Looking to keep residents, Wilton town officials seek unified plan for the future

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Rick Tomasetti, along with Town Planner Michael Wrinn, want to devise an actionable plan to inspire one unified vision for the future of Wilton’s infrastructure and amenities.

The two came before the Board of Selectmen Wednesday in the hope of acquiring some funding to create a master plan for town amenities, as well as hint towards future planning sessions for the “gateway” area of South Wilton, near the border of Norwalk, as well as the Cannondale and Georgetown sections of town.

Wrinn said that they would neeed $175,000 to start the initial process of creating a master plan for town amenities.

“That $175,000 is basically townwide. You’re looking at town parks, you’re looking at facilities,” Wrinn said. “You’re looking at a future vision of amenities throughout town. Basically it’s a long-range infrastructure plan.”

He speculated that the South Wilton gateway area master plan would cost roughly $150,000. The town planner and Tomasetti are currently in the process of drafting a master plan for Wilton Center for $150,000, but the two said that Wilton would benefit from planning the entire town moving forward.

“I see how things bounce around as far as different types of amenities are being proposed,” Wrinn said to the selectmen. “They’ve sort of been a classic ‘in silos’ (approach). This department’s doing that or this group is looking at that particular issue.”

The town could be suffering from a lack of cohesion among the many town boards and commissions when planning for the future, Wrinn said.

Tomasetti mentioned that branding and advertising would be important for the town, giving the example of the New York City Parks Department’s famous maple leaf logo that he said is identifiable anywhere.

Additionally, Tomasetti said that maybe the town’s most attractive asset — the high-rated school district — could be playing a role in Wilton’s higher-than-desired resident turnover rate.

“Even though people in town are homeowners, in effect, they’re renting our community. They are renting our community for the schools and then they tend to leave,” Tomasetti said. “I think to the benefit of our community, if we could retain people with better amenities, we would be better off as a community at large.”

These amenities could range from a new skating rink to a new bubble sports facility, a project that was discussed throughout much of last year. He also referenced the town’s many trails and its abundance of forestry with a focus on what the town can do to accentuate its natural features and make them more accessible and attract more people to them. But the focus, Tomasetti said, would be to have the input of the residents when drafting these actionable plans.

Part of the issue, Tomasetti said, is that Wilton residents feel like there isn’t much to do in town. He referenced some of its younger residents making it clear at a recent Wilton Center master plan meeting that they will travel elsewhere to find entertainment.

“On a typical weekend night, my friends and I will venture to South Norwalk to Colony Grill or Shake Shack in Westport. The food isn’t too expensive and the ambiance is super friendly,” Wilton High School senior Eli Ackerman said Thursday. “I find that in Wilton Center, there are not many places for my friends to simply hang out.”

While Gofer Ice Cream, directly next to the high school, has become a fun spot for he and his friends to mingle, he went on to say that most restaurants around town, especially Wilton Center require, he and his friends to “have a sit-down dinner,” but they are typically looking for a quick bite.

Wilton resident and Fairfield Prep senior Billy Bonnist said that, as someone who spends time in both Wilton and Fairfield, the latter seems “a little more exciting with its beaches and all.” He added that there is not much to do in Wilton, but he enjoys spending time with his friends no matter where they go.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said that Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce, Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin and other town officials were excited at the prospect of a more uniform and solid plan for the future.

While no vote was taken, the selectmen echoed their support for the idea, with Selectman Joshua Cole saying it “made sense to look at everything at the same time.”