Letter: There is a happy medium in the AROD controversy

To the Editors:
At last week’s meeting regarding Ridgefield Road being selected as an age-restricted overlay district (AROD), a concern voiced by their fellow citizens to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) was their perception that little notice was given about this road’s selection as one of three best choices for AROD. In their opinion hardly a word. Moreover, a lack of transparency as to which locations were selected was cited as a major concern by many. Yet, most favored development like AROD, but not for Ridgefield Road. Sadly, it was apparent from the outset that those expressing support for a moratorium, and concerns about high-density housing on Ridgefield Road would be met with a stern countenance, and according to local media even with anger by the P&Z chair.
More positively, the P&Z chair made a good suggestion by asking for “new ideas” as to where else in Wilton AROD would be more appropriate. Hence the notion to study having AROD within the Wilton Town Center. The pluses being easier access to services for the buyers — think sidewalks, a more vibrant downtown, greater support for local businesses — and, arguably, a far larger tax base than by having AROD on Ridgefield Road.
This concept was proposed last year at a meeting focused on economic development and the future vitality of Wilton, hosted by various Wilton architects (Wilton Bulletin May 20, 2016). Rob Sanders, one of those, said “I would argue that the leftover residential structures like the house across the street from the library … are gaps in the teeth.” He further encouraged people to think about how those “gaps” could be filled to increase Wilton Center’s vitality … because “business owners in Wilton Center struggle to make enough money to maintain their facilities and make a profit,” and he argued that more residential density downtown could foster that. Other comments from the architects included:
Kathleen Poirier: “There definitely is a draw to wanting to live near the town centers of all communities.”
Rob Sanders: “More mixed-use buildings … would bring more people to Wilton Center.”
Chris Pagliaro: “Mixed-use is the savior of good downtown planning.”
“A denser downtown would support changing demographics, which Town Planner Bob Nerney said he believes needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to the future of Wilton’s landscape and architecture.”
As for a moratorium, it should be relatively easy for the P&Z to accede, especially now that the sole developer interested in AROD for Ridgefield Road has in a recent interview said he is not wedded to the idea of AROD there. Lastly, since we are a town with high principles, and since we all want transparency in our dealings, we don’t want to be seen as operating in a low-principle environment. Thus, with respect to AROD, there is surely a win-win to be found for for all interested parties.
Thomas Curtin
Tamarack Place, May 15