WILTON — Voters passed a minimum property upkeep ordinance, a $108,000 library budget and a $2.9 million town budget at the three hour annual Town Meeting Monday evening.

The minimum property maintenance ordinance, which passed 79 to 69, gave the town the authority to require homeowners who live in the downtown area keep their property in “good repair.”

Examples of good repair included a yard free of trash, no missing shingles or crumbling brick exteriors and all debris considered a health and safety hazard be removed.

Proponents argued the ordinance was necessary to maintain property values, promote safety and improve municipal tourist appeal.

Those opposed said the ordinance would give the town unfair control over private property and place a burden on the town’s poor residents.

In April, selectmen added the ordinance to the warrant after nearly an hour of public discussion and several rounds of proposed amendments, though it was amended to exclude language that regulated peeling and deteriorating paint.

One resident said Monday that she felt the downtown had deteriorated during her time as a resident and felt most of the upkeep did not require much money, just time and effort.

“It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a residence look presentable,” she said, receiving applause from half the crowd for her statement.

James Black, who sat on the town ordinance committee, said he felt the ordinance was necessary in order to preserve the town’s economic health.

He said the town no longer has a mill, and tourism is the most promising asset they have. The ordinance, he said, was necessary to preserve the curb-appeal of the town to tourists visiting Wilson Lake, which sits adjacent to the downtown.

Other residents said they were “vehemently opposed” to the ordinance. One resident said those in favor of the ordinance were not thinking about how difficult it is for poor residents to keep up their property to the ordinances standards.

“The fact is a lot of poor people live in Wilton. They live in downtown Wilton,” she said.

Voter overwhelmingly passed three other ordinances that will regulate fireworks, “disorderly property” and recycling.

The disorderly property ordinance proposal will require property owners to meet with police and town officials if police respond to four complaints in 30 days about disorderly conduct at a property. If the owner refuses to cooperate, the owner could face a $50 fine.

The recycling ordinance update town recycling regulations to conform with the new single-stream facility and is aimed to prevent outsiders from using the facility to dispose of waste not generated in Wilton.

The fireworks ordinance draft was created in response to concerns from residents about fireworks safety. It requires fireworks permits in any situation that also would require a burn permit.

Residents passed a $2.92 million proposed budget, a 1 percent increase over this year, which should be offset by other revenue and money from the undesignated fund account, according to Irish.

The only amendment made to the budget was $300 added to the original $2,000 request from the Wilton Area Food Pantry.

The amount raised from property taxes would remain at $1.78 million, the same as last year, she said. The current rate is $15.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

After 45 minutes of debate, voters approved $108,650 requested from the library, which is not a town department but a non-profit. The Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee voted against recommending the amount.

Budget Committee member Thomas Whalen said seven members voting against and one abstained, because they felt it was fiscally irresponsible to give that much money to an organization they have no control over. He said the committee felt the library could do a better job fundraising.

Many residents in the room made disgusted noises and booed after Whalen spoke, and one man who spoke on behalf of the library stormed out of the room later during the debate.

Out of the $108,650, library representatives said $60,000 went to pay the two full-time employees, one with a masters degree in library science, and six part-time employees. They also said the library served as the community center and employment bureau for the area by providing free internet. Teachers and parents said the library is necessary to support area youth education.

One man chorused “Amen” when people suggested the town could not afford to support the library, while another woman said people were anti-American if they refused to finance a free library. One threatened to move if the library’s request was passed and he had to pay taxes for it and another threatened to move if there was no library for his son to use.

Tiffany Maiuri ahead won a vacant selectmen seat by 158-151, defeating Raymond Lagasse. James Black was elected to school board and Scott Taylor was re-elected to the board of selectmen unopposed.

Kaitlin Schroeder – 861-9252
[email protected]

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