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. Melissa-Jean Rotini is an unaffiliated voter running for the Planning & Zoning Commission as part of the Republican slate.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has authority over your property rights. Our regulations determine setback, building height, lot coverage, whether your neighbor is a commercial or residential zone, and a myriad of other rules about your property. The upcoming master planning process, born out of the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) update, will look at what our regulations allow, and how they can be improved, all aimed at enhancing our future land use and being responsive to resident input.

The regular applications and master planning process require familiarity with construction documents, our current regulations, the ability to critically review other regulations for comparison, knowledge about what people in Town and those seeking to move here want, and, of course, hard work and time. I think it is fair to say that P&Z requires the most time of any Town board or commission. The applications are lengthy and technical, the meetings are long, and the work is important.

Proposed developments need to be compliant with the regulations, but also need to ensure the continued health and safety of our residents. During my time on P&Z, I have made clear that I will hold applicants to the standards of an environmental impact statement (EIS), which should include an assessment of a development’s use of police, fire, and paramedic services; information on impervious surfaces and runoff; as well as construction noise, traffic, and any other impacts. The goal of an EIS is to identify negative impacts and ways to minimize or avoid those impacts. I will develop and propose a form to ensure that new developments are submitting concise and consistent information to relevant Town departments so that these impacts can be properly considered.

P&Z commissioners should have the ability to issue spot, and identify solutions. My career as a municipal attorney required that I do just that. I have worked with police, fire, planning, engineering, public works, and environmental facilities departments throughout my 16 year career. I am familiar with reading drawings and analyzing regulations. This year, I became Director of Environmental Management Operations in the Solid Waste Division of a municipal Environmental Facilities Department. On P&Z, I apply my knowledge to help our Town.

I have lived in Town for more than 12 years, having moved here not for the schools, but for the natural beauty and community. My husband and I have two children in Miller-Driscoll School. I volunteer not only for P&Z, but for the PTA, co-chairing the Carnival and Bingo committees, and acting as room mom. I have also served on the Wilton School District’s Math Curriculum Review Committee and the Long-Range Planning Committee. Additionally, I am on the Westchester County 9-11 Memorial Expansion Committee.

I have twice been appointed to fill vacancies on P&Z. The first time I was appointed after having applied directly to the Commission, after the Democratic Town Committee would not consider submitting my name. My second appointment, earlier this year, was by unanimous vote of the Commission. Both appointments were based upon my qualifications, not politics. I am focused on ensuring our residents are heard and that development occurs in a manner that contributes to, not detracts from, our historical and natural resources.

I sat on the POCD workgroup as a member and chair of our Wilton Economic Development Commission and as a commissioner on P&Z. I took the time to edit the entire POCD text for grammar, structure, and clarity. I am fully aware and able to handle the workload and time commitment that remaining on P&Z requires.

I am not registered with a political party. My varied background is well-suited to P&Z and I joined P&Z to help my friends and neighbors, regardless of their party affiliation, who were struggling to observe P&Z meetings. This election season, I was approached by the Republicans to be part of their P&Z slate. They noted that my qualifications are what matters. I looked at the other slate members and saw a very well-qualified group; two are already on P&Z and, while I may not always agree with them, they have the background to conduct a thorough review and make knowledgeable determinations. The two not on yet P&Z also are well-qualified and, I believe, would add to the good work that the current P&Z commissioners are doing.

I hope that everyone comes out to vote this Nov. 5— hopefully for me. When you get to the polls, consider qualifications, not party line, and cast all your votes. Do not throw some away as others have asked. Voting is something that we take for granted, but we should not. Each vote represents a sacrifice made by someone, trust placed in your neighbor, and hope for good governance. Thank you.