Survey elicits data on life in Wilton
A vast majority of people questioned about their quality of life in Wilton — a little over 92% — characterized it as “very good” or “good,” while just 1.4% said their quality of life was “poor” or “very poor.”
This was among the results of a telephone survey pertaining to the proposed Plan of Conservation and Development update that were reviewed and discussed during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting at Trackside Teen Center on Thursday, Jan. 17.
Jerry Lindsley from the Center for Research and Public Policy (CRPP) — the research and public policy consulting firm subcontracted to do the survey — said the survey was “designed to collect input in a number of areas” — including quality of life, conservation, preservation, housing and economic development — and “to get some direction on priorities for the town.”
About 600 Wilton phone numbers were called for the survey, said Lindsley, and 404 phone interviews with Wilton adult residents and landowners were completed.
Designing the survey was a “careful, deliberative process,” said Lindsley, and the goal was to “make sure that what we’re doing is objective, fair and balanced.”
For the survey, CRPP utilized a “super random digit” sampling procedure, which derives a working telephone sample of both listed and unlisted phone numbers; as well as a “mixed access” sample of both cell and landline phone numbers.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Scott Lawrence said some people questioned how CRPP got their telephone information. Lindsley explained that CRPP wasn’t given unlisted phone numbers — computers generated them. With the area code and Wilton prefix already known, he said, computers generated the last four digits of phone numbers.
Quality of life
The 2018 POCD survey revealed that the education system is the leading reason why people choose to live in Wilton, followed by location — closeness to work, highways and public transportation.
When it comes to problems they believe the town should focus on, 29% of respondents said high taxes and spending. Lack of amenities came in second at 18.6%, followed by the need to revitalize appearance at 6.9%.
According to the survey results, more than 80% of respondents agreed with the following statements pertaining to the town’s population diversity:
- Wilton should do more to attract and retain families with children in town.
- Wilton should do more to allow “empty-nesters” and seniors to retire or “age in place” in town.
- Wilton should do more to attract and retain younger adults (millennials, singles, young professionals).
- Wilton should do more to keep its population stable or growing.
Conservation and preservation
There was also strong agreement among survey-takers — ranging from 61.1% to 87.6% — when it came to statements pertaining to natural resources and open space protection in town. For example, 87.6% agreed that “the town should support improvements to open space and trails in terms of access, facilities, maintenance, and usability,” and 76.7% agreed that “the town should do more to protect the quality and availability of potable water and aquifers.”
Around 70% of respondents agreed that the town should provide tax and zoning incentives to owners and developers who preserve historic structures, and about 65% agreed that the town should increase regulatory protections for historic properties.
When it comes to town-provided funding for historic property-related matters, however, “you see a lower [percentage] because of potential tax or cost implications,” said Lindsley.
For example, 57.4% of respondents agreed that the town should provide funding for the Historic District and Historic Property Commission to promote preservation, grants, education and outreach programs, but only 43.1% agreed that the town should provide funding for the purchase of historic properties.
Areas, zoning, and development
Three-fifths of respondents supported adding higher density housing stock in town for younger residents, “empty-nesters,” and “age-in-place” residents, according to the survey results, but support among those respondents varied for different places.
Nearly 87% said they would strongly or somewhat support placing new housing in Georgetown. This surprised Planning and Zoning Chair Scott Lawrence, who said he would have thought Wilton Center or Cannondale would rank No. 1.
“Given our discussions and what we’ve been doing, it was surprising that it ranked No. 1, and that it achieved 86.8%,” said Lawrence, “so we’re trying to tease out what that's telling us, besides the obvious.”
Wilton Center came in second place with 80.8%, followed by Route 7 at 79.2%. Cannondale got 71.8%.
When it came to Cannondale, 78% of survey-takers also agreed with developing the historic village district with a mixture of more housing and more business in a village-type pattern with preservation in mind.
The survey also revealed that 63.4% of residents like the way Wilton Center has been developed to date, reflecting a 4.1% increase in the last 10 years. In the town’s 2008 POCD survey, only 59.3% of respondents reported liking the way Wilton Center had been developed.
On the issue of transportation, the following improvements received the following percentages of support:
- Pedestrian connections (sidewalks and links to key places and trails): 56.9%.
- Traffic and safety on Danbury Road/Route 7: 48.5%.
- Bicycle connections: 46.5%.
- Frequency and reliability of rail service on the Danbury branch: 44.8%.
- Road maintenance: 40.8%.
- Traffic and safety on major secondary roads: 37.1%.
- Train station buildings and parking areas: 32.9%.
- Increasing level and availability of bus/shuttle transit service: 25.7%.
POCD vs. BOF
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice noted that “there’s a lot of inconsistencies” in the POCD survey responses and the responses to the Board of Finance survey — the latter of which, she said, had “the overlay of cost.”
People who responded to the POCD survey, Vanderslice said, might like a concept but may not be willing to pay for it.
Lawrence said he thinks the POCD survey results can help guide the efforts of the commission’s subcommittees “to see where we can get the biggest return of attention or interest among competing policies.”
The full 2018 POCD survey results are available at https://bit.ly/2T8l0VG.