Wilton mulling future of town

The Wilton Economic Development Committee is taking a close look at the town and pondering several questions, the answers to which could determine the community’s future.

The three areas of study that seem most compelling, and probably the most difficult to pin down, are these:

What image does the town want to project?

What people does it want to attract?

Why would people want to come to Wilton and stay?

Nos. 1 and 3 seem the most esoteric. How does one determine a town’s image? How does a community convince folks that it has a single image?

Take Amherst, for instance. Doesn’t it depend on what area of the community you see? The area of 101A is vastly different from that of the Village Green.

Determining a single image for any community is a great challenge, but it’s good that Wilton is trying.

As to what groups of people the town wants to attract, well, Selectman Kermit Williams really boiled it down to what group the town needs to attract.

“What we are missing is jobs,” he said. “People need jobs and a place to stay.”

What’s needed for them, he said, is workforce housing, something Wilton lacks.

But committee Chairman Jen Beck pointed out the difficulty there:

“First, you need the businesses, but they won’t come here without having a workforce. You need a financial incentive.”

Ah. A financial incentive. Towns and cities often use financial incentives to attract businesses, but it’s one thing for Boston to give tax breaks to General Electric, and another for Wilton to do the same.

How does a town like Wilton, so heavily dependent on the property tax, give tax breaks? By giving a new business a break on its property taxes. While that does not directly raise the taxes of existing homes and businesses, the arrival of the new business, thus, doesn’t do as much as it could to ease the tax burden.

But what is Wilton to do? Really, it must consider financial incentives.

And as for why people should want to come to town, well, the problem is that it’s much too easy to bypass Wilton on the way to somewhere else. Most people are on Route 101, not Route 31, and that’s a pity because anyone who goes into downtown Wilton for the first time will be at least intrigued.

No one will decide to come to Wilton to stay without reason. Sure, jobs are a good reason. Workforce housing is a good reason. Those are musts. But people also want to live in an interesting place, and Wilton does indeed have that to sell, so the Economic Development Committee should sell it.

The question, of course, is how.

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