On Wednesday, Jan. 12, Wilton’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) furthered its work to help the Town update and improve signage regulations for Wilton businesses.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, who has tasked the EDC with developing recommendations for the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider, attended the meeting, which featured updates from two subcommittees formed at the EDC’s December meeting.
Commissioner Peter Squitieri gave a preview of his work-in-progress, which will entail a review of Wilton’s current regulations and a competitive assessment of surrounding towns, such as Darien, Westport and New Canaan.
His fellow commissioners praised the idea of the visual inventory Squiteri is assembling, to clearly represent examples of signs that are currently allowed and those that are prohibited.
Commissioners noted that differences in the regulations by zone and the sheer volume of regulations are complicating matters.
“They’re pretty voluminous,” Squitieri said. “There’s just a lot of them.”
Commissioners suspect that’s creating confusion for businesses.
“The challenge for small business owners is, ‘I can’t figure out what the regulations are’,” said EDC Chair Prasad Iyer.
“A lot of [businesses] put up signs that are not allowable,” Vanderslice added, such as neon signs and sandwich boards.
Businesses can be cited for violations, though officials were unclear on how vigorous the Town’s enforcement is.
Squitieri hoped to complete his work on the regulations review before the EDC’s next meeting in February.
Commissioners John DiCenzo and Marty Avallone updated the Commission on their preliminary work to design a survey of Wilton businesses to measure their awareness and understanding of Wilton’s signage regulations and to identify their needs and wants.
DiCenzo shared a report from a survey conducted in Bloomington, IL, with similar objectives, which he thought could offer some inspiration for the EDC effort.
Avallone shared draft question areas that the survey might include, which led to some brainstorming of ideas to craft the questionnaire.
Vanderslice advocated for a survey that would include residents’ opinions, not just business owners.
“I thought the resident survey was a good idea,” she said, hypothesizing that residents today might be more open to a variety of sign types that she recalls drew objections from residents in the past.
“The regulations are a reflection of the community,” Vanderslice continued. “If residents’ opinions on these things have changed, that’s really helpful for P&Z to know.”
“And the more specific you can be about your recommendations, the better,” she advised the commissioners. “They [P&Z] need to pass regulations that residents and businesses will be happy with.”
The EDC will hold its next meeting on Feb. 8.