A more pedestrian-, visitor-, and business-friendly Fairfield Center could be on its way, should the town be awarded a grant from the state.
Mark Barnhart, Fairfield’s director of community economic development, intends to submit an application for a $500,000 grant from Connecticut's Main Street Investment Fund. The money would go extending the Post Road's streetscape further west, from Thorpe Street to South Pine Creek Road.
The project includes improving sidewalks and curbing, installing pedestrian ramps, decorative brick pavers, ornamental streetlights, benches, and other street furniture. Survey, design, and construction administration is expected to be performed in-house by the Department of Public Works and capital costs will be covered by the grant, according to Barnhart.
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Should Fairfield be granted only a portion of the $500,000, the project will be scaled down accordingly, Barnhart told the Representative Town Meeting Monday. If Fairfield is not granted any money, "we will try, try again," Barnhart said.
The Board of Selectmen signed off on the application earlier this month. The RTM did the same Monday, but not without some discussion.
RTM member Michael Herley, R-1, identified another area of the Post Road "that need rehabilitation."
He pointed out the portion of the Post Road entering Southport. Fellow member Eric Sundman, R-1, agreed that the area near Athena Diner "is a mess."
But Barnhart explained that in order to apply for the grant, a municipality has to submit an improvement plan that has already been endorsed by the town's governing body. The Thorpe Street to South Pine Creek Road area is included in the Fairfield Center's Improvement Plan, which was created in 1984, approved, and updated for the current application.
Barnhart was informed of the grant in the summer and had limited time to put together the application, let alone create a plan for another area of town and have it approved by the appropriate town bodies. The application is due Friday. The town will know whether it received funds in early 2013.
"There are several areas in town in need of attention," Barnhart said. Areas, like the part of the Post Road identified by Herley and Sundman, could be included in future grants once an improvement plan is in place.
Prior to the RTM's vote, Ellen Jacob, R-9, delivered a few words of caution.
"We need to be careful what we develop and where we develop. It's possible there could be unintended consequences," she said. "[The project] could pave way for more high-density housing applications."
Jacob referred to the recently approved 12-unit affordable housing development to be built on Campfield Drive; an application initially denied by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission until the state's Superior Court overturned the decision. There was also the recent denial of an application for one unit of affordable housing in a three-unit development on Homeland Street.
"These [applications] are causing an uproar in town," she said.