Election2019 Candidate OP-ED: Peter Squitieri, Planning & Zoning Commission
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. Peter Squitieri is a Democratic candidate for the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Like many Wilton residents, my family and I moved to Wilton because of the renowned school system. As time went on, we came to love the beauty of the town, and especially as I got more involved in local life, I came to greatly admire the intelligence, thoughtfulness and dedication to the community of the people I met and worked with.
Wilton is nestled in a bucolic section of Fairfield County, and the town has worked hard to preserve its rural ambience and colonial heritage. We have 1,500 acres of open, publicly accessible land; 11 parks; nearly 500 historic buildings; plus four national and five local historical districts, all of which contribute to Wilton’s charming and welcoming atmosphere. As a top rated town, Wilton has built and continues to support an outstanding school system.
Today, Wilton faces a number of challenges. We need to continue investing in our schools and to maintain and enhance our infrastructure and the high level of town services. Even with cost efficiencies such as shared services, these investments will require increased revenue. And the way to increase revenue without further burdening taxpayers is to grow the Grand List while retaining Wilton’s special character.
To grow the Grand List, we need to make Wilton attractive to those just out of college, to young adults and their families, to seniors who would otherwise have to leave town, and to businesses who provide goods and services to Wilton’s residents and out of town visitors. Much of this can be addressed by evolution of our Planning and Zoning regulations through the development and application of a Master Plan.
Our shared vision is to have a more vibrant and enticing town. The POCD shows a pathway to this and among its many recommendations are to:
- Revise our zoning regulations to allow mixed use development in appropriate areas.
- Improve regulations regarding accessory dwelling units to increase housing variety and allow smaller housing units.
- With assistance from experts, reexamine and rewrite regulations to make redevelopment of underutilized commercial properties easier and more attractive to developers.
- Make the town center more visible and accessible by making it more connected to Metro-North and to development along Danbury Rd.. Make the entire town center (out to Wolfpit Rd.) more walkable.
- Make cycling easier and safer.
- Streamline and speed up the approval process for proposed development.
- Establish and cultivate relationships with developers, especially developers who have done forward-looking work in neighboring towns.
I would add:
- Enhance the town’s amenities: Upgrade and improve signage, trails, and resting spots at the parks; expand the facilities in Merwin Meadows; put in a dog park; develop Schenck’s Island to draw more people to town center; promote summer concerts in the gazebo; develop more shade and resting spots in Allen’s Meadows; put Bradley Park to better use. The list can go on.
- As my running mate Rem Bigosinski has proposed, expand access to the Norwalk River as part of a plan to revitalize the town center.
These recommendations must be turned into a Master Plan and new regulations must be developed. The Master Plan by itself is a huge effort, and the POCD has outlined dozens of tasks, many of which will be led by P&Z. Then zoning regulations have to be revised in alignment with the Master Plan. Finishing this process will make Wilton more attractive to developers, and give us confidence that we can guide development in alignment with the vision and character of our town. This is a challenging crossroads for Wilton.
I can add substantially to this effort. I have almost four decades experience in moving projects forward and making sure they get done, financial sophistication, and a strong commitment and sense of urgency towards the tasks ahead. Most importantly, I love Wilton and want to see the town thrive.
My colleagues Florence Johnson, Rem Bigosinski, and I share a unified vision and a wide range of skills and experience. Together we are the strongest team to move Wilton forward through a thoughtful and energetic P&Z Commission that is collaborative with other town boards and transparent in our processes.
If you believe in this vision, please vote for us, and for the whole Democratic slate, on Nov. 5.