Letter: Wilton open space and heritage at risk

To the Editors:
Wilton Planning and Zoning is now deliberating to lift restrictions on activities allowable at Ambler Farm. Lifting these restrictions will reverse limitations put in place in 2005. If these restrictions are lifted, weddings and large parties with hundreds of people, antique fairs, craft fairs and other commercial events will be prominent and constant.
This loosening of restrictions and commercial development must be stopped. If Ambler Farm falls to these pressures, all other agricultural properties in the town will be at risk. The precedent will be set, and the reverence previously placed on protecting open space and heritage locations will be abandoned for profit. Residential zones will no longer be protected. How can we allow this to happen?
The town of Wilton and Friends of Ambler Farm have a grand plan for developing the property. In August 2016, a new septic system to accommodate 400 people/day was approved by the Wilton Department of Health. Why except to accommodate crowds at large events? A new parking lot is also planned for 146 cars.
Why have Friends of Ambler Farm not disclosed that this will also be used for large events?
A contractor and price has been approved for the renovation of the white house, only less than half of which is of historical importance. What justifies paying $850,000 for this except to have space and a septic to serve crowds and commercial development? The heritage garden will be destroyed and surrounding landscape displaced by tents and trucks. How is that proper land use of an historical property?
The Friends of Ambler Farm claim financial need to cover operating costs incurred by the opening of the white house for parties and commercial events. So there would be no need to lift restrictions except for needing money to cover the expansion of commercial activities?
P&Z regulates only land use so it will not consider gaps in financial justification. Shouldn’t we follow the money? The loss of the agricultural nature of this land does not justify covering costs for commercial use.
And there are ethical concerns and potential conflicts of interest here. The executive director of Friends of Ambler Farm and the Wilton second selectman and trustees of Ambler Farm are a related and insular group. How can members of one family be allowed to have such power and make such decisions on town-owned land?
Finally, the complete lack of transparency in this application has been glaringly apparent to Planning and Zoning and to the residents. In fact, the Friends of Ambler Farm seems intent on minimizing the impact on the neighborhood and underestimating the costs. Are we willing to ignore safety, traffic risks, parking problems, noise and lighting pollution and damage to the neighborhood…all for money?
Stop this before it’s too late. Email Planning and Zoning at planningzoningcomm@wiltonct.org and speak at the public hearing at Town Hall Annex, 7:15 p.m., Monday, March 25. Once restrictions are lifted, we lose open space usage and historical heritage. And it won’t be the last time.
Michele Dunn
Wilton, March 18