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Brownfields Grant Will Aid FFH Hazmat Assessments

Newtown was notified April 16 that it is the recipient of a $200,000 grant, which Director of Economic and Community Development Director Elizabeth Stocker said will be applied to assessing nine remaining buildings at Fairfield Hills for hazardous materials. The assessments will help the town estimate the cost of eventual hazmat remediation whether the building in question is slated for possible reuse or for demolition.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday that the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has awarded $3,821,000 in grants to 21 communities to advance the development of brownfield sites throughout the state.

Administered through the state’s Municipal Brownfields Assessment and Inventory Grant Program, this round of 22 grants will assist Newtown and 20 other cities, towns and regional development agencies to assess and investigate more than 310 acres across 48 sites. As in Newtown’s case, the grants will help communities take the vital first or next step toward reuse of sites that in many cases have been underused or abandoned for decades.

“As Connecticut’s economy continues to grow, more and more of our legacy manufacturing and other brownfield sites are becoming ripe for redevelopment and reuse,” said Gov Malloy, who announced the grants at a news conference at a brownfield site in Norwich that was awarded funding as part of a revitalization project of the city’s Shipping Street corridor.

He continued: “With the grants we’re announcing today, 21 communities will be able to prepare key sites that are in many cases vacant and blighted for a return to productive uses that will grow jobs and improve quality of life across the state. These assessment grants will create a pipeline of larger remediation and redevelopment projects in the near future.”

First Selectman Pat Llodra has watched, even during her previous tenure on the town Legislative Council, the sometimes glacial pace of progress at Fairfield Hills recognizing that redevelopment of brownfield sites is a long and expensive process. 

“Our Fairfield Hills campus is one such site within our borders and its buildings have long been the focus of ongoing efforts to abate, reuse, restore, or remove,” she said Wednesday afternoon at Newtown Municipal Center. “To date, we have abated Stratford Hall and the duplexes and are actively seeking redevelopment of those facilities.  This spring/summer, Danbury Hall and the eight single story homes will be removed – much of that work coming from grant money as well.”

Mrs Llodra said the town is hoping to reuse the buildings in the center green (Newtown and Woodbury Hall), and that Plymouth Hall is gaining some attention from several community groups.

“I am very appreciative for the efforts of our local economic and community development office to secure grants and awards that help us with our brownfields program and am thankful, too, that the state supports our efforts,” she added.

 

State Officals’ Reactions

Newtown State Rep Mitch Bolinsky said in a release that Newtown had conducted initial assessment and clean-up of the buildings on the property, but there remains asbestos contamination preventing the site from attracting private investment and being fully utilized.

“Cleaning up and remediating brownfield sites and transforming them into useful pieces of property is an immense benefit to a small community like Newtown, especially at Fairfield Hills, right in the center of our community,” Rep Bolinsky said. 

The municipal grant program was created as a complement to DECD’s larger brownfield programs to assist local governments and their development agency partners to begin the process of redeveloping priority brownfield sites. Prior to redevelopment of a brownfield or suspected contaminated site, environmental assessments are often required to provide more information to potential redevelopers about the site’s environmental conditions.

Under the program, applicants are eligible to receive grants of up to $200,000 to fund investigation and other predevelopment activities to prepare sites for future development and reuse.

“Cities and towns across Connecticut have sites that are not fully contributing to the economy, and these grants will unlock significant new development opportunities for new housing, open space, commercial office space, and adaptive reuse of legacy brownfield sites,” said DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith. “The projects selected for funding represent the strongest applications in line with Governor Malloy’s priorities, such as affordable housing development transit-oriented development projects, readiness to proceed, and the capacity and experience level of the applicant.”

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee said, “These investments in brownfield assessments are the critical first step toward redevelopment of these valuable lands. By putting these properties back into productive use we can take advantage of existing infrastructure, protect public health and the environment, and reduce development pressure on our undeveloped lands.”

Representative DebraLee Hovey, who represents Newtown’s segment of the 112th District, praised the governor for his support in a release, saying: “These funds will be helpful in determining the right path to take with regard to cleaning up the Fairfield Hills site and I would like to thank Governor Malloy for his commitment to brownfield redevelopment. Cleaning these neglected areas and returning them to useful pieces of property benefits the entire community.”

For more information about the Municipal Brownfields Assessment and Inventory Grant Program or other state brownfield redevelopment programs, visit www.ctbrownfields.gov.

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