Pool, beach access, on a wish list for Wilton

A public pool and beaches or beach access are some of the amenities that come to mind when Wilton residents compare what they have with what neighboring towns have going for them.

That was one of the main takeaways April 19 during a workshop meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on the Plan of Conservation and Development. Another suggestion was for an ice rink. The session at the Trackside Teen Center was focused on town amenities and assets and was attended by about 40 residents, which has been the usual number attending these monthly meetings.

A quick scan of peer towns’ facilities shows that most have a community pool and/or beach swimming area, according to the consultants, Milone & MacBroom. Not all have community recreation centers like Ridgefield, and not all have community golf courses like Westport.

That fact presented by the consultants to the Planning and Zoning Commission was backed up by comments from the audience.

“There should be a community swimming pool,” said resident Marci Sternheim, who spoke from the audience. She noted how Westport, on the shoreline, has plenty of swimming opportunities for its residents.

“Think a little more creatively,” she told the commissioners, saying the town could be doing something more in the way of parks and recreation than just offering another ball field.

Wilton has no pool, but it has in the past had agreements with Westport for residents to use Compo Beach at a low rate, said Deborah McFadden, a member of the Board of Selectmen, speaking from the podium in the audience.

Westport has apparently been sensitive in recent years to the number of out-of-towners using its beaches, however. At a previous POCD workshop, at least one resident suggested there be a shuttle bus from Wilton to the beaches in Westport.

The consultant reported there are state fiscal challenges to building out amenities for the future, and limited grant funds available in the near term.

Home values have not recovered from the recession, the consultant reported. The current level of bonded debt is the highest in recent memory due to major projects like Miller-Driscoll.

The town’s ability to undertake additional major projects beyond those listed in the Capital Improvement Plan may be limited by state and local fiscal conditions.

Further, Internal Revenue Service data indicates that income for Wilton’s highest-income households, those that earn more than $200,000 a year, is still well below pre-recession levels.

This could have potential impacts to fund raising over the next 10 years.

Other amenities, on the positive side, include the Wilton Library, which several members of the audience called a gem.

Local Realtors need to promote the library more as a selling point when offering homes to potential residents, said Elaine Tai-Lauria, executive director of the library.

Other amenities noted include the Comstock Community Center, Schenck’s Island and Merwin Meadows.