Lively ideas for Wilton Center emerge from residents
A beer garden to draw people from out of town to Wilton and outdoor tables at cafes along the riverside were some of the ideas for enlivening Wilton Center offered May 17 by audience members during a workshop of the Plan of Conservation and Development.
Still another novel idea, for the entire town, was to make Wilton a “blue zone city,” a town where people live the longest and healthiest lives possible, as in Okinawa, Japan, Ikaria, Greece, Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda, Calif.
“Wilton could be a certified blue zone,” said resident Stephanie Brockhoff, who was one of about 60 residents who attended the session of the Planning and Zoning Commission at the Trackside Teen Center. It was one of the better-attended POCD work sessions this year, with a focus on Wilton Center and the two villages, Georgetown and Cannondale.
“The idea of the blue zone is to make the healthy choice the easy choice, day to day,” Brockhoff told the crowd.
That was perhaps the most novel idea of the night. Other concepts included creating a master plan for Wilton Center, as suggested by resident Sam Gardner.
“We need a master plan exercise for the Wilton Center,” Gardner said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I will recommend the POCD actually put that recommendation on the boards. That’s a very simple plan.”
Some of the challenges to developing Wilton Center as a retail and restaurant hub, according to the consultants for the POCD, Milone & MacBroom, are that traffic volumes are decreasing in the center, there is poor visibility from Route 7, which is the town’s main commercial strip and functions much like Route 1 in other Fairfield County towns, and incomplete connectivity.
One of the pluses, though, is that zoning regulations are generally supportive of mixed-use development and pedestrian-oriented design.
One of the questions is whether residential density in Wilton Center should be increased. There are several condominium developments in the center and the public has often called for more housing to be located there.
Cannondale and Georgetown present their own challenges and opportunities. The challenges in Cannondale, according to the consultant, are that there is no clear definition of the boundaries, there is a lack of sanitary sewers east of the railroad line to serve existing commercial development, and the Cannondale Village area is isolated from Route 7 traffic. There needs to be a gateway to Cannondale on Route 7, with signage and landscaping, the consultant said in a report.
Some of the opportunities of Cannondale are that there are historic buildings and character, zoning regulations that encourage preservation and adaptive reuse, a train station with a parking area that is well utilized, and a future Norwalk River Valley Trail that will connect Cannondale to Wilton Center and Route 7.
Georgetown is a challenge because it spans four municipalities — Wilton, Weston, Redding, and Ridgefield — and requires coordinated planning and capital improvements in order to achieve a cohesive village look and feel, according to the consultant. There is a lack of sidewalk connections between residential and commercial areas, and the redevelopment of the former Gilbert & Bennett wire mill in Redding has been stalled.
The opportunities in Georgetown are the ongoing redevelopment efforts in Branchville, where there could be an opportunity for coordination and spillover; the town-owned G&B School property; and the excess sewer capacity at the Redding Water Pollution Control facility, which could be expanded to support potential redevelopment of the former Gilbert & Bennett mill.
The POCD is updated every 10 years. This version will carry the town through the year 2029. It is a guide for conservation and development in the town and is a key reference document for the Planning and Zoning Commission.