As one of the safest towns in Connecticut, with a strong sense of community and an active tradition of volunteerism and charity, many would agree that Wilton is truly a special place in which to live and raise our families. However, it seems as though we Wiltonians have been on the receiving end of a significant amount of negativity recently. Funding cuts from Hartford that have necessitated belt-tightening on the local level, storefronts in Wilton Center that have stubbornly remained vacant, and the recent reprehensible incidents at Middlebrook School have been sources of much consternation. These concerns will eventually be resolved, however, and with strong guidance from the first selectman’s office and the many volunteer-based boards and commissions, Wilton will undoubtedly get through these challenges stronger than ever.
As a resident of Wilton since 2005, I have seen the efforts that have been made to move Wilton forward and accommodate the needs of its residents, including the construction of 74 affordable rental units for seniors at Wilton Commons, streetscape improvements in Wilton Center, the completion of a large section of the Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT), the development of a 50,000 square foot medical center across from Wilton Town Hall and the imminent ground-breaking of a 90-unit assisted living facility on Danbury Road. What is worth noting and encouraging about these and similar projects is that the sources of funding run the gamut from public to public-private to private. Also worth noting is that at least a portion or the entirety of each of these projects were reviewed by Wilton’s Planning & Zoning Commission.
The role of Wilton’s Planning & Zoning Commission is to consider and set land-use and zoning policies and to review applications for special use permits, site development plans, and subdivisions, among other functions. The Planning & Zoning Commission is also charged with updating the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) every 10 years, a process now underway, which is a resident-driven document meant to guide growth and development in Wilton while identifying strategies through which open space and natural resources can be preserved.
My continuous service on zoning boards since 2006 has provided me with a level of knowledge and expertise about land-use and zoning issues affecting Wilton that can only be attained through experience. Beginning with my six years on the Zoning Board of Appeals, during which I was exposed to the concerns of individual property owners, to the past five years on the Planning & Zoning Commission, where I have had to consider actions affecting the town on more of a macro level, my understanding of the issues that affect Wilton has grown with each year served.
During my 20 years of working in the commercial real estate industry as a senior broker at Colliers International, I have seen the end result of smart and sometimes, not-so-smart, land-use planning in towns and cities throughout Connecticut. We are at a critical juncture here in Wilton, where the need to expand the commercial tax base to offset reduced state-level funding can often conflict with the desire of Wiltonians to preserve the character of the town that attracted them in the first place. Through an effective Planning & Zoning commission, those two goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I would like to see the Planning & Zoning commission continue to encourage responsible commercial development to expand the commercial tax base in order to mitigate the tax burden on homeowners while acknowledging that change for the sake of change should never be a primary driver. I hope that with your vote, I will have the opportunity to continue to be a part of the solution.