Small businesses in Wilton may get a helping hand from the town

Diners line up on Aug. 6, 2018 at Pokeworks new restaurant at 14 Danbury Road in Wilton, Conn.

Diners line up on Aug. 6, 2018 at Pokeworks new restaurant at 14 Danbury Road in Wilton, Conn.

Alexander Soule / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Local small businesses may get a helping hand from the town this summer as many residents scatter to more coastal hangs.

With the typical pilgrimage of many Wiltonians to other parts of the state or country for the summer, town officials are looking at ways to provide support for small eateries and retail business. The idea, per First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, is to give businesses’ license renewal fees back to the owners.

“They all get hit with a state license renewal where, a state statute imposes it but the town gets to keep the money,” Vanderslice said at a recent selectmen meeting. “I thought, boy, just at a time when everybody has left town and they’re gonna go through a couple of months of tough business — we hit them with a fee.”

In speaking with a number of small businesses in June, including Rise Doughnut and Point Break Taco, Vanderslice thought there might be a way to help but said the town, to an extent, is handicapped in what it can do.

Vanderslice said she and other officials were initially looking at Connecticut statutes that allowed municipalities to provide property tax reductions to incentivize economic development.

“But those go to the owner of the property,” Vanderslice said, adding this wouldn’t help the businesses that lease their space.

Looking at the collection of funds from the business renewal licenses, she thought that refunding those costs could be a better fit.

“Just something to support these small businesses during a time of rising prices and especially something that hits them just as everybody is leaving town,” Vanderslice said.

Wilton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Camille Carriero said Thursday she welcomes the idea.

“We applaud her thoughtful idea of providing some financial relief for small businesses during the leaner summer months,” Carriero said. “As the Chamber of Commerce, we encourage Wiltonians to shop and support our local businesses, and this type of forward thinking by our first selectwoman benefits our entire community.”

The payment forgiveness is unlikely to be expanded to some of the larger businesses in town, like ASML, but Vanderslice said she will be taking an extensive look over the next few weeks at what makes the most sense.

The rest of the selectmen supported the idea.

“I think anything we can do to support business in our town and make ourselves look attractive is something we ought to do,” Selectman Ross Tartell said.