WILTON — The Planning Board on Thursday, May 6, granted a business use permit to Vera Johnson for her property at 87 High St. to be converted into an artistic workshop, Belle Art Center, for metalworking and pottery. Johnson also operates Vera’s Iron & Vine at 127 Broadway St. in Farmington where products from over 30 Maine-based craftspeople are sold.

After renovations which will take about a year, Johnson plans to offer classes and events at the center in Wilton which is currently designated in the industrial zone. Code Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin said Johnson may have to apply for a zoning change or come before the board to ask permission for specific events and educational classes.

An abutter attended the meeting to offer her support for Johnson’s developing art center and said that she hopes to attend future classes.

“I’m really excited that she bought the space…and it’s not sitting empty,” the abutter said. “And she’s already cleaned it up nicely, planning to really nicely landscape around it…I think it will be a positive impact on the community.” 

The board tabled the business use application of Christie Decker to develop a rustic campground on her 10-acre property at 75 Bubier Road. A site plan visit will be conducted on May 17 before the board further reviews the application.

The proposed campground would handle reservations through the outdoor-stay website HipCamp. Decker said she would maintain a portable toilet and the policy for campers would be carry-in, carry-out. Six of her acres would be designated for dispersed camping.

The board requested that the camping area is marked and contain a dumpster. Limiting the number of tents and RVs on Decker’s property at a time was also suggested.

“Start small and easy,” Lavin said.

The site visit will be conducted to ensure the proposed campground follows the zoning ordinance which requires a minimum of 5,000 square feet per site and that sites are set back 75 feet from the stream.

Abutters attended the meeting and expressed concerns about the proposed campground, noting that it is located in a residential neighborhood. An increase in traffic and further damage to an already worn road, strangers camping in the woods and potentially littering, and the stream being used for discharge were among their concerns.

In other business, the board reviewed proposed ordinance changes that will go before residents at a public hearing on May 27. Residents can provide feedback either in-person or over Zoom regarding the board’s revisions to the zoning ordinance articles referencing signs, docks and piers along with revisions to the marijuana ordinance. Wilton residents will vote on amended ordinances at the annual June 14 Town Meeting.

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