January 2023-First Selectwoman’s Update
- 12 Godfrey Place, 34-unit multi-family project. At their last meeting, the Planning & Zoning Commission heard from the applicant, the public and closed the hearing to begin their 65-day deliberation period. Requested zone changes would allow this property, and others within a half-mile of the Wilton train station, a significantly higher density with 10% affordable units. Residents who spoke, including me, urged the Planning & Zoning Commission to complete their master planning process before making zoning changes. Taxpayers have invested $150,000 and volunteers have invested significant hours in the process which is nearing completion.
- 19 Cannon Road, 70-unit multi-family project. The Water Pollution Control Authority denied the applications for a sewer extension, capacity allocation and sewer connection. The reasons for the denial are detailed here.
- The Wilton Center Master Planning Subcommittee held a 4+ hour discussion meeting in early January. The video is available here.
2023 Legislative Session-Where are we in the process?
- The legislative committees are meeting and holding hearings to determine what proposed bills or concepts will be drafted for consideration. If you would like to provide testimony to the committee about a particular bill, you can do so by email or remotely by Zoom. Information on where to find committee agendas and how to testify is available here.
- Senate Leadership have released their proposals.
- House Leadership are expected to release their proposals this week.
- The Governor is expected to release his proposed budget and proposed bill before the end of next week. He has been releasing some aspects in advance.
It feels like this may be the year the Legislature passes a bill related to affordable housing and rent control. The questions are will it include Fair Share or transit-orientated high-density zoning and whether rent control will be at the local or state level.
The Housing Committee agreed to
- Draft a bill based on the Senate Democrat Caucus PSB4, with a purpose is to “promote fair and equitable housing opportunities in every community in the state”. No bill number yet.
- Draft a Fair Share Housing bill, which could include the requirement of a municipal plan for their share of affordable housing, caps on rent increases, and changes to eviction statutes as per Senate President Looney’s proposed bill. No bill number yet. The Fair Share concept is available here.
- Drafted SB907 to require municipalities with a population of 10,000 or more to create a fair rent commission. Public hearing on February 2nd.
The Planning and Development Committee agreed to
- Draft a Transit Communities bill, which if similar to the new DesegregateCT Live Ride Work bill for transit-orientated communities, would provide incentives for municipalities that adopt specified higher density regulations within an area surrounding a train or bus station and withhold eligibility for discretionary transportation funds (TBD) for those municipalities that do not adopt the regulations.
- Draft a Transit-Orientated Development bill, which if similar to Senate President’s proposed bill, would require municipalities to allow higher density within a half-mile of a transit center.
The House Majority Caucus and the Governor are expected to focus on housing in their forthcoming proposals.
Changes within the Police Department. We wish Chief of Police John Lynch the best of luck after almost thirty-eight years of service to the Town, as he sails away to spend his initial “retirement” years as the Chief of Police for New Shoreham, R.I., aka Block Island. We will miss him greatly. Read more here.
Congratulations to incoming Chief of Police Tom Conlan, who has been with the Wilton Police Department for almost twenty-three years, most recently as Executive Officer Captain. Read more here. And congratulations to incoming Deputy Chief of Police Rob Cipolla, who has been with the Department for almost eighteen years, most recently as Captain. Read more here.
It is a testament to the leadership of the department that both promotions were made from within. We look forward to more announcements.
Social Services/Wilton Police Department Special Programming. The departments, along with several co-sponsors, are holding important mental health events in the next two weeks.
- Kevin’s After Glow-A Real Story About Mental Health. A discussion by Jim Kuczo from Fairfield, who’s son Kevin took his own life in 2021 after battling depression. February 13th 7:30 p.m. at Trackside. Read more and register on the Trackside website here.
- Panel Discussion-Helping Families Navigate Mental Health & Suicide Conversations with Kids. February 6th12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. via Zoom. Learn more here.
Transfer Station Food Scrap Program. As has been discussed over the last several years, the Board of Selectmen has taken actions to reduce the deficit at the Transfer Station. A deficit that must be funded by your property taxes. The most expensive household waste to dispose of is food waste, as disposal fees are based on weight and food waste is the heaviest component of household waste.
In response, a food scraps recycling pilot program recently began at the Transfer Station. Learn more here.
New Online Recreation Management System. Today, the Parks and Recreation Department new recreation management went live. The system allows residents to register for programs and recreation facilities, including playing fields and associated lights. Learn more here.
Update-Lease for State-Owned Property at Allen’s Meadows. We recently received approval from CT DOT for a new lease, which will include new allowed options, including community gardens, turf fields, lighting and a seasonal bubble. Learn more here. The Town is preparing to contract with an engineering firm to develop possible design options for the field/bubble and estimated costs with the goal of presenting to the May Annual Town Meeting. Learn about next steps here.
As many of you know, with the installation of replacement turf fields at the WHS Stadium and Lilly, the Town mitigated environmental concerns expressed about turf fields during previous P&Z hearings.
- The replacement fields have coconut husk infill. The coconut husk absorbs moisture, meaning the field is often cooler than the outside temperature during the summer. Black crumb rubber is no longer allowed on Wilton fields, meaning no black crumb rubber heating the field, causing abrasions on player and getting under the skin of the players or on their clothing.
- The replacement fields have Brock concussion padding, meaning a safer playing field.
- The contractor carefully removed the old crumb rubber field to allow for recycling.
Update-Cell Tower at the Bus Barn.
- In early December, Verizon’s representative performed a second crane/red balloon float. This included photos from the properties of concerned residents with an alternate location for the tower within the Bus Barn site.
- Residents found the crane/red balloon less visible from the alternate site, which resulted in Verizon performing new assessment work required for their application to the Siting Council. They expected an additional three months to perform the work. Investing the time now will hopefully prevent the Council from delaying their decision for up to 180 days, as is their right.
- At Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Verizon representatives are expected to present a request to amend the lease for the alternative location.
- Our current expectation is Verizon will file with the Council before the spring.
FY2024 Budget Discussions. At the January 21st BOS meeting,
- I provided an overview of the environment in which the budgets are being developed and discussed. Read here. Of particular note is the $26 million of discretionary grants awarded the Town during 2019 through 2022 resulted in approximately $1.8 million of avoided debt service in the FY2024 budget.
- The Wilton Library Association presented their request for a grant of $ 2.977 million. Read here.
- Town Administrator Matt Knickerbocker presented and the Board of Selectmen approved a contract for electricity for municipal and school buildings, which is lower than the rates paid prior to the Eversource increase. This will favorably impact the BOE and BOS operating expenses this year and the proposed BOE budget currently being discussed.
At our meeting on February 6th, we will begin discussions of town department requests before submitting a proposed budget request to the Board of Finance on March 3rd.
Parking Lot at Schenck’s Island. The Board of Selectmen approved a contract for the construction of the parking lot with lighting and the extension of electricity into the park.
Eversource Vegetation Management Plan for Southeast and Southwest Wilton. Eversource provided the Town with their work plan, which includes areas with frequent outages due to falling trees. Read here.
Solar panels on School Rooftops and Sponsorship of VNM Projects have saved taxpayers $742,000 from inception through December 31, 2022. Read more here.