Town center high on POCD priority list

The greater potential for Wilton’s town center tops the list of planning and development issues facing the town, according to a survey of boards and commissions made as part of the Plan of Conservation and Development.

The survey was made over the past month and the results were shared by the Planning and Zoning Commission during a workshop meeting Jan. 24 at the Comstock Community Center.

The boards that were invited include the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Board of Education, the Conservation Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Historic District Commission, and the Energy Commission.

The results show that the town center’s design and flow and potential for greater integration between existing and future uses is a shared concern among boards and commissions. There is potential to provide a diversity of housing, a need to drive more traffic to the center, and to increase economic activity and the viability of retail there, according to the results.

The second highest on the list was housing. There is a shortage of affordable and diverse housing to accommodate all ages and stages of life, according to the survey results.

Third on the list is community facilities. Turf fields, Schenck’s Island and Merwin Meadows, and the Fire Station 2 and police headquarters projects are important, as are increasing energy efficiency and sustainability.

Transportation is fourth on the list. There is a need to increase connectivity within Wilton for all modes, including biking, walking and automobiles, and connectivity to the larger region, especially by train. There are specialized needs for the elderly, disabled, youth, and transportation resources for emergency situations.

Fifth on the list is economic development and fiscal responsibility. There must be fiscally positive development, with a balance of conservation and development, according to the results.

Finally, sixth on the list is character and quality of life. The need to protect open space, historic structures and assets, and natural resources, according to the results.

Ten people attended the workshop session, which was primarily attended by the Planning and Zoning Commission and representatives from various town boards and commissions.

Planning and Zoning Chairman Scott Lawrence welcomed the group and reminded them of the importance of the Plan of Conservation and Development.

“This is an incredible process, an opportunity for us to share ideas and be collaborative,” Lawrence said.

The results were gathered and shared in a presentation by Rebecca Augur, and Pat Gallagher, principal planner and planner, respectively, from Milone & MacBroom, the consultant for the POCD.

The next meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development will be the public kickoff, when the general public can participate in the discussion. It is set for Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Wilton High School cafeteria.

“We’ll get into the public domain, and members of the community are going to be encouraged to speak,” said Bob Nerney, the town’s planning director.

Chris Pagliaro, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, suggested asking the public about trains.

“A good survey question would be do you commute, and where do you commute from?” he said, referring to how there are two train stations in town, at Wilton Center and at Cannondale Crossing.

The Plan of Conservation and Development is updated every 10 years. It is used to guide planning and zoning policies and decisions.

The challenge is look ahead to the future, said Rick Tomasetti, vice chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Our zoning regulations are built on a 1950s and 1960s model,” Tomasetti said. “We really need to be thinking more in a visionary way.”

That vision comes with a reality check on how much developable and conservable land there is in town. Milone & MacBroom reported the town now has 617 undeveloped acres, split among 199 properties, and 2,098 unprotected open space acres, divided among 245 properties.