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Hold Off On Housing At Fairfield Hills



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To the Editor:

Firstly, please note that I am writing as an individual and not on behalf of the Legislative Council.

I would like to echo the comments of Rita Willie, someone I have known and respected my entire life, that we should not support the proposed amendment to the Fairfield Hills Design District Zoning Regulations which would allow for residential apartments above commercial spaces.

When I spoke against the enabling language in the revised master plan, I noted that housing was originally left out with good intentions. When the property was purchased, residences at FFH were in conflict with the vision of what the space would become for obvious reasons. Since then, developers have said it is easier to develop a mixed site and vary their income streams. I recognize there is a sense of urgency as much of the space sits unused and is becoming an eyesore, but I ask we wait a few more years before we sell ourselves short.

In the latest Board of Finance Recommended CIP, which will go before the Legislative Council after this goes to print, there is $11.5M over the next five years for FFH Building Demolition / Infrastructure plus additional funds for walking trails on campus, the community center and Police Facility Design which may end up there as well.  These investments will make this brownfield site much more appealing to developers as the town plans to take on a significant portion of the site costs, namely the abatement of the buildings which has been referenced as the major reason for past projects not coming to FFH.  I ask that we please not become desperate in our desire to find a developer before these investments play out.

It will be said that this is merely a change in regulations and we do not have to accept any proposals.  However, conversations with developers expressing a desire to include residences in future proposals is where this idea came from so someone has given this a lot of thought, and I would expect a proposal to follow suit. 

The Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps just built a beautiful facility on campus from which they will do 2,200 calls a year and there are talks of a new police station, possibly in FFH.  If there are residences, there will be complaints.  P&R has lighted ball fields that host night games for Newtown children.  If there are residences, there will be complaints. Concerts, markets, fairs.  If there are residences, there will be complaints.  If there are complaints, there will concessions and compromise.  I do not want to see Newtown put itself in a situation where we have to make concessions on how our community uses our property at FFH.

Please share your thoughts at the special meetings December 6th at 2 pm or December 11th at 7PM, both in the Reed Intermediate School Library.

Thank you very much,

Ryan W. Knapp

11 Jeremiah Rd, Sandy Hook               December 2, 2014

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