At the Board of Selectmen (BoS) meeting last night, town officials discussed several agenda items.
- Keiser Property Conservation Easement: The BoS discussed moving forward with a proposal to hold a Special Town Meeting to vote on a referendum item conserving 35 acres of land on Seeley Road. Patricia Sesto, Wilton environmental affairs director told the selectmen the town and the Wilton Land Trust would partner together to help conserve the vast open space at the corner of Seeley and Cannon Roads. “The Land Trust stepped in financially as a partner with the town. With an easement on the property we’re essentially buying the development rights. You can’t do anything except those activities which are consistent with conservation practices.” The easement also reserves rights for some limited agriculture or trails. “There is no development, there is no building, or subdividing the land. There is no ability to subdivide except the four acres residential area,” Sesto explained, referring to the only two parcels held aside by the Keiser family for residential development. “Neither lot is is felt to be significant, either ecologically or esthetically, from our perspective,” Sesto said. The budget would be $2.5 million, of which the Land Trust would commit $300,000. Sesto pointed out that when the town first came to an agreement on the property 10 years ago, the original plan was valued at $4.5 million. “We were prepared back then to put this before the town. We’re in a good position to try.”
- Middlebrook Turf field: The meeting room was packed to standing-room-only, filled mostly with residents in support of a plan to install a turf field at Middlebrook School. As presented by Casey Healy, an attorney with Gregory and Adams, representing Wilton residents interested in renovating the practice fields behind the school. The existing field is a sod field with lights that undergoes significant wear and tear during fall football season. Parks and Rec closes the field to athletic use in the spring to try to allow the grass to regrow. Residents are proposing private fundraising to pay the estimated $800,000 it will cost to build a turf field, and install better lighting that meets current standards. The field would accommodate several youth sports–football, lacrosse, field hockey–and would be used by the middle school physical education classes. Healy noted that they’ve filed applications with Planning and Zoning and with the Inland Wetlands Commission. While the selectmen noted that they were not being asked to take any specific action on the plan, they cautioned the group to consider that while they might be optimistic about raising enough money to fund building the field, residents also needed to be aware that costs may also be extreme further down the road when the field would need to be repaired or replaced. “I think that needs to be part of the proposal,” First Selectman Bill Brennan said. “This is a process. P&Z is involved, Inland Wetlands is involved. We have also Board of Education that needs to be involved, as it’s on school property. Parks and Rec commission, obviously, is involved. We are tight on funds in this town. Don’t make any misjudgement on that–we have plenty of capital programs that have to be funded. When we’re looking at something like replacing some fields downstream, and there’s nothing in the budget, it’s a little scary.”
- Kevin Wall discussed the fundraising that is being done for the artificial turf field, saying that most of the commitments that have been made have been promised and pledged, rather than actual donations at this point. “A lot of folks are waiting to see if this will be approved. I think there are people supporting the project that are waiting for it to go through. The timing of this, and having to go through the process to find out if we can be approved, the fundraising has been awkward; we want to go out and do it, but we understand, as Mr. Brennan has said a number of times, it’s a process and we have to go through it and the channels, we’re more than happy to do. Do I believe the funds can be raised? Yes. Can they be raised in enough time? I think the general concept is to get this done and properly installed next summer.”
- ‘On School Road’ statement: First Selectman Brennan made a statement regarding the closure of the “On School Road” Toddler program. Here is the statement in full:
“The Town administration recognizes that the State of CT Dept. of Public Health’s recent directive that the Town cease and desist the ‘On School Road’ toddler program at Comstock Community Center had a significant impact on the families with children participating in the program and on the Director Sharon Cowley and her staff. The Town of Wilton and the Parks and Recreation Department staff acknowledge and are deeply sorry for the disappointment and distress this closure has caused the families affected.
“Since being advised of the State’s decision, the Town and Parks and Recreation Dept. have been rigorously exploring options that would allow Sharon’s toddler program to continue in a manner that would be compliant with the State Dept. of Public Health regulations. Both short- and long-term options are being studied and considered in an effort to respond as quickly as possible to the families currently in need.
“Town of Wilton officials will be meeting with Sharon Cowley [Wednesday]tomorrow to review the various options they have identified to date. Given the variables that must be addressed, including possible alternative sites, facility requirements, possible collaborative efforts with other child care providers, or the development of a scaled down program, it is premature to establish any target dates for setting up future toddler programs.
“Lastly, Town officials recognize the desire of the families who have expressed their heartfelt hope to have the toddler programs continued and are making every effort to develop a workable and achievable solution.
“Once again, on behalf of the Town of Wilton and the Board of Selectman , we are very sorry for this unexpected program closure and most appreciate your cooperation and understanding on this matter.”