Parking issues tops at forum in Wilton

WILTON – The idea was to host a round-table discussion about town government, what was wrong and what could be done to improve it. There was no agenda, and no minutes were taken.

Organizer Deb Mortvedt said, because of the changes in the town office, and since the Select Board was meeting every other week, “I felt the board should meet every week and told them I might hold a meeting on the off-Monday. I want your thoughts.”

Last week’s board meeting ran for over five hours.

She is a member of the Heritage Commission.

Most of the 15 residents who came are members of various boards and commissions. Selectman Kermit Williams said he was there as a citizen but would answer pertinent questions.

The conduct of Select Board meetings filled part of the 90-minute meeting, but the biggest concern was The Horseshoe/Garwin Falls parking and trash problems.

The group agreed the Select Board should return to weekly meetings. Otherwise, the group should petition them to do so, even, some said, going as far as having town meeting require weekly meetings. There was concern over a rumor that the board planned to end meetings at 9 p.m. and would work get done.

Williams said it was traditional to meet bi-weekly during the summer but may return to weekly after Labor Day.

He didn’t comment on the closing time. Personally, he said, he favored weekly meetings.

The group also wanted a public comment opportunity at the beginning as well as the end of meetings. Other suggestions included a closer following of Roberts Rules of Order; stopping the bickering between board members, and between board and audience; and that the board follow established procedures.

It was suggested the administrative assistant, who is the recording secretary, not take part in discussions unless asked a question since she is neither a resident nor an elected official.

Asked how the agenda is made up, Williams said that was up to the chairman. It was agreed that the chairman could, probably should, limit time allowed speakers and cut off public comment after a reasonable length of time.

But it was parking, trash, and lack of toilet facilities at Garwin Falls and The Horseshoe; the lack of respect for residents and the land by out-of-town visitors; and how the police have responded, or not, to the situation, that was the biggest concern.

“These are naturally beautiful places,” Tim Broderick said, “and people are making them unbeautiful.”

But people should feel welcome in Wilton, others said. They should be encouraged to visit the town’s restaurants, gift shops and theater.

But they are “disrespectful of the land,” Felice Fullam said. “We have to think about stewardship.”

Both areas are private property, and the owners should take more responsibility for the trash removal. If they are allowing the public to use their land, they should make provisions for trash removal. The lack of toilet facilities is causing a health problem.

And, those who live The Horseshoe said, “the trash is attracting the bears and raccoons to our neighborhood.” Would placing a dumpster at the entrance solve the problem, or would some residents use it for their trash as well? Would

“carry in-carry out” signs work?

Opinion about towing illegally parked cars was mixed. Some said it had somewhat solved the problem on Burns Hill Road – making most people park at the school – and had worked in other towns, but it placed a burden on the police department. Residents said they had been confronted by angry people who parked in their yards. And it was giving the town a bad reputation.

It was agreed that “we need to do something,” but there was no consensus as to what that should be. Williams noted that the areas “have been open for public recreation for over 100 years,” and it is only in the past few years with the advent of social media that there has been a problem.

There is an effort underway by the Conservation Commission to have The Horseshoe acquired by a land conservancy, since it is for sale, but some wondered how that would solve anything. Couldn’t the town work with the land owner?

In the end, those attending said it “was a good meeting.’

Asked if she would do it again, Mortvedt said “Maybe,” that it would depend. If the board doesn’t go back to weekly meetings.