Wilton’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) met Wednesday evening (Aug. 23) to continue its work on developing recommendations for the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to update and improve the Town’s commercial signage regulations.

At the EDC’s previous meeting (July 12), the commission was just beginning to analyze the results of a survey designed to elicit input from Wilton business owners based on their experiences with the Town and the process for obtaining sign permits.

Before finalizing any recommendations to P&Z, the EDC also plans to survey residents about their opinions of signage in Wilton. Commissioners recently began drafting a questionnaire for the survey, which they hope to field shortly after their Sept. 13 meeting.

Key Takeaways From Business Owner Survey

The EDC received responses from 34 business owners with commercial locations in Wilton Center as well as along Danbury Rd., including areas north of the town center and in South Wilton.

A draft document posted on the Town website reveals the direction the commission seems to be heading with its recommendations. Although EDC chair Prasad Iyer gave a caveat that the working document is “still work in progress” and represented “initial thoughts,” at least one fundamental takeaway from the survey seems clear:

“Many business respondents noted that signage was extremely important for both advertising and visibility of their locations and that current regulations did not meet their needs.”

The EDC is particularly focused on the unique needs of businesses that do not have conventional “street-facing” locations. The EDC believes many such businesses “rely heavily on foot traffic or car traffic” but “struggle to gain awareness and visibility” due to current restrictions on their signage. The EDC is inclined to recommend greater “discretion” by the Town when it comes to allowing those businesses to have additional signage or temporary signage during business hours.

In the commissioners’ view, any temporary signs would still require restrictions on location, hours of use and frequency of use, for example.

The commissioners also discussed the fact that many businesses already use temporary signs in violation of Wilton’s regulations — typically with little consequence. The EDC may consider recommending more robust enforcement if more temporary signage is allowed. (The Town of Wilton has a staff employee — a Zoning Enforcement Officer — who is responsible for investigating and enforcing zoning violations, including those related to signs.)

Resident Input

The commissioners spent most of the Aug. 23 meeting time discussing the methodology and questionnaire for the resident survey, including:

  • The importance of open-ended questions to provide qualitative insights along with structured questions
  • The need to limit the length of the questionnaire to maximize participation
  • The desire to introduce the survey to residents in a way that explains the survey’s objectives and the EDC’s task
  • Specific question areas related to residents’ perceptions of signs currently in Wilton (e.g., overall appeal, difficulty locating businesses, etc.)

Commissioners intend to finalize the resident questionnaire in September and field the survey shortly thereafter.

The EDC will meet again on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 7:15 p.m. Residents may attend in person at Comstock Community Center, Room 31, or remotely via Zoom. A Zoom link will be included on the meeting agenda posted on the Town website.

One reply on “Wilton Businesses Tell EDC: Current Sign Regulations Do Not Meet Our Needs”; EDC Now Turns to Residents for Input”

  1. As a frequent critic of resident surveys on here, this… does not seem like a very good one. (so in the unfortunate event Mr. Iyer ends up on the Board of Finance, it seems he’ll be in excellent Terrible Survey Fielding company) I’m considerably more opinionated about stuff than the average Wilton resident and I would probably answer ‘3’ for most of these questions, or read through a few of them and get bored to death and not finish the thing.

    Two changes I would suggest:

    1) Cut out 2/3 of the questions; if you can’t figure out which 2/3, go through the list with a pencil circling every third one, then see if there are any questions you left out that you really feel strongly about swapping back in.

    2) Add some mockups of different types / sizes of signs on Wilton Center / Route 7 (surely somebody on the EDC has/knows a kid who’s handy with Photoshop) and ask respondents whether they’re OK with them with a simple yes/no. If mockups aren’t possible, photos of signs from other towns would also work, though comparing different sizes/types in front of the same business would really be ideal.

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