In my last op-ed I shared my qualifications and some of my ideas addressing taxes and affordability. In this op-ed, I will discuss planning for economic development and private public partnerships to meet the needs of our community.
With the slowdown in home sales, the Wilton population and that of surrounding towns has begun to age a bit. As children move away, many seek smaller or less expensive housing. Wilton has very little inventory of either. To understand the demand, one only has to look at the recently completed Wilton Commons and River Ridge; developments on different ends of the housing spectrum, but which have generated positive benefits to the community.
Wilton Commons, through a public-private partnership, and River Ridge, through a private developer, allowed Wilton residents to remain in town and brought new residents into town; new residents, who shop and dine at Wilton businesses. Wilton Commons allowed the town to address state-mandated affordable housing requirements. River Ridge residents, who are primarily empty nesters, will annually pay almost $400,000 in new property taxes.
With any project, there are citizen concerns and disruptions to neighbors, but if planned well these can be minimized, allowing everyone—including neighbors—to benefit from new housing. I plan to work with our town planner and the Economic Development Commission to identify opportunities for alternative housing and proactive regulation changes, like those recently approved impacting commercial parking, which will facilitate investment in Wilton. We will then work with Planning and Zoning to incorporate those opportunities into the town’s new Plan of Conservation and Development, thereby allowing them to become reality.
Greater emphasis on healthy living and a healthier environment present further opportunities for both public-private partnerships and private investment leading to economic growth. I support the Energy Commission’s efforts to provide opportunities for savings for both government and business, and I welcome their next proposal, Solarize Wilton, which educates homeowners on solar. My former hometown in Massachusetts has seen significant investment in solar through private dollars. I will encourage the Energy Commission to take a closer look at what is happening there. I will encourage and support the continued development of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. Once the existing section is connected to downtown Wilton, it will create an enjoyable experience for walkers, runners and bikers to come into town, pick up a drink or a meal and enjoy an enhanced Schenck’s Island as previously discussed in my last op-ed.
I hear from a number of parents who leave Wilton on weekends to take their children to indoor sports facilities or outdoor recreational facilities in neighboring towns. As a town, we can’t have everything for everyone, but I want to work with those parents and residents seeking an outdoor temporary skating rink to determine if there are economically viable means through public-private partnerships or private investment to keep families and their spending dollars in Wilton on the weekends.
We can better utilize and promote the facilities we have in town right now. Participation in sports is at an all time high, generating great demand for sports fields. Through better co-ordination of scheduling between the schools and the town we can better meet those demands. Parks and Rec must also develop a comprehensive, long-term plan for all our fields and facilities so we understand the needs and the costs. From there the necessary public-private partnerships can be developed.
The same is true of the Clune Center, an outstanding facility built to be a community performance center, but which currently offers little programming beyond school related events. More and consistent programming will create demand and provide entertainment for not only Wilton residents but also individuals from outside of Wilton, perhaps enticing them to spend more time and money in Wilton or even move to Wilton. Events will also provide opportunities for partnerships with area businesses to help increase their activity.
During my 28 years in Wilton, I have seen residents come together on many occasions to work together to develop and execute a number of initiatives. I have been an active participant and leader in some of those efforts. Whether it was helping launch A Better Chance or overseeing the renovation of their two homes, or helping to revitalize the Wilton Playshop, I know from my experiences people often just need like-minded citizens, flexibility from the town, some knowledge and private generosity to make great things happen in Wilton.
I ask that you vote for me for first selectman on Nov. 3 to allow me to continue my efforts towards making a difference in Wilton. Thank you.