The following letter was sent to the members of the Inland Wetlands Commission, which was scheduled to hold a public hearing last week on a proposed development of the property owned by the trusts of Dave and Iola Brubeck. It is being published at the request of the author. [Editor’s note:  The headline and this paragraph originally included the word “subdivision,” but they have been changed to “development” as the property has already been approved for subdivision in 1954 and 1968.

Dear Members of the Inland Wetlands Commission:

The environment in which I was raised was one that encouraged awareness of and participation in the community. It was also rural New Jersey farm land that we worked as an avocation valuing the literal environment within which the cows, sheep, horses and more domestic animals lived. Streams, fields, woods, orchards, wetlands, ponds and accompanying wildlife provided me with an opportunity to learn to read and appreciate the balance of all things.

When the campaign for first selectman was underway, there was a good deal of expressing of the need for a deeper variety of housing from which residents can choose in an effort to increase the tax revenue, provide opportunities for different age groups to remain or join the community, adding to its future wellness and economic growth. I bring this up as these discussions instilled in me a curiosity about the processes through which a developer or individual wanting to develop build-able lots has to go. That curiosity took me to the Wilton Town Hall’s clerk’s office to read the minutes of current commissions’ agendas and minutes for the last year or so. During that visit, I learned of the Brubeck Trust’s application to your commission for approval to build on six lots that were approved as build-able in 1968 adhering to the rules and restrictions that existed at that time. This is case number 2429(S). And, in keeping with the approval as build-able, the family has paid since that time Wilton property taxes accordingly–close to $900,000.

As I am a friend of the Brubecks, I was curious to use their application as my tutorial. And, it is proving to be quite the tutorial.

What has struck me first and foremost is how very much time and expertise is necessary to allow the owner of a property to use same for the benefit of that owner but within the current guidelines of environmental protections. And, to be sure that these protections are defined and adhered to, a great many dedicated volunteers spend countless hours in meetings and out on site walks and, I am sure, doing homework in addition thereto. In this case number 2429(S), two members of the commission have recused themselves spreading the work load among fewer people to oversee the application. Add to that the volunteer and contracted experts and the hours committed to this add up. Then, I learned that there are neighbors from three abutting properties who have expressed concerns and have asked questions. So, more meetings, more attorneys, more experts, more cost, more postponements add to the already fairly complex mix.

I had access to the plans, the many detailed plans, and reviewed them with interest. Having been a major in Cartography/Geography and having designed printed circuit boards, I can read and actually understand maps, contours, water sources, etc. and accompanying schematics. I endorse the Brubeck Trust’s application to develop these defined lots knowing that their efforts to adhere to current regulations and protections is foremost in their planning. In addition, it seems to me that the development of six lots on 20-plus acres can hardly be defined as dense development. From what I have read, there does seem to be an effort being made to make this process more difficult, time consuming and expensive. If that effort is to further assure the balance of nature is maintained, the prolonged process might be worth it. If it is an annoyance factor in hopes the application will be permanently withdrawn, I find that disturbing.

The Brubeck family has shared the beauty and advantages of the land Dave and Iola acquired a half century ago for all those decades. The breakaway moments Dave would have in his performances gave insight to me into how much he valued land and treasured its protection whether his or others, nearby or far away. If recalling correctly, it was in one of those breakaway moments, he articulated how he came upon the groundbreaking 5/4 time. And, that was by listening to the sound of the hooves of the horses on the cobblestone courtyards in the ranch he grew up on in Northern California. He listened to nature’s callings and, along with Iola, purchased land in their new home town of Wilton for the benefit of their family. It is their literal legacy, their family’s inheritance. The affection and regard their children and their families have for maintaining a healthy balance for the property they now own reflects Dave and Iola’s passion.

I do hope the process continues smoothly and in a timely fashion.

With respect and admiration for all the work you do that is so very behind the scenes until someone like me takes a peek,

Very sincerely,

Judy Higby