‘Bee’ Hosting Final Fairfield Hills Info Session Featuring Developers
The final installment of a series of municipal information sessions ahead of an Election Day referendum on whether to include a possible residential component to the Fairfield Hills Master Plan will be presented virtually as a Facebook Live webcast at 7 pm on Monday, October 5.
In a departure from the previous three sessions which were hosted live by First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, this fourth segment will be presented virtually to eliminate any risks of coronavirus transmission to in-person attendees, and will be moderated by Newtown Bee Associate Editor John Voket.
“I felt for this final Fairfield Hills info session that it was important to have an independent moderator instead of having a municipal official hosting it,” Rosenthal said.
“I’m hoping that by bringing in a couple of organizations that have already had some success doing institutional to mixed use conversions that we’ll be able to illustrate what could be, by looking at an overview of their portfolios, and having them respond to questions from residents,” the first selectman said.
Residents are asked to send any questions for consideration to email@example.com, and to include “Fairfield Hills questions” in the subject line. Questions should be sent no later than noon Monday, October 5.
The three initial community conversations were devised by Rosenthal after a volunteer committee reviewing the master plan unanimously recommended including possible mixed-use development. That advisory committee work included a survey that took most of the possible future options for remaining institutional buildings on the campus into consideration.
The results indicated there were many residents opposed the idea of housing, but who favored revenue-generating development. However, Rosenthal previously noted that there was nothing in the survey related to the future of those remaining buildings if they are not part of a mixed-use development proposal.
“Those survey results have to be viewed in respect to the fact that they leave out a big question about what the town should do with the remaining buildings,” he said.
Concerns And Misinformation
Concerns and misinformation that quickly began circulating in the wake of released master plan revision recommendations motivated Rosenthal to hit pause as he and other officials instead decided to hold several community conversations on the mixed-use proposal before scripting an advisory question for voters to consider.
Following delays in holding the final info session with possible developers, and crafting the ballot question to voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more recent deliberations among members of the Legislative Council produced the November 3 ballot question that will empower residents to determine whether mixed-use commercial/residential development will move forward as an option in the Fairfield Hills Master Plan:
“Should the Town of Newtown consider commercial proposals at the Fairfield Hills campus that include a housing component, provided that a housing component would be limited to no more than two of the existing buildings, and that the renovation is consistent with the architectural vision for the property?”
While the question is technically advisory in nature, Rosenthal said results of the referendum would be binding as far as he is concerned. If the measure does not pass, he has said the town will likely move forward committing future bonding to razing most of the remaining buildings.
The information sessions kicked off last September 23, with a historical overview of the campus before and since the town voted to acquired the former state hospital and part of its grounds in 2001.
A second presentation November 18 covered financials regarding the property since the purchase by the town in 2004; what expenses and revenues had been realized as a result of owning Fairfield Hills; past, ongoing, and future expenses and revenues; along with operational budget, bonding, and grants details.
The latest forum, in February, covered possible options to be considered for the future use of the buildings and/or property at Fairfield Hills.
Anyone who misses the live webcast October 5 can view it on The Newtown Bee’s YouTube channel.