First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice is stepping up her efforts to communicate with residents about the direction of new development in Wilton — with some projects already in the pipeline and the unprecedented possibilities for new development to come.

The tone of her comments has taken on greater urgency in recent weeks. Vanderslice sees renewed momentum behind legislative proposals at the state level that could impact development in Wilton, particularly for multifamily or affordable housing projects. At the same time, the Town is also nearing completion of the Greater Wilton Center Master Planning process, which is expected to transform the center itself as well as the portion of Danbury Rd. from Wolfpit Rd. to Pimpewaug Rd.

Vanderslice fears too many Wilton residents aren’t engaged on the issues.

“It hasn’t felt like there’s been a significant amount of engagement by the public on the work of the Master Planning committee,” she said at the Dec. 20 Board of Selectmen meeting.

Vanderslice is reminding residents she is not leading the Master Planning effort.

“I get stopped in the grocery store a lot. I’d just like people to talk about it with somebody besides me because I’m not going to be a decision maker in [the Master Planning],” she told the selectmen.

Forces outside of Wilton’s control are heightening Vanderslice’s concerns. In her December update to residents, she outlined in great detail what housing advocates, legislators and developers might be seeking to achieve in Wilton.

“I was trying to get the facts out after our last meeting [Dec. 7],” Vanderslice said at the Dec. 20 BOS meeting, referring to information she shared on potential state legislation that might allow significantly higher housing density within a half-mile radius of the Wilton Center train station, and clarifying that density goals would be overall average density within the radius, not per individual acre.

Vanderslice further clarified that some information she had previously shared with the selectmen about the legislative priorities of the CT Chapter of the American Planners Association was only preliminary.

“We heard from the government liaison, a member of the Connecticut Planners Association, who wanted to clarify that the priorities that we discussed at our last meeting…. were draft priorities. They had not been adopted by the membership,” Vanderslice said.

Notwithstanding that correction, Vanderslice sees other efforts to be concerned about, such as goals put forth by DesegregateCT and the emergence of Growing Together Connecticut, a newer housing advocacy group.

Vanderslice intends to keep up the pressure on residents to engage.

“The 2023 Legislative Session begins on Jan. 4,” Vanderslice wrote in her December update. “Whether or not you support the above proposals or if you are undecided, I encourage you to watch for any submitted bills. Share your views with our legislators and the Legislature’s Planning and Development Committee, the committee expected to consider any proposed bills.”

“I’m going to keep writing about it because I think it’s significant. So you’ll see it in my updates,” she said at the Dec. 20 BOS meeting. “Maybe I’ll [give updates] two times a month while all this stuff is going on because it’s pretty important. We need to get people to engage.”

16 replies on “Vanderslice: “We Need to Get People to Engage” on Issues of Planning and Development in Wilton”

  1. Heather can you please use more flattering pics of Lynn Vanderslice? It seems like you always post one of the most unflattering pictures whenever you do an article on her. If it’s not a good picture, then just don’t even use one at all. I’m sure that you wouldn’t like that if there was an article about you.

  2. Just a thought…if the town is looking for more community engagement on the issues addressing our town…not just development as is mentioned in this article, they need to adapt. Having to physically attend inconvenient town or committee meetings to have your voice heard is very 50 years ago. People engage in online forums and social media these days. It is just the way of the world now for all the good and bad that comes with it. I understand that Vanderslice does not engage online and only really offers information because its not a part of the public record, etc. and that is a totally fair and valid point. However, if the town created their own online bulletin board, all of that can be documented and made more official. Residents would likely be more willing and comfortable to engage, not in person and when convenient for them. Just throwing that out there. People can be very vocal online, both good and bad. So I put it back on them. Engage us where you can get the most input??

    1. Brian, All the elected municipal boards, with the exception of some police commission meetings, offer live remote public access and live remote public comment. Same with the appointed boards. As you note, the days of having to physically attend are over. The links to all board meetings, documents, agendas, minutes and videos are on the Town website, see the button in the resident action center on the homepage. People can sign up for emailed information from me, the departments and the commissions by signing up through the e-subscribe link on the top of the homepage.

  3. I believe it would be in Wilton’s best interest to revamp the empty building which used to house Wilton Hardware as well as the empty office building by the Post Office to mixed usage or plain residential. They are an eyesore sitting empty and a waste of great space. My only question that I have (and it may be too early in the planning process) is there going to be enough classroom space for additional students?

    1. My understanding is that Miller-Driscoll at least is currently underutilized as far as classroom capacity (which caused some rather frosty discussions during the big revamp); the other schools may be more of a problem, but assuming the majority of new residents were starting off here with young kids (and my impression is that that’s generally the case) we’d have even more lead time on any potential expansions to CM/MB/WHS.

      (personally, if we did find ourselves with a couple of thousand new residents on the way I’d look at that as an opportunity for a larger school building rethink – maybe even breaking up K-5 by location instead of grade in order to alleviate the horrifying busing / start time situation at CM)

  4. That’s a nice thought, but pretty much all of the relevant meetings happen on weekday evenings when I’m busy with my kids, and the relevant boards seem to be dominated by people like Ms. Vanderslice (and the even worse NIMBYs on P&Z) who deliberately and dramatically misrepresent the impact of housing density regulations on Wilton and throw up every vague pretextual argument they can think of to prevent more development. So I don’t imagine that a pro-housing argument will receive a fair hearing from any of them.

    So personally, I warmly welcome efforts by the state to elbow our sclerotic town boards out of the way and compel us to build more + denser housing over their objections; I expect that our new representatives will vote against an aggressive new housing bill (as in fact they probably should, assuming that’s the desire of Wilton’s anti-development majority), but am optimistic that it’ll pass anyway with the support of voters in other, more sensible towns, and I think that a decade from now Wilton will be far better off for it.

  5. Other than sending comments to Rob Saunders who is on the architectual review board how can we help and make our voices heard……I can’t believe the ugly stuff that is being presented to us!!Jane Bescherer

  6. I have attended some of these meetings. There seems to be a focus in town regarding 8-30g affordable housing along with the development of “Downtown” Wilton. The feel of all of it is to move forward without disrupting our rural nature. There have been some good ideas presented. Wilton has the potential of having a very good central active community without destroying its past. I find the process can be backwards with developers and the town not being on the same page. It seems like a tug of war. I agree with Brian regarding a “Homepage” for this, sort of a sounding board. I’ve always felt that Wilton really did not have a gameplan for future development. It seems like things never get anywhere.

  7. The building under construction just north of Ring’s End looks like it’s going to be a monstrous carbuncle. Many residents voiced their objections during the planning process but to no avail. A repeat of the much worse Miller Driscoll debacle. As former Selectman Ken Dartley was told : “you don’t have to listen to residents” by an unnamed person on one of the boards at the time. Ken resigned, miss him. The average voter has more influence on the weather than he has on government. Cheers😊

  8. With the 6th greatest extinction event happening under our noses it would be prudent to ask Wilton to take a stand for environmental health and human induced climate change. Are we ever going to have a conversation that addresses how all this development is going to impact albedo and support green-spaces, wildlife corridors and preservation of clean water?

    1. The biggest impact Wilton can have on climate change is to build denser housing with efficient infrastructure and public transportation. Public parks and such are great and we should promote and keep these, as well as keeping waterways open. But if you look at the data the biggest climate impacts by town are through denser housing, public transportation, and green infrastructure.

  9. Density is going to happen whether we like it or not. What we need to ensure is that the product that gets built is commensurate with our town’s quality and character. Most multi-family built across the US looks disheveled within a 10 year period because the original developer intends to flip it so quickly that the quality of product is subpar. Darien and New Canaan have been struggling with similar issues, but new resi product going up is high quality and pricy with 10% allocated to Affordable housing per requirements.

    1. Great, but that shouldn’t absolve the developers and this town of their environmental stewardship obligations. Does Wilton believe we have an obligation? If so, I don’t see any evidence or appetite. So what exactly are we leaving to our kids?

  10. I truly hate the idea of adding more housing. I struggle to find anything positive coming from this idea. Our town in particular is not designed to handle that kind of increase. What’s happening to small towns? Why does every inch of green grass have to have a building/housing on it. It appears the government doesn’t care or lacks the importance of space and nature. Why is everything turning into mini cities!? People ran from the cities to the suburbs once the pandemic hit for SPACE. I truly can’t comprehend how anyone would or could think adding more housing in our small town would be a positive thing.

    Wilton is not Norwalk nor Stamford or like any other town in Fairfield County. It’s very frustrating that government is demanding each town be copies of each other. I left the NYC and moved to a small town for a reason. We picked this town because it has a quaint small town feel. Add “more” people will most certainly take that away. I grew up in a town that started out small quaint and became overpopulated. The traffic in town was unbearable turning a 10 min run to the store a 30/40 min ordeal with traffic, finding a parking spot, long lines,etc. Additionally more families potentially increases the kids attending school.

    A lot of people moved to this town for the schools. It’s like sending your kid to a private school but without having to pay private school pricing. You add “more” kids the class sizes increase and most likely the quality will slowly decrease. Parents want smaller class sizes not bigger. There are many advantages to smaller class sizes. Not many positives to larger class sizes. Also keep in mind when a class size increases that puts more stress and strain on teachers causes the good ones to leave or retire earlier.

    Preserving our quaint small town and our stellar schools should be our towns top priority. How do we do that? How can we stop the state from destroying our darling town?

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