Timeline released for Wilton Center master plan

WILTON — Early plans for the town center and recommendations could come before officials as soon as May once a study wraps up in March.

The tentative timeline was recently presented to a subcommittee tasked with carrying out the drafting of the Town Center Master Plan. BFJ Planning, the principal development partner in the planning process, also shared early study findings and a desire to hear from the public at Thursday’s meeting.

BFJ Planning is studying the Wilton Center area to collect findings to use for a master plan proposal. That study should be completed some time in March, said Frank Fish, the principal-in-charge with BFJ Planning.

With those findings, preliminary concepts and recommendations will start to be drafted by BFJ at the end of March and are likely to be unveiled to the subcommittee come May.

“Then, after doing that, develop those ideas into more of a final deliverable,” said Fish. “Then, that final deliverable would be the subject of a public hearing at the end of the project.”

The final deliverable and recommendations for the Wilton Center Master Plan are to come around October, Fish said.

However, before drafting those preliminary recommendations, Fish said that BFJ wants to have a “workshop” to “get a sense of the public’s ideas and their priorities.”

BFJ tentatively set a date of March 24 to host a public workshop. Subcommittee member Christopher Pagliaro, who also serves as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and who helped draft Wilton’s 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development, suggested the firm make its best effort to reach the whole community.

“Most of the time, the people who come to speak at these things are the cynics who don’t want change,” Pagliaro said. He cautioned about meeting on a weeknight when “homework is being done” or children are being put to bed and families may not have the bandwidth to join a public workshop.

“How are we getting the young people who really want to see what this town is going to be like in 20 years?” Pagliaro asked. “How do we get the message out, is the major question?”

Part of that process, per BFJ, is the rolling out of a project website that details each update as they come and provides links to subcommittee meetings for the public to watch.

BFJ’s Christine Jimenez laid out the site specifics, with tabs explaining the master plan’s goal, the confines of Wilton Center, a timeline of events and the names of the Master Plan subcommittee members, as well as links to the town’s adopted POCD.

Subcommittee and zoning commission chairman Rick Tomasetti gave Jimenez and BFJ the confirmation that they could make the site live upon a few small recommended changes.

Fellow subcommittee member Sam Gardner said that the best results would come from going a step beyond the website, noting that all forms of media, whether social media or the local press, would play a pivotal role in making the public aware of the long-anticipated master plan process.

BFJ Project Manager Jonathan Martin told subcommittee members that his company is planning to meet town officials of all levels, ranging from the Department of Public Works, police and fire, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Conservation Commission, the Inland Wetlands Commission, the Architectural Review Board, the Historical Commission, Chamber of Commerce and even key property owners in town.

Part of the group’s discussions with the environmental agencies in town could revolve around how to best incorporate Schenck’s Island into the plans. Schenck’s Island sits just at the southern tip of Wilton Center and has recently been discussed as a site for some upgrades itself.

Gardner reiterated one of the main causes of this master planning process that, he thinks, has been accentuated by a recent shift he has observed.

“I think part of the problem in Wilton is that the whole town was developed around cars and didn’t really consider pedestrianism,” Garnder said. “And then, during the pandemic, one of the most striking things that has happened — with all of these people working from home — was the amount of people that were out on the streets of Wilton taking a walk in the dead of winter, in beautiful weather, going from place to place.”

That, Gardner said, is a paradigm shift that urges the future planning of this project to account for more residents possibly working from home in the future and desiring a more connected, pedestrian friendly Wilton Center.