New committee will study diverse housing options in Wilton

WILTON — Seeking ways to offer more diverse housing options in town, the Board of Selectmen has approved the formation of the Wilton Housing Committee.

The new committee will have five to seven members and will be charged with evaluating, defining and monitoring the need for diverse housing options and affordable housing in Wilton.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice proposed the formation of the new committee at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on July 21, where it was unanimously approved.

The Wilton Housing Committee will have several responsibilities:

 Study and document the need within Wilton for each housing type, including affordable housing.

 Seek input from various stakeholders, including residents, businesses, developers and town personnel.

 Create an inventory of existing housing types and affordable housing units in Wilton.

 Identify ways, including funding sources, to encourage diverse housing development.

 Identify impediments and constituency.

 Study and document the demographics of Wilton.

 Make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen.

Vanderslice said the new committee is not a “housing authority,” designed to build or manage properties. “We want to look at the whole spectrum of housing, not just affordable,” she said.

In her proposal to the board, Vanderslice said Wilton currently has a range of housing options: single-family (including affordable,) townhomes, condos, accessory dwellings, rental apartments with affordable units and senior and individuals with disabilities housing with affordable units.

“Over the last several years, we have discussed the need for additional diverse housing,” she said, referencing the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development which says: “Wilton recognizes the need to diversify its housing stock in order to accommodate all life stages, including its workforce, families with children, single-persons, and empty nesters. This includes providing housing at a greater variety of sizes, styles, and price points and modifying the town’s regulations to enable and incentivize this type of development. A diverse housing stock can support existing residents, attract new residents, and provide a larger employee and customer base for Wilton businesses.”

Vanderslice’s initial proposal called for a seven-member volunteer committee. However, that number may be decreased to five members as she said it is sometimes difficult for larger boards to maintain quorums.

The board also agreed the new committee should have a diverse membership, with at least one member with real estate experience.

Town Planner Michael Wrinn, who is also the town’s director of land use management, gave three reasons for supporting the formation of the new committee.

“It’s important because Planning and Zoning is looking at Danbury Road rezoning,” he said.

Second, he said, with local zoning issues possibly being raised by the state legislature, it would be important to “get a handle on what we have and where we can go, and also show we are doing something toward that end.”

Third, he said, there is a statutory requirement, 8-30j, which requires the town to submit an affordable housing plan in two years. “Anything this housing group will do can be melded into that and we are a step ahead of the game,” he said.