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Fairfield Seeks Grant to Extend Post Road Streetscape

But could development in Fairfield Center lead to unintended consequences, one RTM member ponders.

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.

Brian September 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Don't stop at S.Pine Creek. From there to Sasco is uninviting for pedestrians. That's who is the target group, right? No more parking lots, please. Get out and walk. By the way, what's up with the former Exide plot? Sits and sits.
Marika Ford September 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Please fix the Post Road in Southport! (I agree with the comment "...the area near Athena Diner 'is a mess.'"). The stretch of road from the I95 overpass to the Westport line is like a line-up of candidates for ugliest building contest. Here you'll see a modern glass and concrete behemoth next to a grisly painted Tudor next to a noisy car wash and two stinky boxes that sell tires. What can be done? Maybe take a cue from the pink "Twice is Nice" shop and paint the buildings in bright colors, or at least hide their facades behind some evergreens. Shouldn't Southport be a lot more charming than this?
Michael Champagne September 27, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Seems to me the Exide property would be a great place for a soccer field or the kids. It could be lit and used at night. Who could complain about lights on at night on Post Road.
Pi September 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM
The Exide site must have a ton of pollution problems, no? I would have to believe battery production would use any number of hazardous materials. Might not be a good place for kids to play soccer.
Chuck E. Arla September 27, 2012 at 01:02 PM
M. Ford, "....a noisy car wash and two stinky boxes that sell tires." Good Lord how pretentious can you be. I'd figure that the majority of the car washes customers come from this town; probably mostly from Southport itself. And, I guess your car never needs new tires or have to have a flat repaired. Those places create jobs for folks, provide services for the town and generate additional business (many are the cups of coffee/lunches I've had in the area waiting for my car to be fixed). It's the POST ROAD, not Harbor Road!
Amy V September 27, 2012 at 01:53 PM
It would be amazing to have the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly and more aesthetically appealing!!! My fingers are crossed!
steve sheppard September 27, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Sounds like a waste of money to me.....we have so many more pressing issues
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 02:12 PM
If you try to do anything at Exide, Steinke will insert himself in the process and slow it to a crawl. Exide is an empty lot until Steinke retires. As for pollution problems, you are talking heavy metals. it's been remediated. It's far cleaner than many other sites, e.g. Veteran's Park.
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Sorry, I meant the land behind Veteran's Park. The walking trails. I don't want to cause an uproar. The fields are fine, as water drains away, so the landfill doesn't leach into the fields.
Marika Ford September 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Chuck, I'm not suggesting the businesses leave - I'm saying that the buildings that they occupy should look better. Kind of like if you spilled coffee on your shirt while waiting for your car to be fixed, you would change into a clean one before a meeting...I think?
Jean Marie Wiesen September 27, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Having the sidewalk leveled out a bit between Rite Aid and Life is Good would be wonderful...I keep tripping on it...well, now I look down so I don't do that. The corner of the one block sticks up. I don't think it would cost too much to flatten it so it lays flat? I like to park and walk as much as possible to do my errands/shopping along the Post Rd. I'm glad to see so many of the shops as busy as they are, especially the Fairfield U Bookstore!
John Doe September 27, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I couldn't think of a more arrogant reason...Glad these people are running our town. Lets turn down a grant in order to avoid low income housing. Wow!
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Here's an article that explains the basic situation at the exide property: http://fairfield.patch.com/articles/prime-downtown-property-cant-be-developed Note, the date, 2010. Every time someone tries to take a step forward, Steinke inserts himself. I think his last one was that he wanted Exide and Superior to work simultaneously. Every time the target moves, or another objection pops up, it causes delays, more permitting work, more analysis... In the end, Exide doesn't care if Fairfield and the DEP delay it until kingdom come. Think about it. Every delay means it is that much longer before they have to write a check. It isn't that Steinke doesn't care about the environment, clearly, he does. The problem is, he is just totally disconnected from the concept of compromise and realistic goals. Further, there is the ego and stubbornness. He doesn't seem to have the ability to admit it when he's gone too far, or at least, shut his mouth and let others proceed.
AJ September 27, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Steve, it's not a waste of money for Fairfield, in fact it won't cost the town of Fairfield a penny, it's covered by a grant from the state (if I understood correctly) so why would we not want to do this?
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 04:11 PM
John Doe, I don't think there is a connection between this grant and low income housing. I think the RTM rep was using that to illustrate the need for a thoughtful approach. That housing unit was inconsistent with our zoning regs, building heights, et cetera. 8-30g allows the developer to ignore all zoning regs except health and safety when low income housing is included in the app.
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 04:17 PM
AJ, You are hitting the nail on the head, but only from one perspective. Sure, it's good for the town and would cost the town little (not nothing, we still have to do all the analysis, surveys, planning, oversee the project, et cetera--those are all man-hours coming from the town). Some would argue that the state shouldn't be spending money on this while it has other financial liabilities (what are we borrowing, $4B/yr to make up the shortfall between revenue and budget...I'm not sure). Others would point out the money is already earmarked, so it doesn't matter. Others would point out that the state has taken back funds like that before and should now. Still others would argue that the state must invest in the towns, making them more attractive for businesses, to create jobs,... economic stimulus. Lots of views. Lots of stakeholders.
Truthteller September 27, 2012 at 06:08 PM
And where does the state get that Money? Budget 101, same taxpayer different pocket
beth skojec September 27, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Really, sidewalks . People with carriages use the road ways away , after they requested sidewalkd down by the beach area, kids walking to school with parents still walk on the roadway. find a better way to spend this money or go back to new york !
BobRyffel September 27, 2012 at 07:52 PM
There is nothing seriously wrong with the sidewalks between Thorpe and South Pine Creek. And there's never going to be a sidewalk in front of the DQ, Rawley's or Hemlock Hardware since they have pull-in parking in front of the whole area. This money, from whatever source, does not need to be spent.
brian kelly September 28, 2012 at 03:45 AM
i walk the post road every night. from sasco hill road to north benson road and back again. its about 4 miles. I'm an insomniac and it helps me to sleep. i think this project sound like a wonderful idea and it wont cost the town a nickel. its a grant! when you walk the town at 12 midnight you see all the garbage in the street, on the sidewalks and on the side of the road. it is absolutely horrifying the amount of trash in this town. this would not be tolerated in greenwich, darien or westport. they need to install more garbage cans and recycle bins on the post road. the caliber of people that flooded into this town must be taught how to use them...and also can we work on the graffiti problem that emerged in the past 5 years?
Fairfield Resident September 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM
"...and also can we work on the graffiti problem that emerged in the past 5 years?" I agree brian! Have you seen the downtown train station lately? It is disgusting with all of the graffit! Especially in the stairwells that take you up and over the train tracks! There is graffiti and stickers all over the walls of the stairwells. Welcome to Fairfield....Trash Town USA. Hopefully when the town puts up the new canopies over the stairwells this fall they will clean up the mess at the train station as well!
FFLDRESIDENT September 28, 2012 at 01:50 PM
But it is costing the town money, as the Public Works employees would be paid for their labor from the town budget. And what if the project goes in to cost overruns to complete? Who pays that bill?
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