Now is the Time for Vision for Town Amenities

Wilton’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) added a special meeting last night, Wednesday, April 6, to deal with multiple topics under its purview.

Among the agenda items, the board heard from Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) Chair Rick Tomasetti on a new idea he introduced as an “Amenities Master Plan” for the Town of Wilton.

If such a planning project were to be conducted, it would require funding from the Town — another initiative in an increasingly long line of projects vying for a share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant money or the Town’s Infrastructure Fund.

Wilton’s Department of Public Works Director Frank Smeriglio was also in line for those funds at the meeting, where he presented the latest potential plans and options for storm mitigation measures, including drainage systems and pond dredging in the area of the Wilton High School sports complex that was so badly damaged in a storm last year. GOOD Morning Wilton will report more on the plans Smeriglio presented in a later story.

In addition, over the last several weeks, the BOS has been compiling and reviewing numerous other requests for funds from the Parks and Recreation Department (for projects such as a new turf field), the Environmental Affairs Department (for projects such as improvements to trails and other open spaces) and a number of other municipal projects.

The BOS will soon face the task of prioritizing which projects will be receiving the funds. That could begin as soon as the BOS meeting on April 19, when the board expects to hear the last of the possible requests from Facilities Director Chris Burney.

Amenities Master Plan

Tomasetti began his comments to the BOS with a brief status of the progress he sees on the Wilton Center Master Plan that is currently underway. That process, he says, has sparked an important realization.

“It’s dawned on all of us that we really need an amenities plan,” he told the board.

“We cannot continue to look at our community as just having the schools as the main [attraction],” Tomasetti asserted. “It’s about having other assets in our community, other than the schools, mainly for the benefit of our residents, but also to attract residents and to keep residents.”

Tomasetti expressed frustration with comments he has heard over time about the affordability of amenity investment, and sees an amenities master plan as a vehicle for “unlocking” Wilton’s potential.

It’s not about the money that we have in our community,” he said. “[When a project is proposed] the answer always seems to be, we can’t afford it. When we do these master plans, we unlock development. When we do an amenity plan, we unlock other reasons for people to come to Wilton.”

“I think this is the perfect opportunity to do an [amenities] master plan,” Tomasetti continued. “It’s about the vision. I think oftentimes in Wilton, we don’t have the vision. And I think we’re at this point where, as a community, we really do need to make hard decisions.”

Director of Land Use and Town Planner Michael Wrinn also attended the meeting and offered support for Tomasetti’s amenities master plan.

Wrinn said he sees the project as “a future vision for amenities throughout town” with a “long-range” view.

“I think it’s critical,” Wrinn said. “I see how things bounce around as different types of amenities are being proposed, and they’re in the classic silos — you know, this department’s doing that or this group is looking at that, and there’s no cohesion.”

Wrinn said his “best guess” for the cost of an amenities master plan would be about $175,000.

BOS Response

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice is clearly enthusiastic about the plan.

“I love the idea,” Vanderslice stated, and referred to discussions with several department and commission heads who she said were also “really excited about this concept of amenity master planning.”

The other BOS members also responded favorably to the idea, though some questions were raised as to what the deliverables would include and who would lead the initiative. (Tomasetti is recommending that a P&Z sub-committee would take the lead, with additional members from various relevant groups, as it has done with the Wilton Center Master Plan already underway.)

Vanderslice also pointed out that an amenities master plan would not simply seek new, “shiny things that may not be realistic” but would maximize the assets Wilton already has.

“I like a lot of emphasis on what we already have, and how can we make what we already have better,” Vanderslice said, citing examples of the great potential that could be tapped at locations such as Allen’s Meadow.