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. Rick Tomasetti is a Republican candidate for the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Recently, there has been talk of vision, regarding who has it and what they plan to do with it. Talk of Wilton in the 21st century, mixed use development, preserving Wilton’s charm, high density housing, village cores, master planning, plan of conservation and development (POCD), pre-application review, affordable housing, sustainability, age restricted housing, smart development…the list goes on. It’s enough to make most people’s eyes glaze over simply because it is unnecessarily complex. When I talk to the parents of the kids I coach, I know they are engaged, but all of the talk about policy objectives does not convey the spirit of our “vision”.
Years of resistance towards change has produced unfortunate results in the commercial zones. Wilton Center should have a mixture of residential units and offices over retail shops and restaurants, as this approach would: add units for younger or newer Wiltonians and existing residents looking to scale down alike, add life to the downtown area, increase spending at local establishments, and grow the Grand List. Wilton Center needs to grow to have a better linkage to Danbury Rd., the Norwalk River, and the Norwalk River Valley Trail. Common design and decor elements including sidewalks, lampposts, and signage will help pull together a greater Wilton Center and become more inviting and directly stated for visitors to town. Danbury Rd. has similar problems; people would be shocked at how many different zones are intertwined along Rte. 7. It needs to be cleaned up, and we should expect a more cohesive experience and establish easily understood districts along the path. There is potential to add historically sensitive development to Cannondale, partnerships with owners and developers for improved outcomes, as well as a thorough review and update of our regulations. That is my vision of Wilton.
Being a successful architect requires vision. I am fortunate that I can envision a building, sketch it out, hopefully it gets built. It’s rewarding and humbling to know that for some part of eternity, others can awe in and experience my vision. My dad wanted me to be a civil engineer, projecting sewer effluent flows or roadways, but, when I look to the future, I see streetscapes, and beautiful buildings.
Fifteen years ago, I applied for a vacancy for P&Z. They asked my vision of Wilton and, before I could respond, one commissioner stated his vision was dirt roads and horse & buggies. Growing up in town, I remember when some roads were unpaved. One crisp fall day we got off the school bus at Mr. Hurlbutt’s apple barn, to be greeted by the smell of asphalt as Calvin Road was being paved. No one complained that the town vision was being destroyed; we kids were happy that we could ride our bikes down the paved street, and the parents were happy to not have mud on their car in the rainy season and the cloud of dust in August. Mr. Hurlbutt gave us each an apple and told us not to walk on the hot pavement. The commissioner did not understand the balance between preservation and planning, rather he confused nostalgia for a Wilton of the past vision. So even though I had the credentials, I studied historic preservation and authored a thesis on Urban Revival, I was not appointed because of my vision of a growing and vibrant Wilton.
Four years ago, I applied again. I told the Commission the horse and buggy story and said that if this was the vision they wanted, I was not interested. I then told them my vision and how I developed it. That vision guided me throughout my past four years on P&Z. I believe these ideas and others connect with our residents, as I was appointed to P&Z and went on to win my seat in the last election.
During my time on P&Z, I have been an advocate of these ideas and others, including incentivizing preservation of historic assets. As the current Vice Chair, I have worked closely with my fellow commissioners on the recently adopted POCD and was the initial author of its vision statement.
While there are many issues that need to be addressed, there is a common theme in updating our regulations to properly and modestly increase development, incentivize preservation, add new building types, and make better places for Wiltonians. I will continue to push for this vision, for a forward-looking view of my hometown.