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A Fairfield Hills Time Line



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A Fairfield Hills Time Line

October 1991 — State Rep Julia Wasserman responds to state plans to downsize and phase out Fairfield Hills by making some initial unofficial inquiries about the possible town acquisition of some or all of the hospital campus for future use and development.


June 1993 –– At the urging of State Rep Julia Wasserman, the state Legislature creates a task force to study future uses of Fairfield Hills. Mrs Wasserman chairs the panel.

July 1994 –– The Fairfield Hills Task Force issues its final report, which recommends that much of Fairfield Hills be preserved as open space under the auspices of the state Department of Agriculture. The task force also called for the expansion of recreational uses of the property along with a mix of other uses, including town office, economic development, and affordable housing.

March 1995 –– Legislative Council puts all capital projects on hold until more is known about the availability of facilities at Fairfield Hills.


June 1995 –– State Legislature decides to close Fairfield Hills as a state mental health facility.

August 1998 –– First Selectman Herb Rosenthal appoints the Fairfield Hills Advisory Committee, which is charged with examining a town purchase of the Fairfield Hills campus.

September 1998 –– An eight-member Fairfield Hills Selection Committee is appointed by the state to review development proposals for Fairfield Hills. The panel consists of both local and state representatives. First Selectman Herb Rosenthal and State Rep Julia Wasserman are members.

October 1998 –– The Fairfield Advisory Committee concludes that the town should not purchase the 189-acre campus, saying that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

January 1999 –– A petition drive requests First Selectman Herb Rosenthal to reactivate and expand the Fairfield Hills Advisory Committee to reconsider a town purchase of the state facility. The first selectman agrees and adds six new members to the panel, including Ruby Johnson, a chief advocate for the town purchase of the campus.

May 1999 — Town hires Harrall-Michalowski Associates of Hamden to conduct an economic analysis of Fairfield Hills and its potential for development either privately or by the town.


July 1999 –– Three private developers (Spectrum Skanska, Wilder Balter, and Becker & Becker) submit development proposals to the Fairfield Hills Selection Committee.


September 1999 –– A group calling itself Save Fairfield Hills organizes under the leadership of Ruby Johnson and begins petitioning on Labor Day for the town purchase of Fairfield Hills.

October 1999 –– The Fairfield Hills Advisory Committee expresses its disappointment with all three plans submitted to the Fairfield Hills Selection Committee by private developers. The panel says it is preparing to recommend town purchase of the Fairfield Hills campus.

January 2000 –– First Selectman Herb Rosenthal requests that the state prepare an offer to sell the Fairfield Hills property to the Town of Newtown, effectively curtailing consideration by the Fairfield Hills Selection Committee of the three proposals for private development of the site.

February 2000 –– Ruby Johnson resigns from the Fairfield Hills Advisory Committee, protesting plans by the panel to recommend corporate economic development at the core of the campus. The advisory committee conducts a public workshop to seek comments from townspeople on some of the proposed uses for Fairfield Hills.


March 2000 –– The Fairfield Hills Advisory Committee unanimously recommends that the town purchase Fairfield Hills and outlines its own vision for the development of the site, including open space, facilities for town offices and school programs, commercial and corporate development, and recreational facilities.

April 2000 –– Save Fairfield Hills presents its own vision for Fairfield Hills to the Legislative Council, a vision that it says is more of a “Central Park” than “corporate park” for Newtown.

January 2001 –– The Legislative Council approves a “request for proposals” (RFP), soliciting ideas for development at Fairfield Hills from private developers.

February 2001 –– Selectmen approve RFP and send out letters to more than 200 firms that may be interested in development projects at Fairfield Hills.

March 2001 –– In response to the RFP, five firms tour the Fairfield Campus, yielding no development plans for the town.

June 2001 –– Town meeting approves a $21.8 million bonding package for the purchase of Fairfield Hills and associated projects, including demolition, renovations, environmental remediation, construction of playing fields, and general site and infrastructure improvements.

January 2002 –– The Board of Selectmen appoints a ten-member Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee, charged with creating a plan to govern the future development of Fairfield Hills.

February 2002 –– The Board of Selectmen hires planning and development consultants Harrall-Michalowski Associates to assist the Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee in its work.

May 2002 — Superintendent of Schools John Reed requests that the Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee reserve 28,000 square feet of space at Fairfield Hills for an alternative school for 200 students.

June 2002 –– The Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee conducts two public workshops to solicit ideas and direction for creating a plan for development of the campus.

August 2002 –– Harrall-Michalowski Associates recommends to the Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee that the two prime buildings for town offices at Fairfield Hills, Shelton House and Canaan House, be reduced in size through demolition to “make the buildings more practical.” The committee votes unanimously to recommend Canaan House as the best alternative for new town offices.

September 2002 –– The Board of Education asks the Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee to reserve space at Fairfield Hills for an “academy” for 400–500 students to help alleviate impending overcrowding at Newtown High School.

October 2002 –– About 400 townspeople show up for a public tour of Fairfield Hills. Later, Harrall-Michalowski Associates unveils a new “aggressive demolition approach” as an option for developing Fairfield Hills. Under this approach most of the buildings at the campus would be torn down and Canaan House would be abandoned as a site for town offices in favor of constructing a new town hall at a “more appropriate location.” Also, the school board says its academy proposal will require 25 acres and 93,000 square feet of space.

November 2002 –– The Friends of Fairfield Hills (the incarnation of Save Fairfield Hills), under the leadership of Ruby Johnson, promotes its own plan for Fairfield Hills, dubbed “The People’s Plan,” which reserves the entire campus for municipal uses. The Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee conducts a weekend public workshop to solicit public comment on three alternative plans it has developed.

January 2003 –– Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee unveils more detailed plans for a new 40,000-square-foot, $8.5 million town hall at Fairfield Hills, located at the north end of the “green” at the entry plaza of the campus.

February 2003 –– Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee formally approves a master plan for the development of the campus that includes a recommendation for a new 40,000-square-foot town hall, ten new playing fields, 134 acres of open space, and the sale of several existing buildings to private entities.

March 2003 –– Fairfield Hills Master Plan Committee submits its report to the Board of Selectmen and is disbanded.

April 2003 –– Before forwarding the master plan to the Legislative Council, the Board of Selectmen makes two changes to the document. Responding to public protests, the selectmen move the site of the town hall from the north end of the green to the south end of the green, where Shelton House now stands. They also stipulate that buildings slated for private use be leased and not sold.

May 2003 –– Selectmen unanimously endorse a proposed special act in the Legislature enabling the creation of a Fairfield Hills Authority to administer all nonmunicipal uses at Fairfield Hills.

June 2003 –– Legislative Council endorses legislation creating a Fairfield Hills Authority, and the measure is sent to the Legislature where it is supposed to be attached to a budget “implementer” bill. The budget stalemate in Hartford, however, blocks the legislation. In a subsequent meeting, the council unanimously endorses the master plan, but only after amending it again, further defining and restricting the ability of the Fairfield Hills Authority to act autonomously, and stipulating that the so-called “in-fill” commercial buildings discussed in master planning documents could not be built without an amendment to the plan requiring the same approval process as the plan itself –– including a town vote.

July 2003 –– The Fairfield Hills master plan becomes a political issue as Republican candidate for first selectman, William Sheluck, Jr, announces his opposition to the plan.

August 2003 –– Townwide referendum rejects the master plan by a vote of 1,238 to 1,084. Officials express uncertainty over the reasons for the negative vote and speculate that the possible cost of development at the site, especially for a proposed new town hall, kept voters from endorsing the plan.

October 2003 — First Selectman Herb Rosenthal signs a contract with the state committing to the purchse of the Fairfield Hills campus. A closing on the deal is expected by the end of the year.

December 2003 — A massive spill of 4,440 gallons of #2 heating oil at Canaan House over a snowy weekend early in the month necessitates a major environmental cleanup of the area by the state. The spill and cleanup complicate the conditions and terms of a state turnover of the property to the town. The expected closing date is pushed back.

February 2004 — The Board of Selectmen makes changes to the master plan that was defeated in August 2003, reopening the issue of whether to renovate Shelton House for town offices or to tear the building down and construct a new town hall on the site. The changes also call for the demolition of Plymouth Hall and Stamford Hall. The Canaan House fuel spill cleanup concludes.

April 2004 — A fire and heating oil fuel tank explosion damage a three-story wing of Canaan House, further complicating plans to transfer the Fairfield Hills campus to the town. The state again undertakes a cleanup and repair project at Canaan House.

May 2004 — The Board of Selectmen decides to hire the University of Connecticut Center for Survey Research and Analysis to conduct a survey that would assess local sentiment on changes made to the master plan in February. The independent survey is to cost $10,000.

June 2004 — The Board of Selectmen appoints an ad hoc Fairfield Hills Management Committee to oversee the management and development of the Fairfield Hills property once the town takes ownership. John Reed is chosen to head the eight-member panel. State Rep Julia Wasserman joins the panel as an advisor.

July 2004 — The state Department of Environmental Protection approves an environmental action plan and a “covenant not to sue” the town over environmental issues associated with Fairfield Hills if the action plan is put into effect. The aggreement removes the final barriers to concluding the sale of the campus to the town. The UConn public opinion survey begins. The state and town complete the final paperwork transferring the Fairfield Hills campus to the Town of Newtown on July 30.

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