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.
In the ten years since Newtown purchased the state-owned property that served Connecticut for more than 60 years as a psychiatric hospital, the evolution of 186-acre campus at Fairfield Hills has been mostly municipal. The site is now the seat of Newtown’s government. Attempts to stimulate commercial interest there, however, have sputtered. The one notable exception was the opening of the 86,000-square-foot Newtown Youth Academy in 2008. But now, there is even talk of an eventual town takeover of that facility as well.