Town master plan update may start early

The Planning and Zoning Department has a $50,000 request in the town’s budget proposal for 2017-18 that would pay to get started on a new Plan of Conservation and Development.
The plan has to be updated under state law every 10 years. The latest plan was adopted on Jan. 1, 2010, and the 10th anniversary is three years down the road. First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said Planning Director Bob Nerney wants to get started in 2018, rather than wait another year, because interest in development on Route 7 has been running high.
“I think it’s something the town will be pursuing in the not so distant future,” Nerney said of the work, which would involve gathering thoughts and opinions from a number of boards and commissions in town.
“My guess is there may be a focus on economic development opportunities in town, and trying to balance those with more traditional objectives on the quality of life,” Nerney said.
He said of lot of unexpected things have occurred since the 2010 plan was adopted, like the recovery from the Great Recession, after which there has been a greater interest in economic development and a realization that it is an important component of the quality of life.
“The quality of life with the community is tied to planning initiatives,” Nerney said.
It’s not strictly a Planning and Zoning document.
“It’s really a townwide document, integrating all these ideas, and it involves a lot of public discussion,” Nerney said.
Charrettes, meetings at which the public may share ideas, will be scheduled if the funding is awarded in the budget request.
The question of what town boards and commissions will add to the plan is up in the air. Vivian Lee-Schiue, chairman of the Economic and Development Commission, said she could not comment on the work because there has been no discussion of it among members and town officials.
Debra Hanson, executive director of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the opportunity to participate in guiding the plan.
“It sounds like a great practice and I certainly endorse it,” Hanson said.
There’s no guarantee the $50,000 will be included in the town’s next approved budget. Facing what she termed a “perfect storm” of rising expenses and decreasing state aid, Vanderslice announced that departmental budget requests total $33,137,806, for a 2.9% increase over the current budget.
However, Vanderslice listed as a budget priority funding for phase one of the update of the Plan of Conservation and Development.