Letter: There are better ways to raise tax revenues

To the Editors:

My entire road is designated a scenic highway by the state. Despite this, a Planning & Zoning Commission modification to R-2A zoning in November makes all of Ridgefield Road, Westport Road, and Route 7 eligible for modern, high-density housing: three units/acre, detached, age-restricted (>age 55) homes on lots >=3 acres. This is cluster housing — without requisite open spaces or amenities.

Many Wiltonians are not aware that any >=3-acre property, on or within 750 feet of direct access to any point on Route 7 or Route 33, from Westport to Ridgefield, is open to high-density development under Planning & Zoning’s recently published (Jan.) re-regulation of Wilton zoning codes.

The modifications enable development that substantially changes not only population density but lot coverage, sewage and water utilization, storm runoff and aquifer replenishment rates, etc. It enables radical changes to the character of R-2A zoned neighborhoods on these roads. In the case of Ridgefield Road, it violates the architectural character and integrity of neighborhoods on a scenic road lined with predominantly historic (>100 years old), single-family homes and barns sited on >=2-acre lots with mature native plantings and limited lot coverage.

I believe there are better solutions for creating housing for elderly residents and raising town property tax revenues without burdening schools or increasing traffic on Ridgefield and Westport roads. Let’s discuss how this can happen without radically changing zoning in R-2A neighborhoods or digging up scenic roads that carry Wilton residents to jobs and schools while water, sewer and/or gas lines are installed. Wilton owes residents a chance to formally review and discuss ways to increase property tax revenues without burdening schools and first responders and before making significant zoning changes to properties along the roads that give our town its identity and residential brand. Let’s agree to step back and re-evaluate all the options with affected Wilton residents participating in the discussion before moving forward on zoning regulation changes recommended by a developer’s lawyer.

If the town website provided more comprehensive notice to citizens — such as P&Z meeting agendas as well as dates/times — we might not be having this conversation in the media. By creating a hotlink from the town calendar to a meeting agenda, the town can improve its ability to engage citizens and ensure everyone’s concerns are reviewed prior to any significant changes in town policies and/or regulations.

Town leaders and P&Z owe Wilton residents impartial, third-party research to evaluate the impact of this zoning regulation change and an opportunity for affected Wilton residents to examine and debate these issues. Developers have applied for a hardship zoning change when age-restricted units haven’t sold in other towns.

Let’s examine all our options. Seniors like walking to shopping and entertainment. Mixed-use commercial and residential zoning is under-utilized on Route 7 and in Wilton Center. Permitting accessory apartments helps seniors with limited budgets afford to stay in their homes and community.
Florence Johnson
Ridgefield Road, March 13