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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.

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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