As part of GOOD Morning Wilton‘s coverage of the elections for the 2019 municipal elections, we have set out guidelines inviting each candidate to submit one 800-word op-ed piece before Election Day. Jake Bittner is an unaffiliated voter running for the Planning & Zoning Commission as part of the Republican slate.

The most common pro-Wilton sentiment I hear is that the schools are what makes Wilton wonderful. I would counter that it’s the wonderful people with wonderful kids in the wonderful schools in this town that make it wonderful–and of course how pretty it is with its historic buildings, country lanes, hills, rock walls, forests, ponds and rivers.

Despite how beautiful it is, there’s still a huge opportunity to enhance the beauty, incorporate the historic backbone, untangle and reorganize zoning, and create better spaces to meet, shop, dine, live, learn, work, grow up, and grow old.  To create a cycle of planning and development that enables and entices residents and businesses to come here and stay here–take what’s great and make it better and improve or replace what flat out isn’t working.

The candidates running for the Planning and Zoning Commission share a relatively uniform vision entailing a beautiful town with open space, historic conservation, and bustling hubs. Thankfully the current commission created and have implemented a modern and pertinent Plan of Conservation and Development that captures most any Wilton residents’ vision.

What comes next is getting the work done.

As a 9-plus year Wilton resident who was raised in Weston, I returned to raise my own children in the setting I remember as being so fulfilling and inspiring. I’m blessed with a wonderful wife of 19 years who manages to work full time, be active in the community, put up with me, and shape our kids into pretty cool people. My two children love (most days) attending the great schools mentioned previously. It gives me great pride to see how proud they are of their school and their town. I’m committed to making sure Wilton evolves in a way that embraces the history and natural beauty and unique style of community I fondly remember but also adapts to remain relevant to how we work and live today and into the future.

Professionally, I manage a design studio that specializes in custom homes and hotels, furniture and interior design, and agonizing over the thousands of tiny details that go into making places feel like special homes.  Periodically we’re engaged in master planning of communities and developments, helping teams of investors, designers, consultants, marketers and realtors focus and define their offerings. I get to work around the country with some of the most amazing clients, professionals, craftsmen and trades and consequently work with some of the best planned and managed towns, cities, and communities imaginable.  Typically, I work from home thanks to the ever-expanding infiltration of digital and mobile technologies.  Traveling and working in a breadth of towns and cities exposes me to a broad variety of personalities and policies that bake into the best towns.

As a candidate I have real experience with the business of design and management and getting complicated work done. I work with planning and zoning commissions and regulations, navigating architectural review boards (good ones and bad ones), as well as managing business and teams, to achieve results that communities, and owners and the makers share pride in.  My entire career has been devoted to creating real built things and I look forward to using this experience to help steer Wilton’s planning process.

Planning and Zoning, when done well, is positive for people investing, and positive for the community. Its regulations are clear, its processes consistent, its outcomes are beneficial on many levels from many points of view. If I’m a builder, a homeowner, a tenant–consistency of excellence breeds confidence that decisions and “changes” will be consistently excellent. A cycle that compounds itself is created. Wilton needs this clarity and consistency from conception of projects through review, and construction to entice the best people to bring their projects here–projects that benefit the entire community.

Planning and Zoning isn’t all “enforcing rules,” it’s using rules to enable and encourage great building and design.  We want builders and building owners to want to build things that people want to visit, live and work in. We want people that want to conserve and preserve our history because it’s a part of our history and they want to be a part of it.

The current Planning and Zoning Commission has established a great trajectory. I’m asking for your vote to ensure the work continues and flourishes and delivers the beautiful town with open space, historic conservation, and bustling hubs.

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