The Fairfield Hills Authority’s latest flirtation with economic development at the spacious campus home of Newtown’s seat of government hit a snag, as have so many of the other potential liaisons with commercial suitors that have come calling. US HealthVest, a developer of behavioral health facilities, had expressed interest in creating a 100-bed psychiatric hospital at Fairfield Hills.
In mid-April LRM Construction crews began digging out a ten-foot-wide path at Fairfield Hills where a new paved walkway would go. Within weeks, residents eager to stroll the lengthened trail system, which is now complete and adds nearly a mile to existing trails, were already using the unfinished surface.
The recently established Community Center Commission elected co-chairs and revised its vision statement Tuesday, May 26, at the group’s second meeting. In late April the Board of Selectmen chose members for the commission, who would fact-find, survey the community, and, after research and planning, render a recommendation on how to use a $15 million gift from the GE Foundation.
Trails at Fairfield Hills will be extended this spring, adding nearly another paved mile through the sprawling, scenic campus.
Addressing the Fairfield Hills Authority earlier this month, Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold explained the trails project, which will extend the existing paved passive recreation surface. With a budgeted $300,000 in this year’s capital improvement plan (CIP), a recent bid came in from LRM Construction for $291,000, which was “great,” Ms Mangold said.
Earlier this winter several Fairfield Authority members and town Grants Coordinator Christal Preszler took a trip to Preston, where a former state facility similar to Fairfield Hills is now in that town’s hands. Unlike Newtown, however, which intends to redevelop its campus as a community and municipal asset, the town of Preston plans for the eventual sale of its property.
The community forums on residential housing at Fairfield Hills made it very clear that Newtown does not want apartments on the campus. The Fairfield Hills Authority has acknowledged the lack of support for residential units on the campus. The Fairfield Hills Master Plan Review Commission reported that this is not favored by the community at this time.
About 50 people, including residents and town officials, gathered on December 11 at a second forum held to discuss the advisability of allowing housing by special zoning permit at the Fairfield Hills campus.
Mixed-use development at Fairfield Hills does not serve the interest of Newtown’s residents. Called the “new urbanism,” these projects attempt to reduce suburban sprawl and traffic gridlock by pairing commercial space with residential apartments to create a pedestrian-enabled lifestyle. They are strategically built next to retail centers with transit options. Sounds great — give up your car to shop and work where you live.
I am frankly puzzled by some of the [letters to the editor] in opposition to a mixed use project for Fair-field Hills. In the name of keeping Fairfield Hills as open space I believe some are missing the details of what could potentially be a boon for Newtown.