Wilton’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) recently reached a small milestone in its quest to provide the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) with a set of recommendations to help improve the Town’s commercial signage regulations.

At their Wednesday, July 12 meeting, members of the commission discussed the EDC’s recently-completed survey that was designed to gauge Wilton business owners’ opinions of and experiences with the process of obtaining signs for their businesses.

The EDC was analyzing the survey findings just as two newly-appointed commissioners — Donna Peterson and Joe Favarolo — attended their first meeting on Wednesday, increasing the commission to a more robust seven members.

A Lengthy Process

When First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice gave the EDC the signage regulations assignment last December, the EDC formed two subcommittees. One would fully explore current regulations and the other would gather input from key constituents, including business owners and residents.

The EDC also sought insights from sign companies, which account for about 70% of the applications for signage on behalf of Wilton businesses.

EDC commissioners received the survey results in June,. The July 12 meeting was their first opportunity to begin exploring the data as a group. It was Peterson and Favarolo’s first meeting, but they appeared to have gotten up to speed quickly and engaged in the discussion along with their more experienced fellow commissioners.

Emerging Findings

Officials have posted the survey data on the Town of Wilton website. It includes basic reporting of each question and the distribution of responses, as well as verbatim responses to open-ended questions. In all, 34 business owners completed the survey.

Commissioner Marty Avallone thought one thing was clear.

“Some adjustments need to be made,” he said. “[Businesses] are suffering because they can’t be found by either foot or street traffic. If the regulations don’t give them the ability [to] point traffic to its location — or make people aware that it’s even there in the first place — it’s a real problem.”

The EDC’s discussion highlighted the unique challenge for businesses that don’t face the street. In fact, about half of the survey respondents reported their business was “not readily visible to traffic.”

Commissioners seemed to agree that the primary area of opportunity emerging from the survey is timproving the process for business owners who seek the Town’s permission to obtain temporary or A-frame signage.

The free-flowing discussion also highlighted other challenges for the EDC in drafting their recommendations for regulation changes, including:

  • How to balance some businesses’ desire for sandwich-board or other promotional signs with the risk of a cluttered appearance and safety concerns
  • Whether Wilton’s signage regulations could be more flexible while still being clear, concise and easily understood by permit applicants
  • Sign needs vary from location to location — for example, Wilton Center versus the Danbury Rd. corridor, or North Wilton or South Wilton
  • New businesses may have different needs than established businesses

The data showed the majority of respondents (26 out of 34) feel current regulations do not meet their business needs.

EDC Chair Prasad Iyer felt the survey results did not suggest pervasive or glaring issues with the regulations. Instead, he said, Wilton business owners shared reasonable expectations for straightforward, business-friendly, efficient processes.

“There are a few themes here,” Iyer said. “But I did not see comments like ‘I need neon signs’ 25 times. It’s not like some theme is so dominant that [we’d say], ‘We’ve got to fix this.’ Other than [business owners] saying things like, ‘Make it faster,’ or ‘Help us get to things faster,’… some process improvements, I see that, but I didn’t see anything beyond that,” Iyer said.

He added that he thought the survey revealed that business owners in the survey were looking for “tweaks” to the application process and signage that’s currently allowed rather than seeking permission to use new, dramatically different types of signs.

Next Steps

Commissioners will continue to absorb the survey findings. Iyer asked the commissioners to summarize their individual points of view via email, and continue discussion at the next meeting as the commission prepares to formulate recommendations to P&Z.

The EDC members also agreed that moving forward with a resident survey was in order, and they plan to begin crafting question topics they’d consider including.

The next EDC meeting is on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

One reply on “New Commissioners and New Data Bring New Dimension to EDC Discussions on Commercial Signage in Wilton”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this lately in light of the toy store that opened next door to Scoops. Not sure people are aware she is down there.

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