Wilton takes first steps in master planning

Wilton Center, the site of many special events including the Wilton Chamber of Commerce's trick-or-treating, will be the focus of the Planning and Zoning Commission's upcoming work on master planning.

Wilton Center, the site of many special events including the Wilton Chamber of Commerce’s trick-or-treating, will be the focus of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s upcoming work on master planning.

Jeannette Ross / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission took its first steps in a master planning process at its meeting on March 9 when it discussed which section of town to focus on. Chairman Rick Tomasetti stressed the commission is not looking at reviewing the entire town, rather the focus will be on business districts.

“I think the greater Wilton Center area makes the most sense,” he said, adding he thinks that should extend from Wolfpit Road (Route 106) to Station Place.

That area encompasses a number of the town’s assets including the main artery of transportation (Danbury Road/Route 7), the train station, commuter parking, and Wheels bus service.

“From a transportation aspect it makes sense to pick this location versus Cannondale or south of 7,” he said.

Other assets in the area include the Norwalk River, Wilton Historical Society, town hall campus, churches, Schenck’s Island, Merwin Meadows and Trackside Teen Center.

“There is a lot of existing development” and some development in the works as well as a mix of uses the commission should look at, he said.

Things to consider include parking, public amenities, streetscapes, signs, and the possibility of form-based zoning which emphasizes predictable results in how buildings look.

Tomasetti noted there are a number of uses that require special permits, a process that may have been needed years ago but may not be needed now.

“If you look at the POCD [Plan of Conservation and Development] … it talks about us being visionary,” he said.

“I think any consultant that gets hired has to assure us that we’re getting a talented, design-oriented, vision-oriented firm that can help us make Wilton the best that we can be,” he said.

Town Planner Michael Wrinn said whatever the commission does it will be with the prospect of affordable housing applications under the state’s 8-30g statute. He also said there will be pressure “to keep under-performing buildings in play.”

Formalizing the boundaries for Wilton Center will be tricky, he said, because “once you go across the tracks, the whole area by Trackside is probably a higher priority for people including outside developers.” Also, he said, the state is looking at transit-oriented developments up and down the rail line.

In Wilton Center, he does not see anything happening south of where Blue Buffalo is headquartered. But the key to creating something to develop the economic viability of downtown is density.

Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro agreed, saying “to support restaurants and retail we need people.”

Commissioner Florence Johnson asked her colleagues to keep in mind the neighborhoods of smaller homes off Route 7 that have a place in the community that she does not want to see lost.

“Anywhere that’s on a sewer or water line is at risk,” she said.

Putting together an RFP for a firm to assist with the master planning process is expected to take a few months but Tomasetti said he would like to see progress before the commission’s summer recess.